how to realize your true potential

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
— George Bernard Shaw

 

We all have the potential to know more, do more, be more, and achieve more.

A lot of us know we were born for something more, but then we struggle to reach that potential.

Rather than wondering about what you are capable of, what if you could test your capabilities and explore your greatest possibilities and potential?

What if you could realize your full potential, the Agile Way?

Rather than big up-front planning or some grand design for your life, what if you could experiment your way forward?

Imagine experimenting to find what you are truly capable of, informing yourself with actual examples, and evolving your self-image based on real-world results.

But mostly, imagine enjoying your personal journey of self-discovery, while becoming more than you ever thought you could be.

After all, realizing your full potential is a journey, not a destination.

Why Realize Your Full Potential?

An amazing thing happens when you start realizing your full potential.

You might think of it as giving your best where you have your best to give, or doing what makes your soul sing.

Or you might think of it as operating at a higher level or playing to your strengths.

Or you might think of it as simply finding your voice.

Steven Covey’s 8th Habit, potentially his greatest habit, is your greatest gift to the world: “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.”

On a very pragmatic level, when you realize your full potential, you will find your flow.

The very process of realizing your full potential. will create more opportunities for flow. According to renowned psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, Flow, or “the Zone,” is a state where you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment.  You lose your sense of time and space and become completely engaged with whatever it is you’re doing.

There is a reason that self-actualization is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—to feel truly happy and fulfilled, we need to feel that we’re making the most of our time on this earth.

When you pursue your potential, you will create more value for yourself and others, whether by sharing your gift with the world, or simply by creating better experiences, outcomes, and outputs.

Start with an Agile Mindset

Your mindset impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of you.

You need a mindset that will allow you to evolve yourself, and not get in the way. In fact, you need a mindset that will support you as you evolve.

To realize your full potential, the Agile Way, you need to first start with the right mindset. Simply put, being “agile” means being able to adapt to change. Your “mindset” is your collection of thoughts and beliefs that shape your thought habits.  And your thought habits shape how you think, how you feel, and what you do.

So an Agile Mindset is an adaptable mindset.

Once you open your mind up to the idea that nothing is permanent—that everything changes and evolves—you open new doors for your future and unlock the chance to pursue everything that you are capable of.

Focus on progress over perfection.

Change your mindset, change your results.

Change Your Self-Image

One of your biggest limitations on what you are capable of will always be your self-image:

I’m not an artist.

I’m not an athlete.

I’m not good-looking enough.

Whatever your self-imposed limitations might be, you need to first recognize that they are self-imposed.

Whether you’ve been told you can’t be this, or you can’t be that, or you’re no good at this, or no good at that, ultimately, it’s up to you—and what you believe to be true.

Brene Brown did a lot of work to figure out what separates the people that have a strong sense of love and belonging from those that don’t:

“They believe they’re worthy.”

Yeah, that’s it.  They simply embrace a different belief and a different self-image.

(I wonder how many people, just knowing that, might choose to adopt a new belief—today.)

Be-Have-Do

Incidentally, changing your self-image is one of the simplest ways to put the “Be-Do-Have” model into practice. Most people operate from a “Have-Do-Be” model. They are waiting until they Have something, whether it’s a house or a relationship or a position, so then they can Do what they want, so they can Be what they want.

But to experience success and fulfillment at a much more fundamental level, flip that model on its head.

First “Be” what you want. That sets the stage for all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions to come from a very different place. You will “Do” accordingly, taking action to live up to your ideal self-image and supporting your efforts to be the person you want to be. Lastly, you’ll “Have” what you want, and it’ll be in line from where you are coming from.

Change your self-image, change your results.

Agile Results Overview

Agile Results is a simple system for meaningful results. It helps you think, feel, and be your best by using your best energy for your best results. I introduced Agile Results in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.

Here are some of the key habits and practices of Agile Results:

  1. The Rule of Three
  2. Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection
  3. 30-Day Sprints

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three is a way to chunk things down.

This is a simple guideline that helps you focus and prioritize.

