You may have heard that people only use 10% of their potential? But what does that really mean? Over four decades ago, a Dr. McHolland described human potential as much more than IQ. It is the potential to be creative, to feel, to think, to enter into meaningful relationships, to be athletic, to have fun, to give and receive, and to develop one’s self as a whole person.
Reaching Our Full Potential: Where to Begin
The key to achieving your full potential as a human being starts with recognizing what is right with us as opposed to what is wrong. All of your potential is inside and you have used it at various times to achieve in life, whether it be finishing school, taking a class, getting a job, getting a promotion, mastering a new skill, creating something from scratch, raising your children and so much more. You have to identify the potential you have used before and activate it again, so that you see yourself in a positive light, so that you see yourself accomplishing your goals.
Reaching your human potential takes uncovering what you like about yourself and building on that positive foundation. You achieve that through self-determination (making decision and resolving conflicts on your own), self-affirmation (knowing and affirming who you are), self-motivation (towards achievement as opposed to seeking that push from others) and empathy (the ability to give, receive and care for others).
Eight steps to self transformation
To begin down this path, whip out a pen and paper or open a blank word processing file or your notes app on your cell phone and answer the following questions. It is even better if you can do this with a supportive group, each person sharing their answers.
1. What experiences and feelings have led you to be the person you are today? These include happy, joyful experiences and the challenging ones.
2. Identify some of your accomplishments. Recall times you have achieved something you wanted (or even something you didn’t want!). When have you felt the most satisfied?
Here are some additional questions to explore in this area:
a. Why did each experience make your feel satisfied?
b. What is your definition of achievement or satisfaction? How do you know when you have achieved something? Are all of your examples tied to external validation? (e.g. being elected or receiving a raise after evaluation).
c. Do you have feelings of personal success or worthiness apart from the opinions of other people?
d. Do you play down your potential?
Here you are trying to locate your inner stregnth and resources you will need to create a more satisfying, engaging and creative life.
3. Make your 6-month goals. How do you see your life or yourself in that time? What would you need to do in 3 months in order to be on track to meet that half year goals? What do you need to do this week to meet that goal? What about today? Goal setting in this way breaks down your desired targets in achievable chunks. Ever heard that phrase that goes something like you eat an elephant one fork bite at a time? How about climbing a mountain one step at a time? That is how you achieve everything in life, bit by bit. When you think about your achievements and satisfaction experiences, you will see that they arrived over time, usually not a result of an instantaneous event.
4. Put your goals into present tense, and make them concrete. Let them be achievable within the time span (a week, a month, 3 months, etc.) Let your goals be towards things you want to do as opposed to your responsibilities (things you must do). Do not state your goals in a way that makes an alternative possible. Read more about goal setting.
It is also critical to share your goals with others. It is a part of creating accountability for what you say you will do.
5. Identify your strengths. It can be useful to ask your spouse, partner, friend, or family member what they see in you. What keeps you from using that strength?
Now, ask yourself, what could you be or be doing in five years were you to use all your strengths?
6. What are your values? Where in your life do you experience conflict with those values? What areas in your life support your values? Do your values influence your personal and social decisions? In what ways?
Now, tie your values to your goals. How do the goals you have set, whether the near tem 6 month goals or the longer term 5 year goals, align with your values?
Here, you want to being to distinguish values that you think others feel you hsould have, from those that are real and unique to you. This is about internal conflict resolution, which often holds people back. You may not realizing you have competing value systems operating that are keeping you from taking action towards your goals or being fully who you were born to be. Sometimes the value conflicts are internal and sometimes they are tied to other people or institutions you belong to.
To resolve your internal and external value conflicts, you must first identify the source of why your values conflict. Then rank your values. Choose the ones you want to reinforce. Use your identified stregnths to move away from conflict.
7. What potential creativity lies inside you? You may already be a creative professional or hobbyist. If so, that is wonderful. You should continue to nurture your talents. For some of us, it is not as obvious. You may have to think back to an art class in school or a time you helped your child with a project. Do you dance, sing, hum, doodle, draw, paint, build, plant, design, or arrange? If you don’t, start! Try something new. Take a course, join a class, read a book. The focus here is on finding and nurturing your inner talents.
8. Lastly, it is important to reflect on your current lifestyle, and how that aligns with your long term goals, personal values and strengths.
How do you check on your progress towards reaching your full human potential?
A year from now or when you go through the steps above, ask yourself the following:
- Did you meet your goals?
- Are you setting new ones and still working towards them?
- Do you share your goals with others?
- Have you consciously reflected on your values in the last three months?
- Do you think more highly of yourself?
- Do you now recognize circumstances and experiences in which you achieve personal success?
- Have you tried new things?
- Are you aware of your personal conflicts and been able to resolve them?
It may feel strange at first to engage in such self reflection. However, study after study shows that individuals with a strong sense of self, those who know their strength and values, who are deliberate about goals and motivated to achieve them are the ones that are reaching their potential. Self-affirmation, self-motivation and self-determination, and the ability to empathize are all successful traits.
The more of your potential you tap into, the more success you will have. That is what being a Power Achiever is all about.
To your success!