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We used to visit the kids’ grandparents in the mountains of Montana every so often as they were growing up.  The snowcapped peaks are majestic, and the sky there really is bigger.  What’s also bigger there? Bears.  We would go hiking or walking in the area surrounding the cabin, and I always brought a bell.  The idea is that we’d warn the bears of our presence by our jingling and jangling.  I can’t say with full confidence that it worked… but I do know that we never had a run in with a grizzly!

Losing a footrace to a grizzly is one of many things I’m afraid of.  Add to the list; falling out of an airplane (and I don’t mean skydiving – which I would be fearful of too), and waking up in the morning and realizing that I’m out of peanut butter. In the film The Circle, Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson, is asked that question during her hiring interview. Her answer, “unfulfilled potential.” I can fully understand and agree with that answer. During my 35 years of teaching in higher education, I have had many accomplishments. And now, as I start a second career, I don’t find “unfulfilled potential” to be anywhere in my vocabulary.

If you look closely at your life, I’m sure you can, first, list several astonishing achievements that would cause most people to stand and applaud, and second, you can see that you have so much more to offer. We all do have more to offer, and we always will. Just when we finish one project, our eyes immediately look for the next. Why? Because we don’t want to settle for potential. We want to use all our talents, knowledge, and skills to improve our lives and the lives of all the people around us. 

To bring out your potential, you need to take the following steps:

    • Find your purpose—Set your goals: When you have decided what action you think you can achieve, stretch yourself to go beyond. You will be surprised at how much more you have to offer.
    • Work to uncover/discover your potential: Let go of your perceived limitations and expectations. You might need to dig because potential has a habit of hiding. Ask yourself, what is it that truly interests you? Look at the successes you have already made, figure out why they went so well, and build on that. 
    • Don’t be afraid of success – or failure. It takes courage to acknowledge what you have accomplished or verbalize what your next challenge will be. It takes courage because that next challenge might be filled with missteps. That’s all right. Just remember to pick yourself up as many times as needed. Eventually, you’ll figure out how not to fall.
    • Work to develop your potential. Establish healthy, meaningful habits and routines to will keep you on track. Go outside and take lessons if need be.
    • Share your goals and expectations with others. Find a compatriot, a colleague who sees your vision and will keep you motivated and on task.
    • Stay in the now. Don’t let what you didn’t get accomplished yesterday hold you back from what you will achieve today.

Let’s change our focus from worrying about potential to reaching for the possible, or maybe even the impossible.