Bite off three key things. You can use The Rule of Three at different levels to zoom in and zoom out and take a look from the balcony.

This is a flexible tool: you can use The Rule of Three to pick three results for the day, the week, the month, and the year. This helps you see the forest from the trees.

For example, your three wins for the year are at a higher level than your three wins for the month, and your three wins for the week are a higher level than your three wins for the day.

Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection

Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection is a simple pattern for getting weekly results.

Each week is a fresh start. On Mondays, you think about three results you would like for the week. Each day, you identify three results you would like for the day. On Fridays, you reflect on lessons learned. That day, you ask yourself what three things are going well and what three things need improvement. This weekly pattern helps you build momentum.

30-Day Sprints

30-Day Sprints are a way to prioritize and focus on something you want to explore, where the focus is on learning and improving.

We all have a lot of things we want to learn or try. But then we hack away at them, maybe for a day or a week, but we don’t really get anywhere. It’s just not enough time to see results.

In contrast, 30 days is a great timeframe to try something new, or to work on something you want to improve. It’s enough time to see progress and to gain motivation and energy, but not so long that you’re committing too much time and energy if it doesn’t work out or if something else takes priority in your life.

If you focus on learning through combinations of experiments and deliberate practice, you will make progress. A little progress, made regularly, adds up.

But you will also experience breakthroughs.

When you stick with something past a week or two, you will get over hurdles in surprising ways. Some days you just wake up and find you can do something you couldn’t do before.

how to use the sprint method for personal development

The Story of 30-Day Sprints for Personal Development

I adopted 30-Day Sprints for personal development long ago because I was frustrated by my lack of progress in a number of areas in my life.  And I was frustrated that my desire to learn and try new things was outpacing my capacity to do so.

I kept biting off more than I could chew, and I would find myself dabbling in this, then dabbling in that, but never mastering something or getting good enough to enjoy it.

And while I would be trying to learn X, I would be distracted by my desire to learn Y or try my hand at Z.

Then one day I woke up in a moment of clarity and realized that I needed to create space for the things I wanted to learn and try, or for the things that I really wanted to improve on.

So I decided to test 30-Day Sprints.

In my mind, I saw that I could use 30-day chunks of time to make meaningful progress.  Even better, I realized that I could align this plan with the 12 months of the calendar year.  With each month, I could turn the page, reflect on what I learned, and learn something new.  Or I could try another 30-Day Sprint in the same area to make even more progress by building on the previous 30-Day Sprint.

Having 12 slots immediately gave me a new way to tackle everything I wanted to learn.  Instead of taking on everything all at once, I could focus on one thing more fully, knowing that next month, I could then focus on something new.   I could explore and experiment with 12 new interests in a significant way.

Since then, I’ve tried many 30-Day Sprints, from reverse aging to eating raw foods to rollerblading to learning new languages.

What should you focus on? The choice is yours.  It’s all about what matters to you and how you see your full potential.

I’ve also used 30-Day Sprints to get ahead at work, by picking my worst problem area and making it a focus for the month.  I’ve also focused on my greatest strength and spent more time on it each day for 30 days to produce outstanding results.

One thing I learned that surprised me is that it’s better to align to a month than to align to 30 days exactly; don’t fret about whether the month is 28, 30, or 31 days. When I tried to stick to a narrow 30-day rule, I got lost tracking whether I was on Day 8, Day 20 or whatever.

When I decided to track to the month, I simply had to pick a focus for the month, and January 8 became Day 8 of my sprint.  I also like knowing that each month is a fresh start.

And it’s great having a theme of focus each month, to make the month more meaningful.

Design Your 30-Day Sprint for Realizing Your Full Potential

Enough talk, let’s do: It’s time for action.

Let’s turn the idea of realizing our full potential into something actionable where we can do a little something each day to become more like what we’re truly capable of.

