TEN KEYS TO UNLOCKING YOUR POTENTIAL
By Rick White (Posted September 15, 2021)
Life is filled with obstacles, challenges, and pitfalls. We never know what's coming around the next corner. Some people seem to live a charmed existence, while others appear cursed with the worst luck. Often it seems there's no rhyme or reason for what life brings our way. Bad things happen to good people all the time, while bad people often profit from their misdeeds and seem to escape punishment. In short, life isn't fair. So, what are we to make of it?
King Solomon addressed that question nearly 3,000 years ago when he wrote, "Vanity of vanities…All is vanity." The book of Ecclesiastes is a treatise on the futility of human existence. It was written by a man who literally had it all yet found no contentment in earthly wisdom, wealth or wantonness.
His conclusion: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Eccl. 12:13 ESV)
That's great advice for living the best we can given our limited understanding of God's eternal purposes and plans for humanity and our own individual lives. So let's never forget there is a God in heaven, and we are accountable to Him. To deny that truth is not only futile, but foolishness, according to Solomon's dad, King David in Psalms 14:1.
He also wrote in Psalms 139:14, "…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…" That phrase speaks not only of our design by an omnipotent God, but also hints at the immense potential of every human being. Sadly, too many of us fail to understand that potential or pursue it with knowledge and vigor. Most of us are untapped reservoirs of promise and possibilities that are never explored, for a variety of reasons.
The following alliterated list suggests 10 things that aid us or can sometimes hold us back from discovering our hidden potential. They impact us in many ways, from business applications to personal relationships, and largely determine our success or failure in those aspects of life.
None of these thoughts are exclusively mine nor especially novel, but I hope these meager pearls of wisdom will help you to recognize and overcome some of the challenges in your life and bring success. Happy reading.
1. Personality. Our personality type can be a help or a hindrance in pursuit of our goals, hopes and dreams. Are you generally a positive person or do you trend toward the negative? Do your emotions run high or do you prefer reason and logic when facing life's difficulties? It's hard to admit, but sometimes we make our circumstances worse by how we react to them based on our personality type. The next time life threatens to slap you down, take a moment to gauge your reaction, monitor your personality, and consider a different, more constructive response.
2. Procrastination. Put off until tomorrow what could and should be done today. That's the mantra of many people today and a major reason why so many fail to realize their vast potential. No one is guaranteed another day of life, and while we can't do everything in one day, we should never presume there will always be a tomorrow or next week, for they may never come.
Procrastination compounds the issue or problem facing us. It brings pressure and can force us into making poor decisions that might have been avoided earlier in the process. Procrastination is often born of fear or dread over what the future might hold. It shows a lack of faith and confidence. It's detrimental to human achievement and should be shunned at all costs.
3. Perfection. Too many people are looking for the perfect situation or answer to life's issues. But the pursuit of perfection is an illusion. It doesn't exist. Whether it's your marriage or some other personal relationship, or a new job or career move, don't seek perfection, or you may be waiting for a very long time.
Life doesn't stop for those who procrastinate or pursue perfection before acting. Instead, be ready to strike while the iron is hot, not recklessly, but prudently, knowing that perfection is unachievable and good enough is probably just that, good enough. No one is perfect, and there are no perfect circumstances in life. There will always be some doubt, even in the best of situations. So push beyond those doubts and abandon your fruitless quest for perfection.
4. Panic. Fear, anxiety, and worry are terrible things. They sap our energy, cloud our thinking, fill us with dread, and imperil our health. Panic brings pressure, increases stress, and needlessly magnifies our troubles. The Bible says much about the subject of worry, like these words from Jesus: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." The Apostle Peter wrote, "Cast all your anxiety on [God] because he cares for you."
Finding true peace in a hectic world is not easy, but it is essential to our well-being and success in life. Everyone needs a mechanism or process for dealing with worry and stress. It might be physical exercise, taking a long walk, relaxing with a good book, escaping into a movie, listening to soothing music, spending quality time with family members, some form of quiet meditation or prayer – whatever works best for you. Learn to relax and stop worrying, especially about things over which most of us have little or no control. Fear and worry are killers – they kill our joy, our hopes, our dreams, our success, and if allowed to run wild, they will kill our health and wreck our lives.
