“We all have more potential than meets the unappreciative eye.”–Tal Ben-Shahar
Think of your innate potential as a tiny little seed buried deep within. It needs light. It needs water. It needs nourishment in order to flourish. But before any of that can happen, it needs to be seen. Someone has to acknowledge that the seed exists and recognize its potential to grow into something beautiful. Without that awareness, there’s little chance that it will ever be attended to and will likely wither and die.
When you reflect on the people who have helped you to realize your potential, I bet they were able to see the seed in you. They probably shined a bright light on it so you couldn’t miss it. They probably also set some very high expectations for what they believed you could accomplish if you put your mind to it.
Roy Spence did that for me…well, to be honest, he does that for just about everyone he meets. He sees their strength and their passion and makes them believe that they can (and should) create a beautiful life doing what they were born to do.
Great parents do that with their children.
Great teachers do that with their students.
Great managers do that with their employees.
There was a fascinating study conducted by Robert Rosenthal (The Pygmalion Effect) that examined the impact of telling teachers that certain children in their classroom were tested and deemed ‘academic bloomers’ (in fact, they were no different than any of the other children). After a year of the teachers believing that certain students were innately gifted–and having operated with those high expectations all year long–the study found that those children had improved significantly in all subject areas and had even increased their IQ scores (a supposedly fixed assessment of one’s intellectual capabilities). Those teachers were ‘tricked’ into seeing the potential of those children, they believed in their abilities, they set expectations accordingly and the reality for those children changed for the better.
They repeated this study in organizations – telling managers that certain (randomly selected) employees were deemed high-achievers and, again, after a year of being ‘seen’ as high-achievers, those individuals were outperforming their colleagues and thriving in their roles.
The lesson: There’s potential waiting to be unlocked in everyone. If you look for it, you’ll find it. You’ll actually be responsible for helping to create it.
What if we all intentionally set about looking for the strengths, for the good, for the potential in the people we come in contact with? Imagine what those high expectations could create. Seeing the seeds of greatness in someone and setting high expectations in relation to those strengths – that’s when true potential has a shot at being realized.