Five Steps Toward Realizing Your Full Potential

Are you grabbing your full personal power and have you created all your possibilities?

The good news is that it’s never too late to discover your full potential. And because “possibilities” are limitless, you have never truly exhausted all that is possible for you to do or to become, even if the path you’re currently taking seems to have hit a brick wall.

Many of my coaching clients come to me looking for ways to get “unstuck”. They feel stuck in jobs or even inside their own skin. They want to stop being limited, to discover new possibilities. In short, they want to find their personal power and create possibilities, to reach their full potential.

If you’re longing for a change that makes it possible for you to show the world—and yourself—what you’re really made of, here are five steps to take toward realizing your full potential.

Step 1: Write down everything you’re good at, and everything you’re passionate about. No one is going to see this list except you (and possibly your coach), so don’t hold anything back. Include job skills, interpersonal skills, hobbies and things that might not seem to matter (like being great at basketball or playing Sudoku). As you write down each item, take a few seconds to “feel” the passion for that activity. If you are good at something but hate doing it, make a note of that. If you love to do something but fear that it isn’t “grown up” or “doesn’t make money” or is “silly”, don’t let your inner critic keep you from adding it to the list. Listing things you love and taking a moment to feel your passion, enthusiasm and excitement about each item should leave you invigorated.

Step 2: Write down everything that is making you feel burned out or that has made your current job or role lose its original shine. Which elements of your current situation make you feel bad about yourself? Are there certain aspects that make you feel like someone (or something) has dimmed your light, extinguished your creativity, or stolen your soul?

Step 3: Make a list of your achievements, awards and accomplishments. Don’t worry about bragging.  Get it all down on paper. Include things like volunteer service, workplace committees, certificates of achievement, leadership roles, events you’ve hosted, big sales/new clients you’ve landed. Add promotions, awards, articles or other publications, speaking presentations, classes you’ve taken and taught, books you’ve written, and praise given to you by colleagues, clients, and supervisors. Create a list of “testimonials” from the thank-you emails people have sent you. Keep the testimonials and your list of achievements handy and read it over whenever you feel down.

Step 4: Validate with more testimonials. Ask a few close friends, trusted colleagues and even supportive family members to write down and send you a few sentences about what they believe to be your biggest accomplishments or brightest skills/talents. If you’ve worked with outside groups on events, speaking engagements or presentations, don’t be shy about emailing a request for a short testimonial. Now look at the lists you’ve put together. Where does something you love to do match up with something others think you do exceptionally well? Those are the “bright spots” to focus on as you create your new possibilities. You want more bright spots and less of the things that dim your light.

Step 5: Dream, brainstorm, explore and reinvent. Now that you’ve rediscovered, reclaimed and been reintroduced to your passions and talents, you’re ready to brainstorm. Don’t put any limits on yourself, and don’t worry about what’s “practical.” Brainstorming is about possibilities. We’ll worry about logistics on another day. Right now, the sky’s the limit. What would you like to do if money were no object? What activities are you so passionate about that you lose all track of time when you’re doing them? What would you keep doing even if no one paid you to do it? What makes you feel alive? Open all the doors and “try on” every possibility in your mind. Pretend you’re an actor trying out for many different roles. Make a note of the ideas that get you excited and make you light up.

I’m always amazed how many people take their talent for granted or forget to mention their passions because they don’t think it’s unique, valuable or important. If you’re good at something and do it effortlessly, it’s easy to dismiss it as unimportant, but it’s probably one of your greatest strengths.  (Remember, just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it’s easy for other people.)

Well-meaning people often tell us that being “practical” means working for money even if you hate what you’re doing. By mid-life, people who have squelched their passion for the sake of being “practical” are often the ones who struggle with migraine headaches and ulcers. Making money at something you enjoy and that makes you feel alive isn’t just for a lucky few. You can find or create your dream job—but first, you have to be honest with yourself about what you really love.

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