At the corner of two aged cobblestone streets in the heart of the French countryside in Provence sits a charming, old building with bold, white letters: Café de la Vie—Café of life. The soft green ivy scales its way across the outer walls of the building. Tables are adorned with fresh flowers in small silver vases that weigh down the red and white checkered cloths in the light morning breeze. The pale silver light of the morning pours over the beautiful setting. The tantalizing aroma of baking croissants and brewing coffee fills the air and begs hungry passersby to stop. Fresh, vibrant herbs fill the window boxes, ready to garnish the soup of the day. A chestnut-haired woman in her mid 40’s floats from table to table with ease, her white linen apron tied around her waist and a serene gaze in her azure eyes.

For the better part of 20 years, my dear friend Sabrina has painted me this detailed picture of her dream French café. She has collected recopies for years and years; and for longer than I can recall, I’ve sat in coffee shops all across town while she lamented about what her dream café would be like if only she could drop everything and create that paradise.

“Sabrina, why don’t you finally open that delightful French café you dream of owning?” I asked her one day.

“What if I invest all my savings into this elaborate dream, and it fails?” she bashfully responded. With a slight pang of fear, she continued, “What would my family and friends think of me?”

I often meet people like Sabrina from different backgrounds, levels of education, professions, beliefs, and ages; they all express the same type of limitations, the aspiration of perfection, the fear of failure and the judgment that follows. These are such common fears. However, for some of us, these fears chain us down and stop us from realizing our dreams and goals, whether that dream is to start a business, apply for a new job, pursue higher education, end a bad partnership, or many other fulfilling experiences. We end up living life on the safe side with our hearts held hostage and never truly realizing the joy of which we are capable.

The words of Les Brown constantly ring in my head, The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”

In my first TEDx Talk, I shared my journey of shattering limitations using the metaphor of a vase as our symbol of limitations. The vases of limitations that are enforced on us hold us back and inhibit us from pursing our personal and professional potential. These limitations can be external, such as cultural standards and family expectations, but the worse are the internal vases, such as lack of confidence and self-doubt. Shattering our vases means making a choice to rid ourselves of these unhealthy barriers and unrealistic expectations so that we give ourselves a chance to experience a rewarding life.

Through my coaching work, I came to realize that almost everyone is living with similar internal limitations, fears, and insecurities. That makes me question: where do these internal vases come from?

The more I thought about it, the more puzzled I became, and I began to wonder if we’re born with them. Maybe they are part of our journey in life. However, the more I pondered this puzzle, the more I began to believe that, perhaps, the powerful purpose of each of our lives is to smash these limiting beliefs, these harsh vases with which we are born. By doing so, we not only grow closer to our goals and dreams, but most importantly, we grow individually and make an impact to the people around us.

Breaking vases is definitely not easy. It takes an enormous amount of courage to break even the smallest vase. However, the best part is that as we’re cleaning up the shards, we also get to learn about ourselves and realize that we are capable to survive outside the perfect vase. In order to move on, we must become creative, discover our inner voice, and challenge ourselves and the people around us to move forward. Shattering our vases is about each one of us becoming the person we are meant to be.

Our life has a powerful purpose not only to shatter our own vases, but also to help others shatter their vases. Our journeys from breaking our vases to fulfillment will become courageous stories that will inspire others still cradling their vases in hand.

Now, what is your French Café, and what vases do you need to shatter starting today?

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