Achieving Your Potential

I often think how many people I come across don’t reach their full potential. I know they have great skills or knowledge which could lead to them living a richer life (in terms of well being and/or financially) but these skills/knowledge are lying dormant

Some of these people are doing work they hate just to earn a living. My first tip to achieve your potential is the only way to do great work is to love what you do

Others are working in a “Safe Job” with a steady but unremarkable income which barely uses 20% of their ability. This is a shame and waste of their potential.

Over time these disused skills/experience will slowly be lost. At the very least these people should be passing on their skills/experience to others rather than letting them atrophy.

My friend Luke Harvey-Palmer is an expert in the field of Personal Branding and helping people reach their potential so I asked him to contribute his thoughts to this article:

Luke says he’s pretty blunt with people who fail to achieve their potential because often what they need is a little ‘shock therapy’ – in other words, sometime we are just too damn nice and tell everyone “you are so talented!!”.

A particular approach he likes and uses is one thats derived from Abraham Maslow’s famous research paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Luke’s version is this: Achieving your potential is very often all about what really motivates you:

There are several stages of motivation and people who don’t realise their potential are those who are motivated by the ‘lower’ rungs of the ladder. It is connection with others and the search for contribution and growth that forces people to explore their potential and realise it:

  1. Certainty – these people are motivated by the need to earn an income and be certain what is coming tomorrow and the day after. People who sit here are the classic ‘salary’ types who NEED the certainty day to day to get them out of bed.
  2. Importance – these people love handing you their business card! For them, title and importance is their key motivation, and the notion of NOT being associated with a big brand or an important sounding position scares them. These are those who most only work with big, important corporate brands and are obsessed with title.
  3. Connection – now we step up the scale a little. People motivated by connection are the great networkers, and typical value people over process and income. These are the people who recognise that true success only comes form working with others, from as many different walks of life as possible. Many young and aspiring entrepreneurs are most motivated by connection.
  4. Contribution – now we are starting to explore those motivated by ‘doing good’ and truly making a difference. For these people, they have moved beyond ‘self’ and are now starting to make decisions on the basis of the community and humanity! Richard Branson and other successful entrepreneurs are here.
  5. Growth – this is the highest possible form of motivation..this is about risk takers and colloborators and ‘givers’ who recognise that the growth of others and fellow mankind is the only way to improve EVERYONE’s situation. In many ways, Buffet and Gates are motivated by growth.

According to recent research by The Future Laboratory (commissioned by American Express) the external shock of the current Global Financial Crisis (GFC) on people who have practiced consumption as a way of life has prompted a re-evaluation of what is important to them

Potentialists are equally men and women but the way each sex finds fulfillment differs greatly – men are more likely to focus on work and aspire to set up their own business (26%) whereas women’s ambitions lie in being more creative and artistic (44%) and facing new mental and physical challenges (39%)

In this uncertain economic climate “potentialist” people are taking a much broader, more holistic approach to how they spend their time and money moving away from status purchases and passive engagement to more participatory activities in which they are proactively involved like hobbies, new skills, spirituality, family and travel as ways of expanding their lives and realising their personal potential.

“People are feeling the need for more sustainability in their life that was, I think, there before the recession, although the recession has pushed buttons,” says John Naish, author of Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More.

An example of this is the “Live Local” project which encourages Australians to experiment and meet neighbours, buy locally and support the local economy, plant vegetables in their backyard, save energy and make their air and water cleaner. Have a look at my friend Kate’s blog to see examples of Live Local in action

Value and quality are the order of the day in all aspects of life – success and fulfillment have new measures that are less linked to material value and far less tangible. Learning new skills or experiencing new cultures as a traveller not a tourist are all edging their way up the priority list of what people hope to achieve in the future.

Disclaimer: I regularly display advertising for banking and financial services on this website so FYI American Express may be an advertiser in the future.

6 thoughts on “Achieving Your Potential”

  1. This was a fantastic post! I enjoyed reading through this very much so!

    If I may contribute a few opinions of my own about “potentialists”…
    I would like to add that IMO sometimes a man or woman’s potential is driven by our passion.

    If you are truly passionate about anything, it is what creates the drive that allows us to reach our full potential of whatever it is or skill we posses within. Having a zeal and real passion for your work, or a hobby, an interest, or even activities is what brings out the best I believe in everyone.

    Passion is what my believe lies in when it comes to “potentialists” If you’re not passionate, you’re just a dull listless being taking up space and working on the assembly line. It’s a person that is passionate about medicine for example that drives that person to maintain high grades and expectations, go to med school and become a doctor and go on to make ground breaking research, discoveries, or inventions in medicine.

    Just my two cents about potential and passion =)

  2. this is a surprise for i am to post something about potentials myself, but of lesser impact. was about to share what my personal experience is…not knowing I had the potential until my boss saw something more of me than what i myself see. she pushed and pushed me…until i reached the highest peak of my career. i learned then that I am better that I believe myself to be.

  3. I must say this is a really good article and has got me thinking on what my own potentials are in my current work situation.

    I think every person thinks less of there self and we all need to told by someone that we can do better or to point out our potential to acheive some think.

  4. For years, I have been working in similar jobs in the technology field. I was not happy at all not because I didn’t like the technology I was selling or the companies I worked for. I simply felt that I can achieve so much more but was too chicken to take the risk. Well, I have and am 1000 times happier. I urge everyone to believe in their own abilities and take matters into their own hand.

  5. one of the biggest obstacles I face in my work is the fact that people do not want to come out of their complacency. They are comfortable and don’t want to change – I think that comfort is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching ones true potential.

  6. Great post, I think the bit on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an important factor when it comes to motivation – money isn’t enough these days. People are looking for fulfillment in myriad areas including pay, holiday, knowledge etc. This generation has been spoiled to a certain degree, wanting our cake and eat it too. In a sense we’re play a self-defeating game with ourselves and reaching our true potential .

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