Here are the key steps to designing your 30-Day Sprint for realizing your full potential:

  1. Pick a strength or skill that you want to focus on.
  2. Research that area of focus.
  3. Create a list of ideas that you can do to practice or learn or develop that area.
  4. Pick a time slot in your day to focus on this topic.
  5. Do it, review it, improve it.

That’s it.

Keep it simple!

Here is the key—just spend a little time each day in your area of focus where your main outcome is that you learn something small.

If this is your main outcome each day, you will actually learn how to learn better and you will make progress!

Example 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence

The first thing to do when you design a 30-Day Sprint is to pick your topic.

For this example, I’m going to focus on Emotional Intelligence (EQ.)  After all, Emotional Intelligence is a great skill to build.  In fact, it’s one of the key skills that helps high performers get ahead.

If you want to realize your full potential, it will be difficult to do without improving your Emotional Intelligence.

Dan Goleman says that “Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify our own emotions and those of others, to self-motivate ourselves and know how to monitor our emotions and those of the people around us.”  Or to put it another way, Emotional Intelligence is emotional awareness, the ability to harness and apply emotions, and the ability to manage emotions in yourself and others.

According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence is made up of five elements:

  1. self-awareness
  2. self-regulation
  3. motivation
  4. empathy
  5. social skills

To keep it simple, I’m going to create a quick list of ideas of things I can do, learn, or try in order to improve my Emotional Intelligence.

I’m going to organize the ideas by each of the areas above so that I know which element of Emotional Intelligence I am working on at any given time.

To leverage Agile Results, I’m going to use a 20-Minute Sprint to timebox my effort.  In other words, I’m going to spend no more than 20 minutes to research and come up with some ideas for my 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence.  If I need to, I can always add another 20-Minute Sprint, but focusing for 20 minutes is a great way to stay focused and to maintain a high level of energy.

Here we go:

Area Ideas
Self-Awareness ·         Focus on the present moment, including how you feel

·         Write down and analyze emotional situations

·         Connect your feelings with your thoughts

·         Ask yourself, “How do I feel today?”

·         Listen to your body

·         Observe how you react to people

·         Observe how you react to stressful situations

·         Learn what triggers anger, stress, and anxiety

Self-Regulation ·         Stop and evaluate situations that trigger anger, stress, or anxiety

·         Raise your frustration tolerance

·         Find something positive about the situation

·         Learn how to adapt, adjust, or avoid situations that create worry and anxiety

·         Try deep-breathing exercises

·         Focus on how to improve the situation

·         Write down worries in a worry log

·         Turn moments of frustration into teachable moments and leadership opportunities

·         Give yourself time to pause before responding

·         Don’t let other people push your buttons

·         Learn how to manage anger, stress, and anxiety

Motivation ·         Boost your motivation levels through passion, purpose, and productivity

·         Celebrate small wins and personal victories

·         Rediscover your purpose

·         Build a library of inspiring examples and stories to draw from

·         Learn how to prime your mind for unstoppable confidence

·         Learn how to take feedback and criticism as a gift

Empathy ·         Learn how to build rapport

·         Put yourself in another’s place

·         Practice empathic listening (“listen until the other person feels heard.”)

·         Learn how to read body language

·         Read Empathy: Why It Matters and How To Get It

Social Skills ·         Practice Perceptual Positioning (3 positions of any event)

·         Practice the Interest-Based Relational Approach for resolving conflicts

·         Read Crucial Conversations

·         Read Dealing with People You Can’t Stand

·         Read Coping with Difficult Bosses

·         Read How To Win Friends and Influence People

 

It’s not exhaustive, it’s not complete, but it’s a start.

And getting started is often the toughest part.

If I wanted to, I could do another 20-Minute Sprint and focus on building a list of resources that I could read in the future.  I could create lists of videos, lists of articles, lists of books, lists of TED Talks, lists of blogs, etc.

But I have enough for now to get started.

And that’s what counts.

Just get started. Get the ball rolling. The momentum of that win will help drive your progress for the month.

