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Dear Shannon

Dear Shannon: How can I unleash my potential?

Ask yourself these three questions to work effectively with purpose.

“And, when you decide you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

-Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

In my last GreenBiz post, I argued the merits of being a purpose-driven worker and outlined how to frame your purpose into a statement to find clarity in your life’s mission. This may have left you armed with your freshly minted purpose statement, but wondering what to do next.

The next step is to convert your unique potential into actions in order to realize that purpose. I see time and again the fear of failure holding back most of us from living into our potential and from realizing our life’s purpose. So after we've have acheived clarity about our purpose, we then need to gain confidence about our potential.

I always start off this work with clients with an exercise to build a framework for their potential. I ask them to define three things in five words each: five words for their skills, five for their values and five for their traits.

1. What are your greatest capabilities? How does your work and life use them?

My clients often struggle to identify five core skills that an employer will pay them to deliver on. You must find skills or tasks that meet three criteria:

  • High capability —  you are great at doing (not good at) them

  • High motivation — you love using (not like) them

  • And that someone is willing to pay you to do it — there is a market for the task

Examples are: Mitigate risk. Lead teams. Implement projects.

2. What is so important to you that it drives decisions for you on a daily basis?

Secondly are your values. They are so core to who you are that they have to be aligned with the culture of where you work every day. If you don't get this right, then you won’t be happy.

Articulating values helps to put ourselves into situations and contexts where we can thrive. If our values aren’t aligned with our context or culture, we will feel an internal conflict because our actions will not match our inner hardwiring.

Example values are: Justice. Challenge. Ethical leadership.

3. Do I have a distinctive set of strengths that makes me feel unique?

Thirdly, your traits set you apart from the competition. How would your friends and colleagues describe your characteristics and approach to life and work? 

To me, the three most important traits for success as a leader or a change maker are: Resilient. Adaptable. Unafraid to take initiative. If you have these three, then you can pretty much turn anything into reality because you can overcome challenges and bounce back from failure.

How do my answers to the above questions create my purpose?

Once you define who you are and what you offer in terms of your skills, values and traits, you then can link them to your purpose and start to convert your potential into action toward that purpose.

For example, if you find the most purpose in helping individuals, you can frame your role around making an impact through mentoring others. If you are driven by the gain and dispersion of knowledge, you can start doing research and ascertain the core of your approach.

So take out your pen and paper and get started! Don’t be afraid to seek out the input of friends and colleagues on what they see as your top skills, values and traits to help get you started.

For some bespoke advice on defining your top skills, values and traits and translating them for a role in the sustainability sector, get in touch with me.

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