This picture represents a world full of people of unrealized potential.
The reality is most of us don’t see ourselves this way. We are not even sure we know what we can do well, much less the difference we can make every day.
Over the next few minutes, we are going to change all that. Do you have paper and pen handy? You are going to want to write down some things as we go along.
Change and Transition
Change for most of us today is a way of life. It isn’t always as we expect it either. In some cases, the change is just the slow decline of all that we thought was good and hopeful when we were younger. In others, it is a rapid, overwhelming disruption of what has been routine and settled.
You can see it when people talk about their work. It is something to endure. It’s as if the job’s purpose and their idealism left them a long time ago. They still get up every morning, drive to work, and go through the necessary activities to do the job. But it isn’t a happy picture of the good life for many people.
Add in a global pandemic that may become a way of life for us, and it is easy to understand how we can lose touch with the things that matter. Especially the talent, the skills, the passion, and the unrealized potential that is who we are. We carry them around inside of us every day. Each of us has the potential of enriching every place we touch and every person we encounter.
So what do you do when this is not your situation?
It happened to one of my friends. Three years from retirement, having spent 40 years in his dream job, and the company folds. What would you do? Think of that for a minute. It has been four decades since he last applied for a job. The world has changed a bit. So, what would you do?
These situations are two sides of the same coin. Both persons, the one who has lost her passion and purpose for work, and the guy whose work has lost him, need to understand who they are from the perspective of their unrealized potential. When you do, you see the world differently. You look not for a job but a place to offer your talent and experience, a place to make a difference that matters.
Potential is one of those ideas that seems strange and remote. How should we understand it. In Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change, I write about it.
Each of us is a person of unrealized potential. We are not containers of potential that gets used up over time. We are people of endless potential. There is no way to know the full extent of our potential impact. The best we can do is try to fulfill as much of it as we can.
It is this belief about the endless potential of each person to create impact that turns our resistance to change on its head. To create impact is to create change. For this to work for us, we need to be clear about who we are, what matters to us, and the kind of impact that we want to create.
If we begin to look at our lives as always in transition, then we may just be able to see that our lives have an increasing potential for impact. Our lives are not just to be lived as a succession of meaningless moments, like activities written on a calendar. Instead, we need purpose for our life. The image captured in this idea of purpose is an unfolding of our potential as persons.
When we talk about making an offer, we are talking about tapping into our potential. Here’s how we make sense of this.
The first thing we need to understand is, “What do I have to offer to the world?”
Say that to yourself.
What do I have to offer the world?
Say it out loud if you want, emphasizing the “doing” of the offer.
What do I have to offer the world?
Write the sentence down. Look at it again.
Open up your hands palms up. Extend them out in front of you as if you are giving something to someone. In your hands is what you have to offer. It is the gift that you give to people, organizations, and places that makes a difference that matters.
Now imagine that every day you climb out of bed to offer the world all the unrealized potential that rests in your hands right now.
We are now beginning to see that our unrealized potential is not some abstract value, but something real that we have to offer. Something tangible that can make a real difference in the world. We are recognizing that we have within ourselves is a capacity for making a difference that maybe we’ve never thought about before.
In your hands is the power to bring change that creates goodness wherever you are, even at work, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
To learn what we have to offer is a process of self-discovery. We realize all we have been storing away, out of sight, out of mind, down deep in inside all these years. It is all we’ve learned, gained, and developed in the way of knowledge and experience throughout our lifetime.
Five Impact Questions
I sat down with the friend who lost his job and talked him through the Five Impact Questions.
First, I wanted him to understand the difference between performing a job and being a person of impact. The Circle of Impact sees that all leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. It is this impact that we have to offer.
After 40 years of doing the same job, it is understandable that he might not know what he doesn’t know. We need help imagining what we have in our open hands to offer. We need to understand that we are not what we do.
Second, we need to see that the change we want to create tells us something important about who we are. In other words, our impact validates the belief that we have in ourselves.
This is what we offer, our gifts, talents, wisdom, and experience to make a difference that is an expression of the very best of who we are.
FIVE IMPACT QUESTIONS
1. What has Changed? How am I in Transition?
2. What is My Impact?
3. Who am I Impacting?
4. What Opportunities Do I Have Now?
5. What Obstacles Do I Face? What Problems Have I Created?
How are You in Transition?
The first question asks what has changed. If you have suddenly found yourself out of a job, then the answer is easy. If you are at a dead-end in your work, then you need to reflect a bit more on how things got this way.
It is important to see that our lives are a long progression of changes that has an inner logic. To see the rationale behind the changes in our lives is to understand how we are always in transition from where we were to where we are going to be.
Write down what helps you to understand what this sequence of change looks like. It is a reference point for understanding what you’ve been going through. Keep what you write down, and the benefit of seeing this transition will grow over time.
If you are in a hard spot right now, go back in time as far as it takes to that point when you were happy in your work. Because when you were, you were fulfilling some of the unrealized potential that you have. Remember, fulfillment is happiness.
What is your Impact?
It is a simple question.
What is my impact?
It may be hard to answer because it forces us to look at the world differently. So, think in terms of what is the impact you’d like to create. Put yourself back in your old job or back when you were the happiest in your work, and then ask,
“What is the difference that I made that mattered?”
Don’t be too analytical. Keep it simple. For then you can see the impact quickly when opportunities arise.
Who are you impacting?
For this question you need two lists of people. Create a list of those people whom you believe were impacted by your work and relationship with them. It is worth your time to reach out to them and find out. What is the difference you made?
Create a list of people who can connect you to people and fields of work that are currently not open to you.
Follow these steps.
Ask, who do I know?
Ask, who do they know that I need to know?
Contact your list to set up a conversation.
Share with them the impact that you’d like to achieve.
Ask them, who do you know that you think I should know?
Ask, are you willing to make an introduction for me?
Contact those people. Go see them. Repeat the process.
What Opportunities do you have?
When you go talk to people, don’t go looking for a job. Go looking for an opportunity to make a difference with the assets that you bring to the business.
Instead think, I’m looking for opportunities to create impact. Your opportunities are not limited to the work and occupations that you have had in the past. By understanding what you have to offer, you can demonstrate how they can be applied in many more situations than you can imagine.
What Obstacles or Problems do you face?
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Often the loss of a job is the product of our failure to do what we needed to do to stay current in our field or demonstrate the value of the impact that we bring to the company. As a result, there may be obstacles or problems that stand in your way of fulfilling the opportunity that you see before you.
Don’t sit around paralyzed by guilt and regret. Neither will bring the next job or the good life. Get to work on resolving the issues that hold you back so that you are prepared for the next opportunity to make a difference.
Knowing what we have to offer to the world is an important step to fulfilling unrealized potential. What we have to offer is our gift. When we give it, the impact is magnified because the spirit of the gift strengthens the environment of the relationship and organization.
Our offering of service to create impact distinguishes us from those who are simply looking for a job. By giving of ourselves, we create the conditions for goodness to be realized for the companies and clients we serve, and for our own sense of well-being to be fulfilled.
The steps above are simple. Believing that we have something to offer is hard. I hope that this process is helpful. If you need more specific help, just let me know.