In this new and unpredictable post Covid era, we are all being asked to adapt. We are all being challenged to change our expectations, change our ways of working, change our plans for the future. This gives us a unique opportunity. The opportunity to realise strengths and talents in new and dynamic ways. Those who thrive in times of uncertainty are the ones who realise potential.
But what does realise potential even mean? What is potential? Where does it sit in your body? Is it just something that professional coaches say? Is it just a fluffy word?
I don’t think so. I think potential is something concrete and measurable.
I like to think about potential as connections in your brain that haven’t happened yet. Realising potential means putting your skills and capabilities to work in new ways and strengthening brain interconnectivity.
More connections means more processing power, granting us the capacity to think beyond the concrete to the concept and context. When we reach into our potential zone, we dig deep, forge new neural pathways and make new connections. The brain is continuously evolving and dendrites (extensions of brain cells or neurons that look like tiny trees) never stop reaching for more connections. Pathways in the brain are constantly expanding, pruning, and combining as new memories and experiences are storing every living moment. Neuroscientists call this phenomenon brain plasticity.
Throughout my studies in psychology and psychophysiology, I’d read about the whole spectrum of brain injury cases. There were cases where people recovered no function, partial function, and even full function following brain injury or surgery. But there were the occasional extraordinary cases where some people adapted to perform beyond pre-injury levels and prove how continued effort and focus allow us to rebuild pathways in the brain. I witnessed this firsthand when I met my husband’s cousin – Trevor Brown.
When Trevor was only 12 years old, he started suffering debilitating headaches, and the usually fun loving boy with a passion for table tennis, started acting out behaviourally. His concerned parents took him for a series of tests and were given the worst possible news – Trevor had a large tumour near the centre of his brain and was given three months to live. Surgery was an option but a risky one. His survival prospects were 50% at best and he was a 5-10% chance of emerging with all faculties and bodily functions intact. Clearly this was devastating news for the family, but Trevor didn’t want to see out his days deteriorating in a hospital bed, so decided to give surgery a chance.
Trevor did survive the surgery, and in fact did much more than that. He was home ten days later, and despite continuing headaches and temporary loss of sight in his right eye, picked up the table tennis bat and started playing again. Within three months his recovery reached the stage his parents expected would take twelve months. Trevor went on to become a table tennis champion, representing Australia in the Commonwealth Games in 2002, 2006 and the Athens Olympics in 2004. Trevor married a French girl Lise whilst playing professionally in France, returned to Australia, completed a PhD in Neuroscience, and now works in the field that saved his life. Trevor and Lise have three beautiful children, all budding athletes in their own right. Trevor’s remarkable story is one of incredible resilience to rebuild the pathways in his brain as well as pathways in his life through the dynamic game of table tennis.
If you want to see Trevor in action and observe someone truly realising potential – check out this short excerpt featuring Trevor as the sparring partner for William Henzel from the “Redesign my Brain” series hosted by Todd Sampson.
Reaching into our potential is like stitching together fishing nets to build a bigger net. The bigger the net, the more fish you’re likely to catch.
Strengths based research tells us where we have greatest potential for growth and improvement is in the realisation of our strengths. We all have inborn predispositions to think and behave in certain ways. These are our natural talents or strengths. When you do something you are naturally good at and enjoy doing, you will achieve far greater gains than working on a weakness – something you typically do poorly at and do not enjoy doing.
So the message is simple. Use this time to find what you love, and just do more of it. Focus not on improving weaknesses, focus on leveraging strengths. Set yourself new benchmarks for performance in the things you’re good at – and just go for it.
I am – I’m writing a book. I’ve written heaps of stuff – university essays, a 10,000 word thesis, strategic plans and documents, award winning applications, blogs, tweets. Never a book. This is far beyond anything I’ve ever tried writing before. I know I have the potential to do it. It just needs to be realised.
If you know your or your team have potential for more or have unrealised strengths – speak to me about my Team Alchemy program. It’s all about converting potential into performance.
Or download my Whitepaper.