The qualities of our essential nature are powerful, good, enduring, and indestructible.

However, our environment shapes the expression of our essential nature.

A single acorn can grow into a mighty, towering tree or a twisted, stunted bonsai. Both organisms share the same DNA and potential.

For the bonsai, the expression of its potential is radically altered by root constraint, branch pruning and a too-small pot.

Of course, we are not acorns.

If you are reading this, like me, you are probably in the privileged position of having some degree of agency over where you plant yourself, how long you stay and the gardeners you allow near you.

Our individual agency is dwarfed by the agency of the ‘system’. And yet, we can still assertively claim what we need to grow and thrive.

It’s the combination of a ‘system’ that often prefers to place complex, expansive humans into little pots AND a limiting mindset that puts us at risk of waking up one day and realising that we have become a bonsai-sized version of ourselves.

Our diminishment always happens little by little. Sometimes our diminishment is an inside job.

The world of work can encourage us to squeeze ourselves into small spaces where it thinks we best fit. Over time we can begin to believe we should fit.

We participate in our own diminishment by internalising other people’s incomplete and inaccurate assessment of our potential. And when we mould ourselves to the expectations of others or to perceived ‘ideals’ that we buy into.

A too-small-pot can take many different forms.

Perhaps we crunch ourselves down to squeeze into the footsteps of our parents. Perhaps we become conditioned to prioritise the list of values espoused by our organisation over our own core values. Perhaps we impose false limits on our agency at work to fit the contents of our two-page job description. Maybe we feel forced to comply with our company’s preferred work hours. Perhaps we dare not expand our sphere of influence to a level that exceeds the shadow of our insecure manager. Perhaps the ‘us and them’ office politics means that we suppress our desire to connect and collaborate with others. Or perhaps we crunch down our yearning to do big, meaningful work in the world to conform with society’s expectations for parents to maintain lives that tightly orbit the lives of their children.

When we navigate a disempowering system with a disempowered mindset, opportunities for growth continue to allude us.

The very best virtues of humanity express themselves through each of us in a unique way.

This means that if we don’t vibrantly inhabit that one-of-a-kind expression, the world will never see it.

It is up to us to figure out how to grow into the very best version of ourselves.

Self-Fidelity Practice to Play With 

In the week ahead I invite you to dedicate a few quiet moments to ask yourself:

What small, empowered action can I take this week to unfurl into a fuller expression of myself?

Remember, small actions guided by big aspirations will forge your unique path to an uplifting (working) life.


We are not cabin dwellers, born to a life cramped and confined; we are meant to explore, to seek, to push the limits of our potential as human beings

Eknath Easwaran