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A Starting Point for Unleashing Your Personal Potential

Graphic Showing Why Wait to be Great LogoThe time is now. There is no point in waiting, no reason to delay. Your greatness is yours (and yours alone!) to discover, access, and display. So why wait to be great? Unleash your personal potential now! 

In this 16-part CONNECT2Lead series, we’ll be exploring what personal potential is and what gets in the way of accessing it fully. We’ll also provide actionable ways you can become what you want to be.

Defining Personal Potential 

Potential means: 

  • Possible, as opposed to actual.
  • Capable of being or becoming.
  • A latent excellence or ability that hasn’t been fully developed.
  • Capacity, potency.

 The root word of potential is the same as the root word for potency. In other words, your POWER lies within your potential.

 Let’s add another word to round out our definition. This is a lesser-known word, one that should be widely known and frequently used. The word is entelechy and it means: 

  • A realization or actuality of that which formerly was unrealized potential.
  • The soul or principle of perfection.
  • To activate potential and bring it into reality.

Graphic Showing Winners Receiving Awards in in Different LevelWhat this means is that you have power within your potential AND you have the power to unleash that potential, to bring it to life. 

All too often, we think of potential as something that is innate. You have it or you don’t. If you haven’t already discovered it, you may think it’s inaccessible to you. 

That’s because we start in the wrong place. We measure our potential by our current state rather than considering the possibility of a future state. It’s also because our standard      of comparison is what we see in others rather than what we imagine for ourselves. That’s inherently limiting. 

Here’s another problem in the way we think about potential. You may think of developing your personal potential as taking steps to increase what you can DO. Most mentoring, stretch assignments, performance appraisals, and classes focus on increasing what you are capable of doing. 

Personal potential should, however, focus more on what you can BE. The performative acts of doing something are accessible to all who pursue and practice those acts. What makes each individual unique is who they are. Being what you want to be is not the same as doing what you can do.

Throughout the Why Wait to be Great? series, our operating framework for unleashing personal potential is built on this premise: 

You are capable of becoming even more than you are now. You already have, within you, the power to expand your capacity, stretch your boundaries, and reach beyond your current state. 

Elite athletes and high achievers in all fields believe this about themselves. Overcomers cling to this belief every day as they work to rise above their challenges and constraints. 

You can, too.  

Who Defines Personal Potential? 

In business, we’ve got it all wrong. One of the worst practices in business is the 9-box model that categorizes employees by performance and potential. Here’s any example: 

9-Box Models

In these corporate exercises, performance is usually assessed by objective measures. Assessing potential, though, is highly subjective and patently unfair. 

This approach wrongly assumes that potential is fixed and that it can be gauged by observations. It ignores the reality that people are motivated by life changes and reach deep for untapped potential when they need it. Take, for example, the single mom who makes major life changes to provide for her children. The potential that was apparent before she was a mom and after she became a mom will look entirely different. It was there all along, but it wasn’t observable in a way that would be captured in some business exercise like this one.

 To learn more about 9-box models, read this provocative article on Medium. For our purposes here, suffice it to say that no one else should be evaluating or judging your potential. Don’t let others’ half-baked estimations of your potential limit your own thinking about what you can become.

 This notion isn’t limited to business. Teachers and guidance counselors unduly influence students. A harsh criticism can cause a student to think their current struggle is a permanent flaw. The math teacher who says “you aren’t logical” fails to realize the impact this can have on a student who accepts this judgment as fact.

 Rather than allowing students and employees to explore various areas of interest, the norms are box people in. These boxes are imposed on people based on snapshots rather than taking in the whole picture. Oversimplifying and over-steering suppress potential instead of unleashing it.

 That’s why it’s up to you and you alone.

 Don’t abdicate your power by accepting others’ lazy leaps to box you in. They’re projecting their own limitations and trying to be efficient in serving their own purposes.

 Instead of looking to others’ opinions and instead of comparing yourself to others, take charge of defining your own personal potential. Set your own goals and standards. Measure against what you want to be instead of comparing yourself to what someone else is.

 Once you’ve got the standard set appropriately, you’ll be ready to do the work that’s needed for unleashing your full potential.

 To Get Started on Unleashing Your Full Potential

 This series is meant to help you get started. Along the way, we’ll offer additional resources and ideas. It will be up to you to stretch and try new things, to discover your own preferences for what to learn and how to learn, and to tackle the obstacles that you encounter.

 We’ll start with those obstacles so you’ll be ready for them. Then we’ll work on goal-setting for personal potential and getting clarity on what’s realistic, what it will take to become what you want to be, and what skill sets will help you get there. The line-up includes: 

  • Career Roadblocks
  • Self-Defeating Mindsets
  • Perception vs. Reality
  • Doing Damage Control / Hitting Reset
  • You’re in Control of Your Potential
  • What Do You Want? Clarity Counts
  • Habits of Personal Effectiveness
  • Power Competencies (Sensemaking, Listening, Asking Questions, Learning Agility, Critical Thinking)
  • Trusting and Being Trusted
  • Getting Buy-In & Commitment
  • What Motivates/Drives You?
  • Assertiveness
  • Conducting Difficult Conversations
  • Taking Risks
  • Failure Is Our Friend
  • Assuming Good Intent + Grace for Self and Others

If you’d like to get a quick start, you can check out this free webinar. We’ll also be blogging about this for the next 16 weeks, so bookmark the CONNECT2Lead page. To dive deeper, you can enroll in our free Personal Effectiveness course on People First Leadership Academy.