Often, we think that the things we do well are common to everyone. I don’t know why this, is but it seems to happen frequently.
Today, I was listening to a panel discussion about leadership, and a distinction was made: “Women get hired on talent, and men are hired on potential. This got me thinking about how difficult it is for us to see our own potential and how much easier it is for others to spot it.
Maybe it’s the bootstrap mentality of our pioneer ancestors, who, with few resources had to figure out how to build new lives with few resources- who knows?
As I thought about this it occurred to me to take a look back into my past and try to identify the people who told me things about myself that I thought were like everyone else and never considered a strength that I might build.
I remembered the first teacher who mentioned that I was creative, then all those who followed with a similar message – one that I mostly ignored until much later in my life.
I remember a Sunday School teacher who took me aside and told me I was a leader. It was eighth grade and I was fairly clueless about what that actually meant, but it still resonated deeply within me.
I remember a dear friend from Dallas who set me on a new career path just after I had accepted a job that was completely wrong for me.
The more you look back, the more you will see all of the people who shone a light on something wonderful about you.
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and think back. Scan your life as if it were a movie and see if you can point to the times when someone spotted your potential – and told you about what they observed.
When you start this exercise, you might think it was only one or two people, but as you move through your day, you’ll think of many others.
There will be an assortment of teachers, strangers, one-time only-ers, old friends, aunts, uncles, friends of parents – the list varies as widely as life.
Now go back more slowly and try to remember what they told you about yourself that you had never noticed.
It’s more common than not that we take our gifts and strengths for granted and thus, never get around to buffing them to their potential.
Instead, we allow the voices of long ago to haunt our daily living.
We are afraid to try to break free because failure was such a transgression in our families, we stand silent when we have something to say for fear of being judged, we believe the old lines our parents told us – especially when they were mad at us.
“You’ll never be able to manage money!” “Why can’t you be like (the favorite perfect child who was never even close to perfect when no one was looking)”, “You will never ____________”, “You can’t __________”, “This isn’t possible”, etc.
So many things we swallowed as truth and then integrated into our idea of who we are.
But, now we go back to the movie. Start with your earliest memory of something someone said or did that affirmed you in some way. It may have been an observation about something you did well, or a quality that stood out to them that was something they thought pretty wonderful.
Go back and remember and maybe make a list of what they said and the impact it had on you.
Sit with those wonderful feelings then decide what you might now accept and believe about yourself and what that will free you to develop. Now go, and start to consider which ones to grow, polish, or pay attention to and you will discover worlds you never before knew were there.