There are numerous stories of those who had to overcome difficulty, were resilient and triumphed, even in the face of criticism or extreme hardship – Ignace Paderewski, the great Polish pianist, was told by his first piano teacher that his hands were too small to master the keyboard; Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for ‘lack of ideas’; Louis L’Amour, author of over one hundred western novels with sales of over two hundred million copies, received three hundred and fifty rejections before he made his first sale; Albert Einstein was expelled from school for disruption … and so the list goes on. These are people who managed to rise above seemingly insurmountable odds and achieve the potential that already existed within.
The temptation when one reviews the above list and/or the lists of many others that have managed to realise their potential is to ascribe this ability or greatness to the seeming fact that only a certain percentage of the world’s population is ever going to achieve success and I am probably not going to be one of them. I fall outside this percentile. I am never going to be a Caruso or Pavarotti – I can’t sing! Now, this may well be true – I can identify with this, as I shouldn’t even be singing in the shower out of respect for others who might hear if they walked past the bathroom door! Singing is not my thing, but what is “my thing” in the bigger scheme of events? What giftedness is lurking, perhaps beneath the surface of my life that, if nurtured and developed, would catapult me forwards in life?
Each of us enters life with vast reserves of untapped potential – it’s all there. As we grow, life becomes more complex and we are faced with having to learn new skills, earn more money, do more, maintain more relationships and make our mark. Perhaps, within this complexity characteristic of life, we fail to explore the reserves of potential within, to enhance our giftedness and to realise what is possible. We try and “fish in others’ ponds”, wanting what they have without capitalising on what we could be as a person and be producing. We don’t “fish in our own pond”!
There seem to be some foundational tenets that need to be applied in order for one to reach one’s full potential:
- Be self-aware – understand “what makes you tick”, how you think about yourself in relation to others, the things that motivate you typically to “go the extra mile”, your inner sense of values, those things you like and those you dislike and why, your purpose of being, why you exist.
- Control and eliminate negative self-talk – negativity in relation to yourself shuts out potential from being realised. It closes the door on opportunity and develops a sense of helplessness. Listen to what you tell yourself – if negativity exists, close it down.
- Grow an attitude and practise of continuous self-development – people who are successful realise that they are only at one of the stages of self-growth and that the journey is never complete.
- Find your unique giftedness – every person has gifts (good with your hands, a good listener, good speaker, good with animals, good with people, good at managing and controlling processes, etc.). Understand your unique giftedness and embrace it.
- Develop your giftedness – focus on that gift and apply the extra 20% effort of development to that gift to distinguish yourself from others.
- Plan your gift’s future use within the bigger scheme of your life – don’t leave the realisation of your potential to chance, but rather plan accordingly. Set priorities and goals for your giftedness so that you can optimise your potential.
- Have fun with your gift – self-development in your area of giftedness and utilisation of the same within your life should not be viewed as a chore, but as a fun journey – one of discovery and contribution. Enjoy it.
Realising one’s full potential is a possibility for everyone, not just the select few. As we use our giftedness appropriately and capitalise on our uniqueness, doors start opening for us. We are stretched and further develop ourselves to meet the stretch requirements. As we do this, we become “known” or recognised for our achievements and our skills become more in demand. This stretches us further, necessitating further growth and development. We start living into and operating almost solely with our giftedness and start realising our full potential.