But how do you live your potential? Just the word potential refers to something that is always beyond where you currently are.
It’s a balance.
I want to be doing today what was my potential yesterday. Not matter how small the shift, I want to be always gaining greater levels of my potential.
The biggest moves towards reaching potential come from being stretched. The bigger the stretch, the bigger the personal growth.
Sometimes you get stretched beyond breaking point. Then you have the task of putting yourself back together. Getting stretched also means going beyond your comfort zone and dealing with the uncertainty that goes with that process. Getting stretched often means having more questions than answers. It may also mean having to deal with the loss of things you wanted, or thought you wanted and then having to deal with the challenge of understanding why you thought you wanted them.
Throughout all of it, you get an opportunity to grow; to reach your potential. The person that you become in the process is your most valuable asset.
It reminds me of something I heard Brian Tracy say and has stayed with me ever since:
“Don’t aim to make million dollars in order to have the money. Aim to become a millionaire for the person that you would have to become to make a million dollars.”
This quote is given in the context of money and finances but it is relevant to any dream or aspiration that you have. You want to build a business? Write a book? Be an effective parent? Revolutionise the way recycle waste? Be a painter? Dancer? Inventor? CEO? Sports pro?
Whatever dream lights you up and, more importantly, scares you, go for that. If you give it your all and stretch yourself, then the goal achievement is ultimately irrelevant.
People get so caught up on the result and what it would mean about them if they didn’t achieve it – and people are really clever at attaching meanings to outcomes. If you achieve your target, that is a well-deserved bonus for yourself and the world at large. The real achievement and reward is the person that you had to become in order to even go after than goal and give it your all.
Warren Buffet wisely said in a 1986 interview when he responded to the question of how much money wealthy people should leave to their children with:
“Enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”
In other words, if you give your children so much money that they never want for anything, then you may rob them of the need to stretch themselves and the creation of the person that would evolve through that challenge.
One of the toughest challenges I ever took on was going back to university as a mature age student. I was willing to admit myself that my passion was psychology and that getting a psychology degree was in my potential. I found those uni years really tough because even though I love learning, my natural way of learning and studying didn’t really fit with the way the university declared ideal way. I often didn’t get grades that I felt represented my efforts and I even had to repeat my most disliked subject. It literally brought me to tears at the thought of going through that subject again. So I cried it out and then went back to uni for another round.
In spite of the challenge, I got that piece of paper called a degree. That was the goal; a certificate confirming that I knew some things about psychology. Yet, it wasn’t the real reward at all. The person that I had to become to even enrol in that course, let alone continuing everyday towards what I believed was my passion is worth more to me than that piece of paper will ever be. For some people I know, uni was easy. For me, it was one of the most challenging things. But now that it’s done, my reality is ‘if I can do that, then I can do anything.’ That kind of self-awareness can only come from taking yourself on.
Also with getting that piece of paper, my potential was in my past. And, as always, my future still lay ahead of me. A moment of reflection included: ‘Was it all worth it?’ All the pressure? It was because under pressure I learned many things about myself that I would never have learned had I not been willing to stretch myself. Knowing who I am, what values I won’t compromise, and that I can be put under pressure and not give up was the most valuable reward. And having that self-awareness is my most valuable asset.