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This article is about realizing our potential; a subject which is often talked but less practiced.
We should start by understanding ‘Potential’. Potential is the raw talent that we have. Since it is just the material, it must be developed, refined and groomed to make it usable as a skill. Potential is different from the special natural ability that few people have; in ready to use form, such as drawing, painting, singing etc. This is called Natural Talent, which is a gift that some lucky people have. For everyone else, it is the raw components that must be chiseled and assembled to get the tool ready. As the majority falls in this category, it is not a relative disadvantage or handicap.
How do we know what do we have? We can take help from Mentors, Teachers and Seniors in order to understand our potential. We can do it ourselves by getting informed on the subject and trying to understand ourselves as objectively as we could.
Great work has been done by several researchers. My particular favorite is the series on the concept of Strengths which started with the book ‘First Break All The Rules’ (Gallup Press, 1999) by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. It was followed by ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’ (Gallup Press, 2001). Seven more books followed on this subject. The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC) ran a full time Strengths Campus and offered various programs.
When we cut through the thick commercial package, the core concept is amazingly simple. It tells you to identify (and how to identify) your major strengths; and then put them to use.
I wish it was as easy in practice as well. Being a firm believer (and hence ardent supporter) of the ‘Strengths’ concept, I have promoted it to many people. I have offered them a summary which is more than a preview. I have tried to motivate them, push them and move them to go into this direction. It is not out of the love of TMBC; it is for the love of people.
I do see a huge amount of wastage around us. Good boys, girls, men and women are getting wasted due to lack of understanding of what they are capable of doing. Each one of them has a fair amount of potential, which if put to proper use will bring them success, prosperity, satisfaction and happiness. Unfortunately, it does not happen that way. I have actually spent a good deal of time and energy on some people to steer them out of the directionless life to the right direction. With a heavy heart I report that I had rather limited success in most cases. There have been couple of exceptions, but they are too few to give any satisfaction.
Why is it as bad as it is? Is it really so difficult to understand and practice self-development? I understand that the following barriers may stop most people.
- Focus on Short Term: There is a growing tendency to look at everything in short/ very short term only. There are many Rationalizations for this; uncertain economic conditions, social pressures, gains as measured by others and early, visible success are probably the main ones. It is a universal trend but more so in Pakistan as we are constantly suffering in all areas.
- Impatience for Results: Another alarmingly increasing trait is the impatience about getting somewhere; don’t-know-where. Why toil around when you can become a millionaire in days; don’t bother about the legitimacy and correctness. Although the life expectancy has increased significantly, but our expectations from life have gone much higher and bigger.
- Insensitivity about Ethics: So much is happening all over the world, which is unethical, immoral and improper that our sensitivity on the subject has numbed. People get away with virtually everything, everywhere, every day. What matters is material gain because the world will judge you on that. This sentiment overrides all other sentiments about people, relations and morality.
- Lack of Understanding: Some people actually cannot appreciate the need for self-development. This arises from a lack of understanding about human potential and place in this world. There is a segment of population in all countries who live at sub-human level. It is really unreasonable to expect appreciation about finer side of life from this segment.
- Lack of Will: Probably more common than we like to admit, lack of will is a huge barrier. We give ourselves all kinds of concessions, allowances and relaxations to avoid working on self-improvement. It is similar to being overweight and eating more to gain rather than doing something to reduce it. We know we need to change but sheer lack of will prevents us from doing anything.
I do not contest the validity and appropriateness of any of the above; there may be times when one or more of these reasons may be truly and justifiably applicable. It is also not my intention to criticize anyone for doing or not doing this or that.
Self-development is a worth pursuing goal, as it will changes our life trajectory. It brings self-fulfillment, growth, excellence, success, prosperity and happiness in life.
I request, humbly and earnestly, to all who read this or hear this; just do these three things.
LOOK INSIDE YOURSELF, FIND YOUR TRUE POTENTIAL, AND START PUTTING IT TO USE.