If you want to make more of your talents – live up to your full potential – you have to learn to use them. You have the power to change your habits – to acquire new skills and fully use the skills you now have. You can improve your performance, your productivity, and the quality of your whole life. What makes a high achiever? Is it luck, intelligence, talent, dedication? All of these things figure in – they all make a difference. But we all know intelligent, talented, hard-working people who do not consider themselves very successful or even happy. And we know people who are not exceptionally bright but seem happy and successful. So there must be something else, some secret to success.
Actually there are several secrets to achieving your peak performance – living up to your full potential. Your success at business, friendship, love, sports – just about anything you try – is largely determined by your own self-image. Your unhappiness is something you choose. So, you’re thinking no one chooses to be unhappy. Well, maybe not – but you have to consciously choose to be happy, self-confident, and successful.
Happiness is elusive when we go after it directly. So is self-confidence. Both seem to be more “side-products” than something you can achieve in and for itself. So how, then, can consciously choosing to be these things be of any value? Well, the secret is to focus on other things. First, focus on your potential. Begin by making a complete and accurate assessment of your potential. To do this you must take an inventory of yourself – you will make a few lists. Sit down and make a list of all the things you can do well.
Be honest with yourself. When that list is done, make a list of all the things you like to do, even if you think you can’t do them well. Then, make a list of all the things you would like to do, if you could. Now list your hobbies. Then, go back to the list of things you can do well. You are probably being much too hard on yourself. Most of us are. We have this little voice in our heads telling us things like: “You’re so dumb,” or “You can’t learn to do that,” or “You never do anything right,” or similar nasty things. And even worse, we listen to that voice as if it’s telling us the gospel truth. So now, shut off that voice – you can do it – and add a few more things to the list of things you can do well.
Pretend you are your best friend – it’s amazing how much more forgiving and charitable we are with our friends than we are with ourselves. Now that you are your best friend, you should be able to add a few more items to your “do well” list. But do be honest – don’t list things you feel you really can’t do well. Next, go to your list of things you like to do but you feel you don’t do well. Speaking as your own best friend, do you think there are some things on this list that could be moved to your “do well” list? There probably are. If you like to do it, chances are you do pretty well at it.
Treat your hobby list in the same manner. Next, go to your list of things you would like to do if you could. Ask yourself, “Why can’t I do this, if I’d like to?” Put your reasons on another list. OK. So you have a lot of lists going – what good is that going to do? Well, you have just made an assessment of yourself. If you have been truly honest in making these lists, it may even be a fairly accurate assessment. Probably it isn’t, but that’s OK. This assessment isn’t carved in stone. It’s subject to change. But for now we will work with what’s on the lists. At least you have a place to start. Look over your lists again. You are focusing on all the things you feel you can’t do and the reasons why you can’t do them, right? Well, don’t.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO – FOCUS ON YOUR POTENTIAL. Make it a habit to focus on your strengths. Don’t forget to include your undeveloped potential, as well. Train yourself to focus on your potential instead of your limitations. Now that’s not to say that you should ignore your list of reasons for not doing some of the things you would like to do. Not at all! But look at them from the viewpoint of your strengths. For instance, you’d like to play basketball but you think you are too short, so you don’t even try. In this case, you are looking at it from the viewpoint of your limitations. Now, when you look at it from the viewpoint of your strengths, you would say, “Well, I may be pretty short to play, BUT I am fast. I can handle the ball well. I have a lot of stamina. I can’t change being short, but I can refuse to let my limitations overcome my strengths.” You see the difference?
Focusing on your limitations lets those limitations make your decisions for you. Focusing on your strengths lets YOU make the decision. To go back to our example: when you’ve decided to overcome your height limitations to play basketball – something you really want to do – you will be more determined to develop your strengths to compensate. You will do well, because you will be doing what you really want to do and you will be determined to develop the full potential of your strengths. Very few people concentrate on fully developing any of their strengths. That’s where you will have the edge. You know your true disadvantages but your determination, your singleness of purpose, will inspire you to fully develop the talents and skills you do have.
When you know you are working to your full potential and you enjoy your work and begin to feel successful, you will find that self-confidence and happiness soon follow.