Every one of us wishes, enjoys and thrives on living their potential, or so I believe. The potential as that which is seen in personal achievement, professional feat, nurturing a happy family, creating community impact or uplifting the society. We all bring an inherent potential to accomplish in many an area, each of which requires change, with the word ‘change’ here encompassing the twin meaning - transformation as well as growth.
Whether one wishes to realize something for oneself or contribute towards collective accomplishment, the fulcrum to reaching one’s potential is always - ‘Self’. Mohandas to Mahatma, Mandela to Madiba, Agni Sharma to Valmiki, Siddharth to Buddha or even the newspaper boy Pakir to Bharat Ratna scientist turned President Abdul Kalam – each of these stories of unlocking one’s potential are a testimony to the role played by Self.
Transcending oneself beyond limiting beliefs, flirting with risk & vulnerability and experimenting with unthinkable, has been the hallmark of people who have demonstrated and achieved the extraordinary, despite the ordinary or sub-ordinary start. In the next-door businessman’s story of rags to riches, your boss’s endurance feat at the Marathon, neighbour housewife’s emergence as a celebrated author or the President of your Rotary Club mobilizing impressive resources to impact community – the accomplisher herself/ himself in each of these examples has been an instrument of change.
For every single demonstration unlocking one’s potential, perhaps there are hundreds who are standing just short of the threshold which will shift them into the next orbit. In my experience as a facilitator, trainer, coach and an organization developer, I have come across many an individual, who by virtue of their own (in)actions remained on the southern side of the threshold. People who crossed the threshold in pursuit of their true north have demonstrated one key difference and that is their place on the “Euphoria çè Cynicism” continuum. Before I unravel this continuum, let me also submit that there may be multiple lenses to look at the key differentiator. I am but presenting just one of frameworks that has not only helped me personally & professionally but proved invaluable in my ‘helping relationship’ roles.
In a fresh relationship, a new job/ project or a resolve for better health etc., most of us start with a sense of excitement; possibly, an all-pervading euphoria that fills us with energy & determination. As time passes, there’s a tendency to slide down towards cynicism; perhaps attributed to others, circumstances, or one’s own beliefs. The achievers display an awareness of their location on this band and make a conscious effort to stay in the generative zone. A zone that propels one to overcome the difficulties of crossing that limiting threshold that keeps one at their sub-optimal.
Staying in a net positive energy zone where the real hope of success is greater than the fear of failure is the key contributor to crossing a limiting threshold. Here, the word ‘real’ is an operating word; for, the popularity of book “The Secret” and aftermath resulted in so many pseudo positive psychology practitioners that their surface-level grasp of the underpinning has only created more agony.
The net positive energy zone provides advantage of operating in optimism quotient. The diagram here would help mitigate the need for verbose explanation. Staying in this zone requires periodic calibration of one’s pursuits, environment and supporting actors. The true achievers do not hesitate to step of out of limiting environment and/ or create an optimistic one for themselves, even dumping the other actors in favor of walking alone or finding new partners.
Bringing this model to the fore in my practice and interventions, has eased many an executive to cross the threshold towards their true north.
Unfortunately, I have also experienced, quite a few people slide down the continuum. Over the past two years, my close relationship and association with a few people, who slid-down rather rapidly, prompted me to observe & study the underlying causes of such an erosion. My finding in each of the cases - invariably it was caused by jealousy, obsession with self or a competitive zero-sum attitude. At least one of these three factors have played the role in all the three cases I studied. Someone sliding down this continuum in their sunset years doesn’t bother me much. However, in an era where I see many a role model nonagenarian, to see people in their prime become victims of these factors has saddened me.
For the moment, my conclusion basis my observations is – when the gratitude evaporates, so does the energy to excel. The slide that sets in, not only drowns the person concerned but sometimes even their dearest loved ones. While absence of gratitude seems to pull one down on this framework, I am curious to know if cultivating gratitude would turn the tide up?
Keen to read/ hear more perspectives and stories of your experiences. Please do write in, or connect with me -- harish at potentia dot in.
*With gratitude to Yawar Baig who presented the continuum over 25 years ago and Bhupendra Sharma who triggered a generative thinking through his program over two decades ago.