'The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.' ~ ConfuciusClick To Tweet
Recently, I wrote about finding your mission – your reason for being.
The idea that there is ‘one thing’ that you are here to do… to impact… can be a bit scary. So I prefer to think of it as finding the key to realizing your potential. That way it becomes a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
Realizing your potential matters on a number of different levels and for a few different reasons. In this article I’ll unpick these a little bit in the hope of making the whole thing a little less daunting.
Realizing your potential – globally, locally, personally
'With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world.' ~ Dalai LamaClick To Tweet
There is power in numbers. Especially big numbers. Recently the #MeToo movement has started to ‘gently’ impact on the problems with abuse of power and issues of harassment of women by men in positions of power. The March For Our Lives rallies across the United States following the senseless killing of seventeen people at a High School in Florida are another striking example.
We are more powerful together. And the combined impact of all our ‘potential’ coming together in a coordinated way is a sight to see.
Can you imagine if every person on earth had the tools to be the best person they were capable of being?
'A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.' ~ John C. MaxwellClick To Tweet
While we are citizens of the world, we are also citizen’s of many smaller communities. Communities where we recognise the faces around us, and know people by name. Our ability to impact here seems slightly less daunting.
Our workplaces, our families, our schools, clubs and societies. How we behave and the example we set in these groups can have a marked and immediately impact on the likelihood that these institutions are a force for good in our communities.
In many regards, all movements start as local movements.
'Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.' ~ Wilma RudolphClick To Tweet
It’s possible that when I wrote about finding your life’s purpose, your mission, that you found the idea a bit intimidating. Fair enough. It sounds very final and singular in its focus.
But even if you are fearful of the idea of identifying a mission for your life, I suspect that you are more comfortable with the idea of reaching your potential. The idea that you want to make the most of the unique signature of skills, talents and experiences that make you ‘you’.
Personally, my greatest fear is that I will die without reaching my full potential. The idea that I would leave anything on the table is worse than giving a big speech in a room full of spiders on the edge of a deep ravine… at the dentist.
So why does realizing your potential seem less daunting than finding your life’s purpose?
I think because it’s less objective. With a ‘mission’ you either have one – that you can articulate – or you don’t. Whereas realizing your potential is relative. It’s part of a journey. At any point in your life your potential can change. The longer you live, the more you should have been able to achieve. The more you learn, the more you are capable of.
So what does all of this have to do with your mission?
See your mission as the key to unlocking your potential…
'When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that's when passion is born.' ~ Zig ZiglarClick To Tweet
Two metaphors spring to mind for me here.
If you don’t know where you are going, any path will do…
I suspect for most people, this idiom, used a lot in personal development, but also in corporate planning, is seen as describing the reason for having a ‘mission’ or ‘vision’. In those instances, the mission is the direction so that you can identify the best path – tactics, products, strategy – to get there.
I’d like you to flip that on its head. Instead, think of the end point, the destination, as realizing your potential. And your mission as being the path to get you there. Consequently, your mission might change subtly over time, but the end goal remains the same… to realize your personal potential.
This requires you to understand your own strengths and talents. It requires you to be persistent and focused. And it requires you to be mindful of how you achieve your mission as well as exactly what that mission is.
The person who chases two rabbits catches neither…
Part of the reason many people are put off the idea of establishing a personal mission is that ‘singularness’ of it. How many doors are closed when you decide to go through that one single door…
But in fact, that’s exactly the point. If your effort is scattered – if you are chasing multiple rabbits (not withstanding how often you disappear down the rabbit-hole) you effort is unfocused. You will not catch any rabbit, and you will exhaust yourself in the effort along the way.
Think of your mission as choosing one rabbit. If that rabbit becomes ‘unavailable’ for some reason, you can choose another one. But in the meantime, you have a much higher chance of catching one rabbit.
Realizing your potential requires you to know your mission…
If you stop seeing ‘mission’ as some grand gesture, and instead explore it as an iterative process of setting ambitious goals and objectives, it becomes a little less scary. Less intimidating.
Realizing your potential is too ‘fluffy’ to guide you as you navigate the twists and turns of an increasingly complex world. Instead, you need to establish a mission to serve as your focus. Your guide. Your reference point.
Just don’t get so attached to it that you can’t let it go when you realise it’s no longer taking you in the right direction!
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