Potential – noun: the presence of unrealized ability, skill, or knowledge that, if unleashed, would change events, situations, circumstances, people, lives, families, communities, national, epochs, and, indeed, the world. Related to potent – meaning powerful, strong, efficacious, able to effect change, able to affect strongly etc.
Are you potent? Do you possess potential?
Or have you exhausted your options, limited your life, chosen your path, accepted your destiny, accepted your cards, and cashed in the check?
What if you could recover your strength, rekindle your hope, rediscover your destiny, recover your dreams, and value new vision?
What if your life was not a waste, your options open, your choices cherished, and your heart aflame?
Like a wild horse, untapped or unrealized potential may have disappeared into the wilds, seemingly forever. Or else, it may buck and strain under the constraints of culture, the conventions of yours or others, or indeed the demands of your nearest and dearest.
Most painfully of all, wild horse potential may be straining and fighting it’s toughest enemy – you.
“You are your own worst enemy.”
“The only thing holding you back is you.”
More positively put:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“The only one you can change is you.”
Many years ago, a newspaper editor posed the following question: What is the biggest problem in the world?
One reader responded thus:
Indeed, you may recognize that you, in fact, possess various facets of potential – abilities, skills, talents, dreams, vision – that remain untapped, un- or underdeveloped, held back, or worse – seemingly lost, forever.
You may feel a sense of loss over opportunities missed. Anger at others for their blindness to your needs – and anger at yourself for lacking control, autonomy, making poor choices, and failing to live up to your potential.
If it’s not you that you are worried about, perhaps its a loved one, a colleague, a client, or – if you’re an educator like me – a student or mentee.
Workplaces, schools, and teamss everywhere suffer the loss, frustration, and lack of results from unknown, untapped, and unrealized potential.
So, to the meat of this missive.
How do I harness my potential? How do you harness your potential? How do we harness the potential of ourselves and those we serve, love, work with and work for?
There are three key elements: mindset, motion, and mentoring.
Mindset refers to the core beliefs that shape how you think, what you say, what you do, and how you do it – with all the myriad of emotions.
Motion encapsulates the daily and weekly rituals, actions, practical steps, and habits of thought, action, and speech that enhance or diminish realization of potential.
Lest you think that this all occurs in a self -imposed – by me, you or anyone else – vacuum, I put it to you that mentoring is a third, and in some ways, a most vital aspect or releasing my own, yours, or anyone’s potential.
Let’s walk through each of these.
I see them as three strands to the same rope – take one away and, while the rope still works, it will likely unravel at worst, or leave some potential unrealized at best – and that would bring us back, in some kind of way – to square one.
Mindset is widely recognized as a fundamental force affecting all else we do.
Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset is perhaps the most well-known, certainly within educational and personal growth circles.
Do you look forward to today? Tomorrow? Next week? Or do you feel worried, anxious, or uncertain about your future? Do you look back on your past with gratitude and joy, or is it filled with regrets, pain and bitterness? Do you feel that you have room and ability – potential – to grow? Or do you feel and think that you have exhausted the limits of your talents and abilities?
How you answer these question reveals your mindset. Various teachers refer to a ‘growth’ mindset compared to a ‘fixed’ mindset – and I would link that closely to their cousins in the mindset family – the ‘abundance’ mindset and the ‘scarcity’ or ‘poverty’ mindset. Each of these warrants a whole article.
Suffice to say, if you are trapped into a pessimistic, scarcity mindset, feeling that you, your results, and your future is already determined – fixed, then you are less likely to be harnessing your potential.
However, all is not lost. Are you taking steps to change? Are you reaching out to others? Are you reading about harnessing high potential? (Thank you for reading this far – it shows you are in motion!)
Are you developing habits, optimizing, schedules, gaining control over your calendar, taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions? Are you making progress, or taking action in some aspect of your life?
It could be working out and exercising, eating well, journalling daily, calling a loved one, or making time for deep work, deliberate practice, and developing cultural intelligence.
What about your work or studies? Some of us do better at forward motion in this area, with structures, deadlines, programs to follow, routines to observe, or curriculum to complete. A paycheck or qualification helps some to take steps – to get into forward motion – in some aspect of life. Even if you feel that there is no aspect of your life in which there is forward motion, perhaps you can look back on your past? Or others near or dear to you? What practices, habits, routines, or actions have you or others taken in the past to that resulted in forward motion – in short, lead to results?
Finally, looking within to see your routines or daily habits – even as simple as consistently showing up to work, or brushing your teeth, or devotedly watching the latest episodes of your favorite TV show – show consistent, forward motion.
But what if there is no forward motion? What if you feel dejected when you think you haven’t got a growth mindset, or an abundance mindset, never mind an optimistic outlook?
What if you can’t see any motion in your own life or those around you? Maybe, you even feel you are moving backward!
Mentors are available, though sometimes a creative and even more imaginative approach is needed. If nothing else – and, again, well done for reading this far (or skipping down!) this article is your mentor of sorts, for now.
In its broadest meaning, a mentor could be someone you look up to from afar, a sporting hero, an entertainer or celebrity, a leader, ahistorical figure, distance relative – anyone you see and admire, or want to be like, to emulate.
Mentors inspire action, deliver, vision, show you what’s possible through their own lives, and then speaking into your life. Who are your mentors? ho were your mentors?
Any of us who have been teachers, trainers, coaches, or mentors, also know that mentoring others is a likely path to reflecting on your potential – both realized and unrealized.
Clearly, there is more to say – but for now, I wish you more abundant growth, the right mindset; a day to get into or optimize motion, and a blessing in finding or reaching out to a good mentor – in real life or online, past or present.
What is your mindset, and what can you do to change it?
What motion (action) do you see in your schedule, routines, or habits?
How can you upgrade your actions to improve your forward motion?
Finally, who are your mentors?
One final word about mentors: they could be historical figures, famous leaders or people, people you know and can reach out to, just to name a few.
Some of my mentors of history include musicians J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, Zoltan Kodaly, and Emile Jacques-Dalcroze, as well as educational founder and translator William Carey. Some of my ‘virtual’ mentors include Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, and Pat Flynn – people I don’t have one-to-one contact with, but through their online work, have ‘mentored’ me and shaped my practices. One of my actual mentors and coaches is Aaron Walker of “View From The Top” – he is a great life and business coach.
I can’t recommend enough that you find a good mentor – even better, a ‘tribe’ of mentors (to borrow a phrase from Tim Ferris).
Who are your mentors – living or historical?
P.S. I’m working on a presentation about this very topic – see my post here about Harnessing High Potential: Meeting the Social Needs of High Potential Learners.