Mentorship September 13, 2016
At some point in your life, you’ve probably been told that you have “so much potential, if only you worked harder.” For some people, these words are nothing more than an unfounded side comment from a well-meaning family member, but for others, the advice may hit close to home. You start thinking, “Yes, I do have a lot of potential. What am I doing wasting it?”
Because your future isn’t set in stone, your potential is wide open. You have time to change your character, to refine it to pursue your dreams. Those with ambition find themselves motivated by their potential to do great things.
Oprah tells her audience that “There is one thing that reminds a constant in everything – what [Aristotle] called entelechy or one’s essential potential … Entelechy is a vital force that motivates and guides an organism towards self-fulfillment.”
She then uses the example of the “mighty oak tree.” Oak trees start from small acorn seeds and must go through “certain changes and stages of development” in order to reach its full potential as a tree. Despite droughts and storms, heat waves and frost, the tree’s “potential is a constant.” One day, it will become an oak tree.
So if you’ve been beating yourself up lately about not living up to your potential, remind yourself that fully living up to your potential is a difficult – or even impossible – task because of the very nature of potential. Potential is infinite; no one will ever reach a point in his or her life when improvements cannot be made, when values cannot shift, when nothing can be created. So instead of worrying that you haven’t lived up to your potential yet, focus on what you’ve already accomplished and how much more you can do.
When you feel like you have hit a major roadblock in your plans, try to think positively about the situation. Use your adversity to grow into the strongest version of yourself. Oprah points out, “You know that break up you endured? You can choose to lovingly rename the experience, ‘The break up that led to the breakdown that led to the breakthrough!'”
The saying “mind over matter” has never been more true. To reach your potential, you need to start visualizing where you want to be and what kind of attitude it will take to get there.
Remind yourself that you don’t need to prove yourself to anybody. Instead, surround yourself with support as you endlessly climb up the ladder. Having people to support you will also keep you motivated and happy when things get hard. As Huffington Post says, “We all need to be addressed with tenderness; the kind that acknowledges our human connection … Connecting with other people from the heart is a daily practice, and is, along with laughter, a mighty powerful anti-depressant.”
Lastly, continue to reshape your personal idea of “potential.” Once you reach your first goal, why should you stop there? Envision a new potential for yourself; one where you’re comfortable with the progress you’ve made while also remaining motivated and optimistic about the future.
When you start to work this way, with the mindset that it’s no longer life or death if you meet that deadline or ace that meeting, you’ll realize you produce better work. One woman, Penelope Trunk, discovered this for herself just a few years ago. She used to spend her time thinking about all the things she should have done. But then, she realized that “should is a dangerous word.”
Trunk writes, “There is no should … There is just doing your life. You can’t do someone else’s life. If we know our goal, and we know our life, and we are working toward it, then we never talk about our shoulds.”
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