5. Power. Sometimes we fail in life because we lack the power to reach our goals or ambitions, or at least we think ourselves to be powerless. Of course, our pursuit of success must be rational. Few of us can play professional sports or become a famous entertainer. I'm not against dreaming big, but most of us have less grandiose goals that are more reasonable and attainable with the application of a little preparation, persistence, and perspiration. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
History has proven that the human spirit harbors a remarkable capacity for overcoming great obstacles and achieving remarkable things. Who knows what power resides in the human heart and mind of a person absolutely committed to conquer life and accomplish his or her dreams? The harnessing and application of that internal power is crucial to our success.
6. Perseverance. "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again." We've heard that platitude all our lives, but it's no less true today than it was yesterday. Persistence is an indispensable quality for every successful person, regardless of their field of endeavor. But many people give up too easily before seeing meaningful results and never reach their goals. They are quitters and will likely never achieve their dreams. Instead, they move from one failure to another because they don't have what it takes to persevere, to learn from their mistakes, and try again.
Here's another famous quip: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win." Every coach worth his or her salt has used that one at some point to motivate a player or a team on the verge of giving up. Persistence and perseverance don't guarantee success in life, but you can bet your bottom dollar you won't be successful without them.
7. Preconceptions. Sometimes we falter in life because our expectations are unrealistic due to skewed notions about what we are trying to accomplish or the hurdles we face. A clear, accurate understanding of reality and the facts is always necessary before embarking on any great quest. If our preconceptions are wrong from the start, then our judgment will be impaired, and our choices will be based on faulty information.
At times we must step back to re-examine our perception of the obstacles, circumstances, or opportunities before us. Our presumptions can sometimes blind us to the difficulties or dangers of pursuing a certain path, leading to frustration and ultimate failure. Prudence requires us to vet our preconceptions before they lead us astray.
8. Perspective. Context is important, and it requires the proper perspective. Just ask any artist or writer, and it's the same in life. If we get too close to a situation or problem, we can become tangled in the weeds and lose our way, like the man who couldn't see the trees while lost in the forest. He was unaware of his surroundings and lacked perspective.
At times in life we must stop to read the compass or the map to get our bearings. Sometimes life requires us to step outside of our circumstances and rise above the noise and clutter to see the bigger picture. A proper perspective brings clarity and allows us to make changes and course corrections while they can still make a difference. Perspective helps us to put things in context – to better understand their relevance and necessity in our lives.
9. Perspiration. Never underestimate the value of hard work. The great inventor Thomas Edison once said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." I don't know about the ratio he used, but the principle is sound. Nothing of lasting value was ever achieved without some elbow grease and perspiration. The real winners in life are those who aren't afraid to work hard and get their hands dirty, figuratively speaking.
In our modern automated world, manual labor is largely a thing of the past. But while the definition of work may have changed, its importance has not. A little blood, sweat, and tears goes a long way toward achieving success. Too many people lose in life because they don't have anything invested – they don't have any skin in the game because they haven't fully committed themselves to whatever task lies before them. They aren't willing to do what it takes to win. They aren't willing to work hard and go the extra mile. They aren't willing to pay the price, and so they fail to fulfill their potential.
10. Plasticity. Morality and religious dogma aside, rigidity is generally not good policy in life. It locks us into an unbreakable pattern of thinking, behaving, and reacting that is often detrimental to our success or the success of others. A better option is to practice flexibility in most situations. In this context, plasticity is the ability to bend and adapt to new circumstances and to accept new realities when they appear unexpectedly. Such pliability allows us to seek consensus or compromise that benefits all and minimizes sacrifice. We must be willing to consider new ideas without betraying our core values. We must be sensitive to changing circumstances and open to new possibilities and opportunities, for success has many faces.