Rethinking Your Path To Your Potential

Outside of my mentors and defining moments, books have accelerated my learning both professionally and personally, and I truly believe that reading is the single most important thing you can do to better yourself. In light of this, twice a month I will be reviewing a book that has impacted me.

Today’s book is Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being by Shawn Achor.

Summary of Book:

Shawn Achor is a world-renowned speaker and author. He is most well known for his expertise on happiness and how it relates to success. A Harvard graduate Shawn has become one of the leaders in positive psychology and outside of his book has published many studies on the subject.

In his book, Big Potential he discusses the idea that as a society we have this thought that to reach one’s potential it requires you to do it on your own. Luckily, this is not true. Based on his research, Shawn discovers that success is not accomplished by individuals alone, but together with the help of others. He lays out many research studies and shares with us practical advice on how potential is not about how smart you are, but how well you connect with others. Today, I share with you what I learned after reading his book.

Lessons I learned from this book:

The Difference between Small Potential and Big Potential

As explained in the book, there are two types of potential small and big. Shawn teaches that small potential is the limited success you can achieve alone, and big potential is the success you can achieve only in a virtuous cycle with others. We all have the ability to achieve things on our own, but when you ask for help or let others help you the potential to reach success multiplies. It’s not just you that gets a boost but everyone around you feels the impact. And so, with data to back it up, Shawn discovered that as humans we are all connected and to fully reach your big potential you need to stop focusing on yourself and focus on the power of everything around you.

Create your own Virtuous Cycle

Most people believe two things:

  1. Pursuing “success” will lead to happiness
  2. I must reach my potential first and get to the top of my field before I can help others achieve their potential

Well, as Shawn found out those two things are simply not true. Most of us think about it backwards, and we just need to flip it around. To reach your potential and achieve “happiness” you must create a positive feedback loop within your own ecosystem. Simply put we need to utilize the people around us as a force to create an environment in which we can all thrive together, not alone.

In Shawn’s, research he found in many studies that reaching your potential is about creating what he calls is a Virtuous Cycle. He defines this cycle as an upward spiral of potential whereby with each success, you garner more resources, which, in turn, allow you to achieve greater and greater success. Instead of trying to do it all on your own, utilize the resources around you to help you achieve success. By creating this cycle you will find that it won’t just be you fighting each day to reach your potential, but you will have others standing by your side helping you along your journey.

Survival of the Best Fit NOT the Survival of the Fittest

As laid out in many studies in the book, Shawn found that success is not about how smart you are, or what you accomplish on your own. It is about how connected you are to others, and how well you maximize your relationships with others to help you achieve your potential. So, what he discovered was that it is not about who is most fit, but who can be the most connected. How you become super-connected is by helping others reach their goals, in turn, they will help you. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

5 Stages of reaching Big Potential = SEEDS

Surround: Create a network of positive influencers in your life who will help you reach your potential

Strategy 1: Tap into the power of positive peer pressure

To reach your full potential you must surround yourself with positive people. Simple concept, but yet very difficult for people to do. In fact, the great Jim Roan, states. “We are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Could you name those five people? Write them down and then write down how they make you feel and how you both can benefit from each other. You will be surprised to see that some of them might be the reason that you are struggling to achieve your potential.

Strategy 2: Create Balance through a variety

In a Harvard Business Review study, they tested six teams to understand the cognitive diversity between them. What they found was that the team with the most cognitive diversity was the highest performing teams. This tells us that the more diverse your network of personal and professional people will help you reach your full potential. Three types of people you should be looking for:

Pillars: Those who are a rock for you in tough times

Bridges: Connectors to new people or resources outside of your existing ecosystem

Extenders: Positive Influencers who push you out of your comfort zone

Expand: Increase your power to create positive change within your network by helping others realize they can lead from any seat

Strategy 1: Develop your Elevator Pitch

As explained in the book, a elevated pitch is a quick talk track or way you can frame a conversation with people to convince them to be positive forces for change. It’s hard to change people, so similar to what they call an “Elevator Pitch” in sales you can create a 30-second pitch to a person in need of a quick positive pep talk

Strategy 2: Use Progress as fuel

When trying to accomplishing something individually or as a group a great way to motivate is to focus on the small wins or as Shawn puts it “progress”. Instead of celebrating the outcome it can be even more impactful to focus on the action or effort being put in. This will remind yourself or the group that you are making progress and will rejuvenate your energy to get the job done.

Enhance: By helpers reach their potential you ultimately help yourself reach yours

Strategy 1: Stop Comparison Praise

How many times has someone told you were the best at X? Have you ever thought about what the person is saying? It is most likely not their intention, but they basically implied that you are better than everyone else in the room and ultimately instead of praising they are simply comparing you to others. When we do this we might be thinking we are praising someone, but at the same time we are putting others down. Without realizing it you set a limit on what that person can achieve because now they believe they are the best (Why try any harder if you are told you are the best), and you created the opposite of a Virtuous Cycle.

Instead of saying, “you were the best at” or “you are the smartest”, say something like “You did a great job, or you put in an incredible amount of effort which was the reason you won”

Strategy 2: Don’t just praise the outcome, praise to an outcome

A way to enhance someone towards their potential is by helping them realize what they could achieve in the future, vs. focusing on what they accomplished in the past. By making statements like, “You’d be such a great leader here because you care so much about the company” or “If you continue to put the effort you put in every day you will be in line for that promotion next day.” allow you to help someone realize what they can strive for in the future.

Defend: We face good days and bad days, but we must build an inner fortress to help defend against the negativity that will stop us from reaching our potential

Strategy 1: Build a stronghold within your mind

  1. Daily practice of gratitude is one example of a mental stronghold
  2. Think of three good things that have happened over the past 24 hours
  3. Change the way you think about failure – Use it as a source of motivation and energy
  4. Pay attention to the way you talk about stressful things at the end of the day. Remove all the negative words and thoughts and try to replace them with positive words

Sustain: It’s not easy to constantly be helping others along with trying to help yourself, so from time to time remember WHY you are doing it

Strategy 1: Tours of Meaning

Every once and a while stop and remind yourself of “why” you do what you do. Instead of thinking about your job or life as a duty. Flip it around and think about your job and life as having a purpose. As Shawn puts it, “Meaning is that “unbalanced force” that keeps us going, especially in busy or stressful times, and “Tours of Meaning” help us sustain this momentum by connecting us – or reconnecting us – to the meaning in our work.

How this book has impacted me:

It reminded me to take a step back each day and remind yourself of how I got to where I am today. No matter what your idea of success is or how successful you have become or will become you need to remember who will and has helped you along the way. It is a fact, no single human has ever reached their potential without the help of others.

Now Wake Up! It’s Day One. Start the day by being grateful. Let someone know how much they have helped you on your journey. And if you are truly ready to take yourself to the next level buy the book here!