Reaching Your Potential
Again, self-awareness is the first and most important step in breaking free of limiting thoughts. Once we understand that our thoughts and beliefs are a powerful force, we can then choose between those that hold us back and those that nourish our potential. When we identify a limiting belief, we can replace it with a growth-oriented perspective. So if you were of the mindset that you are too old for a running race, there are several alternative ways to view the situation. Could running a 10K be a personal challenge? Might it be an opportunity to share a healthy pastime with your son, while simultaneously modeling a ‘can do’ attitude for him? Maybe it will kick start a new fitness routine and help you age a bit more gracefully.
Yet it’s not only about reducing or eliminating the negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. It’s also about exploring what IS possible. What can you accomplish with the right attitude? Once you have placed fear of failure (or success) aside, you are free to leap. Find out what you are capable of and how it feels to strive.
At this point in the process, the field of Positive Psychology can give that forward momentum a needed boost. With your attention no longer on your perceived weaknesses, bring it instead to your strengths. Capitalize on what you do well. Learn more and try harder. Encouragement through positive self-talk, such as “I can do whatever I put my mind to,” is a wonderful alternative to the “gremlins” that might otherwise try to talk you out of your goals. No doubt old habits die hard, but having an alternative to the now unwelcome negativity is an important element to successfully changing your thought habits.
Another important element to maximizing your potential is knowing your innate values. Gaining clarity on what is most important to you allows you to focus energy on what is fundamental to your personal success and happiness. Those things that do not support your values more easily fall to the wayside. For example, if family is a defining element in your life, putting out the effort to connect with your out-of-touch grandchildren becomes an important task that is obviously worthwhile. If exploring new places is at the top of your priorities, you will be more inclined to overcome your poor sense of direction in order to embark on new adventures.
Much of our work in coaching is based on reframing perspectives. This power tool is no different. When a client has incorporated limiting beliefs into their sense of self, we can help them see how these ideas hold them back. Simply by holding the space with an empathetic presence, we invite the client to explore their point of view. Often, simply listening to your client speak about their beliefs is enough to raise their awareness around a way of thinking that is not serving them.
If the client’s beliefs are more firmly entrenched, dedicated listening is even more valuable. Do you discern self-limiting beliefs as you talk to your client? Do they use “should” statements that indicate an underlying belief, or make unflattering generalizations about themselves or their abilities? When these sorts of comments arise, it’s an opportunity to ask your client powerful questions that will help them to recognize their beliefs for exactly what they are. With curious questions and deep listening, we can begin to shift the client into a positive and forward-moving direction.
Once the client has an increased awareness of this type of negative thinking, it is useful for the coach to encourage them to turn their attention to their potential. Help them to explore their values and their strengths. Strategize together on how they can best live by their values while bringing their strengths to their current situation. Therefore, instead of simply helping your client to dispel the negative thoughts, as a coach you are also offering them a healthy alternative. This new way of thinking about what is possible can therefore have a better chance to become rooted in their way of thinking. They will no longer hide behind their perceived limitations – instead they will push beyond those barriers and be carried forward by their potential.
- How do you react inside when someone acts negatively toward you? Do you take it personally? Do you believe it is justified or do you question their behavior?
- In what ways does guilt motivate your actions?
- What role does negative self-talk play in your typical day?
- Do you make assumptions about situations? Can you look at the same situation from another perspective and come up with different assumptions?
- What would be possible if you let go of self-doubt?
- What do your strengths and values tell you about where your potential lies?
- Is there untapped potential in your life? How can you tap into it and let it flow?
The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book, Ruiz, Don Miguel, 1997. Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc., San Rafael, CA.
Practicing Positive Psychologoy Coaching: Assessment, Activities, and Strategies for Success, Biswas-Diener, Robert, 2010. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, New Jersey.
Taming Your Gremlin, Carson, Richard D., 2003. Harper Collins, New York.
Values and Life Purpose Module, International Coaching Academy, 2012.