First Posted May 1, 2012.
I like to think of people as bottom-less reservoirs of unrealized potential. Sort of like Hermione's handbag in the Harry Potter stories. Her handbag is useful because literally everything can fit in it, from a complete camp site to a huge broad sword.
The reality is that most of us don't see ourselves this way ... as full of unrealized potential.
We are not even sure we know what we can do well, much less the difference we can make every day.
In this post, 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.
You can see it when people talk about their work. It is something to endure. It is 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 work. But, it isn't a happy picture of the good life for many people.
Add in a global recession that may become a way of life for many people, 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 everyday, just like the stuff in Hermione's handbag, that has the potential of enriching every place we touch,and every person we encounter every day.
So what do you do when this is not your situation, like it happen to one of my friends, who found himself out of his dream job after 40 years, and is definitely not ready to retire?
These are two sides of the same coin. Both the person who has lost their passion and purpose for work, and the person whose work lost him, need to understand who they are, distinct enough from their workplace, so that a picture of their unrealized potential can begin to be drawn.
The first thing we need to determine 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.Think of your hands open extended out in front of you. 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 to the world all the unrealized potential that you have been storing up in the Hermione's handbag of your life.
We are, now, beginning 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 here that we have within our own abilities the power to bring change that creates goodness wherever I am, even at work.
To learn what we have to offer is a process of self-discovery. It leads to a realization of all that we have been storing away, out of sight, out of mind, down deep in Hermione's handbag all these years. It is all we've learned, gained and developed in the way of knowledge and experience over the course of our lifetime.
, I sat down with my friend who lost his job and talked him through the Five Questions That Every Person Must Ask.
After 40 years of doing the same job, it is understandable that we don't know really know what we know, and we need help getting down into Hermione's handbag to find out what we have to offer.
To understand this is to see that we are not what we do.
We are what we desire to change, the impact that becomes the validation of who we are.
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.
Now, let's answer the Five Questions.
The first question asks what has changed. If you are out of a job, then the answer is easy. If you are at a dead end in the work you are currently doing, 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 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.
It is a simple question. What is my impact?
It may be the hard to answer because it forces us to look at the world differently.
So, think in terms of what is the impact that 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 impact that I had then?
Don't be too analytical. Keep it simple.
Who are you impacting?
You need two lists of people.
Create a list of those people whom you believe were impacted by your work and relationship with them.
Contact them to discover what it was that made the difference.
Create a list of people whom you know who can provide you connections 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 don't 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?
Go to see these people, repeat the process.
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.
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 offer, you can demonstrate how they can be applied in many more situations than you can imagine.
Obstacles / Problems
Let's be honest with ourselves. Often the loss of a job is the product of our own 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 the world is an important step of bringing fulfillment to the unrealized potential that fills our Hermione's handbag. 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.