Using Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection to Drive Your 30-Day Sprint

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Here’s a quick recap of what counts:

  1. I picked a theme for the month: Emotional Intelligence.
  2. I performed a 20-Minute Sprint to build a list of ideas.
  3. I organized the ideas by key elements of Emotional Intelligence.

I can research, explore, and prepare so that when I start my 30-Day Sprint, I will have plenty to work from.

But I don’t have to.

I can wing it as I go, but I’m a fan of doing a little preparation—just enough so that when I start, I feel like I have some foundation to work from.  But if I had to, I could just wake up on Day 1 of my 30-Day Sprint and just hack at it.

In fact, this is exactly how I created my 30 Days of Getting Results (I used my 30-Day Sprint approach to create it.)  I surprised myself with it, and I definitely noticed how much better I got as I went along.  By the time I was 20 days in, I was on fire.

How am I going to hack through this 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence?

I’m going to use the Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection approach:

  1. Monday Vision: On Mondays, I’m going to get a simple vision in my mind for the week. I’m going to picture myself on Friday, looking back on the week, and figure out what a simple victory would look, feel, and sound like.For example, on Friday this week, I want to be able to say something like, “I was in a situation that normally makes me angry, but this time I created clarity, compassion, and connection.”  That’s just an example.  Since I’m just starting, my outcome might be something as simple as, “I learned something new about my feelings and how I respond to them” or “Wow, I actually spent 30 minutes, each day this week, learning and practicing Emotional Intelligence.”

    I’ll evolve my wins as I learn more about Emotional Intelligence and as I learn more about my ability to practice my 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence.

  2. Daily Win: Each day, I will identify a simple outcome or win or personal victory related to Emotional Intelligence. For example, today’s win might be as simple as, “I will stop and pause whenever I get triggered by something and I feel angry, anxious or stressed.”  Or it might be something like, “I will spend 30 minutes today to learn something new about my emotions, or how I manage them, or how I relate to others.”At the end of each day, I can ask myself one simple question: “What did I learn?”   And this will help reinforce my learning approach.
  3. Friday Reflection: On Friday, I will create an appointment with myself so I can check in and evaluate how I’m doing. The focus will be on my learning.  I can be brutally honest with myself, since the more honest I am, the more I will learn.  If I learn, I can change.And that’s what makes Agile Results so powerful—you’re creating a little continuous learning loop.

    On Fridays, I’m going to ask myself to identify three things going well and three things to improve with regard to my 30-Day Sprint on Emotional Intelligence.   Maybe I’ll learn something useful about how to learn better.  Maybe I’ll learn something that surprises me deeply about myself or how I relate to others.  Either way, I will focus on learning so that I can carry that forward.

    This is how I will sustain momentum: by doing, learning, and improving.

That’s all there is to it.

how to have fun with personal development

Enjoy Your 30-Day Sprints

You can use 30 Day Sprints to continuously hack away at realizing your full potential.

The real keys here are:

  1. Adopt an Agile Mindset.
  2. Change your self-image.
  3. Pick something you want to work on.
  4. Create a 30-Day Sprint for it.
  5. Use 20-Minute Sprints to help you take action.
  6. Use Monday Vision, Daily Wins, Friday Reflection to execute your 30-Day Sprint.
  7. Have fun!

If I didn’t mention it before or I didn’t emphasize it enough (actually, I didn’t): have fun!

The way to have fun is to focus on your effort while moving toward your outcome.

This is where you slow down to speed up.  This is the key to learning at a deeper level.

When you really connect with your learning, you will find a new level of self-awareness and a new appreciation for your capabilities as an intelligent human being.

Enjoy!

About the Author

agile method expert JD MeierBy day, JD Meier is Director of Digital Business Transformation on the Microsoft Enterprise Strategy team, leading project teams on agile projects and mentoring team members to improve their effectiveness. By night, he applies these principles to help others get results and balance their lives.

This interest eventually turned into Getting Results the Agile Way, a book designed to help you make the most of work and life, using success patterns.

Learn more about agile methods and balancing your Life Frame at http://sourcesofinsight.com.

For more on overhauling your life and mindset, read on!

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