3 Ways to Own Your Unfulfilled Potential
Each of us has the potential inside to do so much more than we ever could have imagined. We have layers of ourselves that we haven’t even reached, gifts that are waiting to be shown to the world, talents ready to burst onto the scene. But so many of us haven’t tapped into that. We are full of unfulfilled potential. But what happens when you start reaching for more? And how can you actually own those unused gifts?
The book The Other 90% by Robert K. Cooper is about Cooper’s journey to do just that. His grandfather offered this challenge:
Robert, all of us are mostly unused potential. It’s up to you to become the most curious person you know and to keep asking yourself, What is my best? Keep finding more of it every day to give to the world. If you do that, I promise that more of the best than you can ever imagine – and in many ways beyond money – will come back to you. pp. 14-15.
Cooper said that accepting his grandfather’s challenge shaped his life in ways he never anticipated: “His challenge has moved me to independently study life and leadership from a different perspective, as an ordinary man searching for hidden human possibilities.” (p. 15).
When Cooper started owning and reaching for his own unfulfilled potential, new doors and possibilities opened for him. The same can happen for you. Now you just need to know where to start off! Here are 3 ways to own your unfulfilled potential.
1. Find your authentic self
One of the golden nuggets Cooper offered for tapping into your unfulfilled potential was:
Every one of us has inherent qualities that anchor us in the world and enable us to shine. To live in that way, we must clarify our own values and understand those of others. It’s one thing to be alive. It’s something else altogether to live – and work – according to who you are deep down. p. 39.
That starting place for tapping into your unused gifts is finding your authentic self, and finding your authentic self starts with discovering your top values. When you know what your most cherished values are, it allows you to understand the bedrock upon which to build your most authentic and potential-fulfilling live. Maybe one of your top values and strengths is organization, but you are working in an environment that doesn’t allow you to put that value and strength to its highest use.
Finding your top personal core values allows you to situate yourself so that you can start owning the rest of that unfulfilled potential and growing into the best life that awaits you, whether that is picking the right job, creating a space that allows you to thrive, or even just making decisions in life.
2. Focus on personal development
Look, let’s face it. A big part of why we haven’t reached our fullest potential is because we keep getting in our own way. We are all guilty of it, whether it is something as simple as binge-ing on ice cream when we say we are trying to eat better, or something bigger, like we are about to get promoted and we do something to screw it up.
To own our unfulfilled potential and have the life we want, we have to act and think differently than we have in the past. Changing the way we think and behave usually means engaging in deep personal development and personal change.
Robert E. Quinn addressed the deep change that is necessary for transformation in his book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within. He says,
To make deep personal change is to develop a new paradigm, a new self, one that is more effectively aligned with today’s realities. This can occur only if we are willing to journey into the unknown territory and confront the wicked problems we encounter. This journey does not follow the assumption of rational planning. The objective may not be clear, and the path to it is not paved with familiar procedures. This tortuous journey requires that we leave our comfort zone and step outside our normal roles. In doing so, we learn the paradoxical lesson that we can change the world only by changing ourselves.
This is not an easy thing to do for sure. Stepping beyond our old patterns is scary and requires courage to continue on and persist to the other side. If knowing your values and stepping into them is the first step, then the next step is to start clearing the hurts that have kept you from your best self in the past. Don’t let the wounds of yesterday keep you from the possibilities of tomorrow.
3. Stay Curious
Owning your unfulfilled potential means journeying into the unknown. It can be scary, but it can also be an adventure to find out what more that life holds for us. So stay curious. Keep exploring, and keep asking the right questions to expand into new possibilities.
I have discovered that finding the next better version of myself is a life-long journey. There is always something to work on, always another hill to climb, and always another beautiful mountaintop to look out from.
To help myself stay curious and maintain that forward momentum, I keep these two questions on my desk:
What's at risk if I don't change?
What could I create for myself in this moment if I do?
Your unfulfilled potential is waiting for you to claim it. Now you just have to start doing it!
May you be surrounded by all the llama llove you can handle.
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