There was a recruiting campaign that the US Army developed in the 1980s called “Be All You Can Be.” Even though the US Army has launched several effective themes since (“Army of One” and “Army Strong”), the “Be All You Can Be” theme continues to resonate in popular culture as it speaks to reaching our individual potential.
When we genuinely care about making progress towards reaching our full potential in the important areas of life, there is always a struggle to keep moving forward. Whether it is our own experiences, the thoughts and opinions of others, or the unfortunate “poor timing” of our last effort to make a change, we begin to question what we are doing and the probability of success in reaching our goals.
In the real and practical world, as opposed to sitting in the audience and listening to some pump-up motivational speech, there are a few unspoken questions that either become STOP signs to our progress or guardrails as we continue on our journey. The unspoken questions are “What will they think?” and “What will I tell them?”
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we acknowledge these unspoken questions and deal with them in a way that does not impeded our progress in reaching our full potential…Not someone else’s view of our potential (fill in the blank…a boss, a spouse, a parent, a child, a key stakeholder) but our own personal view of our potential (the sky should be the limit, in case you have any doubts).
Here are a few considerations to effectively address these unspoken questions:
- Acknowledge that it is our own fear that is woven into these unspoken questions. Fear of failing, fear of what others will think, or fear of disappointing someone is often reflected in addressing these questions. Fear is a reality that most of us face, but in the long run, it is not a healthy driver of our decisions on the journey to reach our full potential.
- Acknowledge that we do care about the answers to these unspoken questions. It is not an effective strategy to say we just don’t care about what others think. The reality is we do care. The greatest desire after taking care of our basic necessities of life is that we all want to feel a connection with others and that we belong. Thinking about the potential answers to these questions is interconnected to meeting our basic need to belong.
- Acknowledge that the choice is ours: STOP sign or guardrail. As opposed to letting these questions become STOP signs to making a necessary change in our life, we should leverage them to refine our thinking and clarify our intentions. This step will help us strengthen the decision we are making and solidify our resolve to move forward with the change no matter what we face.
One final consideration that falls into a slightly different category than the above points is for each of us to work hard at not pre-judging a potential response by someone close to us. Just because they responded with “what, are you crazy?” the last 100 times we made a major decision to take action and change course, does not make it helpful to pre-judge their next response. Just as we hope to learn and grow, we should give the benefit of the doubt to those closest to us that they have the potential to learn and grow to become an encourager as opposed to an impediment to our efforts to reach our full potential.
As we learn to more effectively address these unspoken questions, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and reach our hopes and dreams.