“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I … I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”. Robert Frost
So many people with whom I come into contact are unhappy – sometimes with their circumstances, sometimes with their performance, sometimes with their lives. They sense that their careers could improve if only they could find a way to do things differently. Many of them have fallen into deep ruts, processing their boring days over and over again. They want more stimulating, more exciting and more rewarding lives. They want their lives to be different.
Everyone has the potential to improve performance and circumstances. To accomplish this, you will need to know how to tap into your own potential and avoid the pitfall of making “average performance” your standard. You will have to develop your own standards of excellence – not following the “average” way of doing things. In order to tap into your own potential, you should consider establishing standards, beliefs and practises that are your own, not those of “most people”.
So, how do you get to the place where you can make significant changes and start tapping into your own potential? The following steps should be considered:
- Identify what is currently not working for your life – to bring about change, there needs to be a compelling dissatisfaction with the status quo, distaste for certain elements of the way you are living your life. This involves ruthless evaluation of all activities, especially those that add little or no value to your current existence. Make a comprehensive list and stop doing them.
- Articulate your vision for the future – write it all down (there is no right or wrong). Include in this vision statement three key elements – what you would like to do, what you would like to have, but more importantly, who you would like to be. Refine your vision by identifying the truly important elements in its makeup. Make those the spine of your vision and get rid of the peripheral.
- Set meaningful, but realistic, goals for your vision – the goals should certainly involve “stretch”, but should be attainable (or at least parts of them should be attainable initially). These goals should be specific and measureable and contain timelines. All goals should be aligned exactly with the spine of your vision.
- Identify the strengths that you possess that will directly assist you in achieving success with your goals – assess that which you can do with your current skills and identify gaps (areas where you will need assistance in achieving a goal or skillsets that will need to be enhanced through further studies or training). Set goals to close the gaps.
- Focus on achieving your goals – apply appropriate amounts of energy to their achievement and then some. Where your focus lies, that’s where your energy will go. Be disciplined and apply unrelenting focus to all the small steps that will start realising the completion of each project. Celebrate each success.
- Appoint a mentor – mentors have a way of pointing out issues that you are missing, but more importantly, they hold you accountable, offer encouragement and support and also point out potential that you might have overlooked. Potential, once identified, can be further developed with a mentor’s assistance.
- Review progress frequently – assess how well you are doing with regard to the achievement of your goals in relation to your original vision (your strategy), maybe with the help of your mentor, and establish new priorities if necessary. Refocus on any new goals that are set.
- Eliminate any mitigating factors – constantly say “no” to anything that may hinder the achievement of your vision. Let a bigger “yes” assist you with saying “no”. Don’t get side-tracked.
Tapping into your own potential does require a deliberate approach to the way you lead your life forward. Ella Wheeler Wilcox noted: “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, which can circumvent, nor hinder, nor control, the firm resolve of a determined soul”. Find that hidden potential and use it.