I love the term “True Potential.”
If you read a lot of self-help/self-improvement, you may hear this often — sometimes to the point of sounding cliché.
But don’t let other’s perspective determine the way you want to view these words. The reason why I love true potential is because it describes our capacity as humans — to be the best that we can possibly be. I think the idea of being a better person than yesterday is fascinating, and it does a great justice to those around us, the relationships we build, and the life we create.
Everyday I try to be a better me. The things I did yesterday that were out of frustration or anger or in-the-moment stressful decisions, I try to not make those decisions today. Why? Because the outcomes from making mindless decisions squanders our true potential of being a better person and living better lives. When making those kinds of decisions, we add needless stress and develop fruitless habits.
I definitely don’t have all the answers to develop your true potential, but here are my thoughts:
1) Make mindful decisions: Stressful, in-the-moment decisions are easy to make because they give you an immediate reward. They are easy because it’s much more difficult to empathize, take into consideration the other person’s desires, or to simplify a situation. Why is this? Fear. Fear comes from the amygdala, the lizard brain, and the amygdala wants you to be comfortable and safe. Which is why the easy way out is sometimes so reflexive.
For me, the best way to be mindful of my decisions is to take into consideration of what I’m feeling at that moment, the people involved, and the desired outcome. It requires you to pause before reacting. That pause can make a tremendous difference in the outcomes you create. Developing the habit of making mindful decisions is tough at first, but over time and with practice, you will begin to notice a difference in your life, how you feel, and the results you create.
2) Self-awareness: Self-awareness is about understanding yourself — your emotions, thoughts, behavior, habits, etc. It all starts with being aware. Think about the person you were a few years ago and look at yourself now. How much of a difference is there? How much growth? If you see the improvements, that is your true potential being developed. If you don’t see any (which is probably not true, you just need to dig deeper), then that may be a sign to try something different and to break out of your comfort zone.
Self-awareness is also about personal responsibility. It’s about being aware of the roadblocks prevalent in your life — whether you choose to remove them or not is up to you. Not taking the time to remove them would be doing a great disservice, squandering your true potential. To exercise your self-awareness, pay attention to the decisions you make, your habits, behaviors in certain situations, and your thoughts. The goal is to become fully aware of yourself, and in turn, be accountable in being a better person than yesterday.
3) Learning: For a long period of my life, a lot of learning took place only in the classrooms. This is bare minimum. We live in the Information Age. To be able to learn and study anything is right at our fingertips. I believe that in order to build our true potential, we must continue feeding our mind different kinds of knowledge, perspectives, opinions, etc. — get the full spectrum, not just the side you want to hear.
Everyone has different ways of learning. To learn about yourself and the world you live in, I find it important to extract a lesson from every situation that you were a part of, no matter how big or small. If you were on a long line at the DMV, what lesson can you learn in this situation? That frustration and anger doesn’t work with a clerk? That patience and preparation are your best allies when trying to accomplish this task? All too often I think people repeat these processes in their life without ever learning anything from it. Experience something, and learn from it to the best of your ability.
4) Desire: The desire to be better than yesterday, the desire to be a better human being, may not be there at first. Some people don’t even care about that. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not the type. When I felt lost during community college, the desire to be great was always there, but I just didn’t know where or how to start. When I became aware of this, I had to set a goal for myself to accomplish something, anything. That’s when I started to live and breathe the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” This motivated me to start reading books of all kinds, simply because I knew there was so much learn (I still feel this way).
Finding the desire may be tough at first, but to assist you in developing that mindset, think about the outcome, the end-result. If you harness the desire to be great, the desire to be better than yesterday, do you think there are positive benefits when you slowly walk this path? Or is it completely irrelevant to your life’s endeavors?
Some times the hardest things to do are the ones worth doing.
I dont think there will ever be a time where you tell yourself, “Yes, this is it. I have reached my true potential.” I believe this journey ends at the grave, and the way people describe and talk about you will determine how much true potential you had and shared with the world.
Like I said, I don’t have all the right answers, just a perspective. But looking back at the times when I was a lost college student who consistently beat myself up, to the person I am today, I realized that developing your true potential is not an impossible task, but rather a journey worth taking because it will open doors for you that may potentially change your entire life.
When you see these doors, I hope you open them.