Inside each of you is unlimited potential for becoming your best self. For many people, this concept seems lofty or hard to reach.
I want to get in the best shape of my life by 40.
I want to retire debt-free by 50.
I want to have the best marriage, be the best friend, be a great parent…
We assign arbitrary markers and set open-ended life goals. But too often, that leaves us wondering, well, what’s next? Do we simply cross the item off our list? Do we sit back and rest on our accomplishments? Do we even know when we’ve attained our goal (what does the best marriage, career, or life even look like)?
People have been talking to me about my potential since I was a little kid. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times teachers said, “Bob needs to work up to his potential.”
In fact, the concept of potential was a bit nebulous to me. I had no intention of reaching my potential in school—why should I when I could get by with good enough? There was no internal motivation because as a youngster, I couldn’t see the reward. Why work harder only to reach my potential? What was the benefit?
Fortunately, as we get older many of us find more motivation to push ourselves toward goals. But are those goals really what encompasses our potential? Is running a marathon, buying a fancy car, or going on a great vacation the result of me really living up to my potential?
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there has been a deeper concept of what becoming your best self really means. A life where we’re pursuing more knowledge, deeper connections, and greater understanding is thought by most to be a “quality life.” But how do we define a quality life for ourselves?
Benjamin Franklin once put together 13 basic precepts outlining the quality of his life. This personal mission statement gave him a clear path and vision he could follow. Writing a detailed description of his ideal life outlined his next steps—what areas he was excelling at and where he should focus his efforts.
Franklin was excellent and disciplined in his writing and clearly a principled man. The history of his life tells us the story of a man who was a scientist; creating bifocals, working with electricity, and being instrumental in the success of the US postal system. He clearly succeeded in living up to his potential.
The key to his great success wasn’t just that he set goals and articulated his vision. Of course, the goals helped guide him, along with the 13 precepts he used to guide him through the life he wanted to live. The biggest key to his success was that he surrounded himself with allies.
He gathered together a group of fellow entrepreneurs, thinkers, and great minds in a regular meeting. These people would give each other feedback on their various projects. They would question the direction and challenge ideas. These men acted as a sounding board for each other. They were allies. They pushed limits, challenged the government, and fostered progressive thought.
So, what can you learn from Benjamin Franklin on your path to becoming your best self?
It is possible for us to become more than we ever thought possible. We can live beyond what we perceive to be our potential. We call this transformation. Each human is a naturally born transformer. We must learn to tap into our transformative potential.
When a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, there is no new substance that’s introduced. It becomes a butterfly by growing from what it previously was. It transforms from the original form. Similarly, when we transform, we’re taking the form that is already inside us and using it toward our transformation.
Transformation requires discipline and learning. It requires that we listen to feedback and use the feedback to foster greater growth and self-exploration. Transformation requires engagement at a high level. We must connect with others in a way that’s real, true, and speaks to our yearnings.
Those people who are great transformers often evolve to fulfill their yearnings more successfully. This means they’ve spent time learning about themselves. They’ve explored their experiences, beliefs, and makeup. They know what drives them and they understand the longings, or yearnings of their heart. They understand how fulfilling these yearnings lead to greater satisfaction and fulfillment.
What are yearnings?
If you’re like most people, you know what you want. In fact, if pressed, you could probably rattle off a laundry list of wants: cars, houses, vacations, jobs, electronic devices, and so on. But when it comes to what you yearn for, you may draw a blank.
There’s something vaguely old-fashioned about the term. It has an Old Testament ring to it. Or it sounds like what a heroine in a Victorian novel might say as she stares out the window of her Gothic tower waiting for her lost love to return. As a result, you probably haven’t used “yearn” in a sentence recently. It feels awkward on your tongue, uncertain in your mind…and hardly the dynamic power a fuel of transformation.
When we talk of transformation, we are not talking about a formula but rather about something deeply personal that emerges from within—a unique, new you. Take a moment to reflect upon what you yearn for. Let your mind go blank and listen to your heart. Imagine if your soul had a voice and could articulate what it wants most in the world. Or, more simply, consider what you desire deeply, what would turn your good life into a great one.
–Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living
Learning to follow our yearnings is a powerful way to tap into our transformative potential. When we’re following our yearnings, we’re engaged. We have new experiences. We start to surround ourselves with those who challenge us, who push us toward becoming our best selves. This is the start to transformation.
As we discover new aspects of ourselves we share them with others. We will discover and identify where we have limitations, what areas we need to work on, what beliefs we need to challenge.
Even those of us who regularly work on self-discovery gain new insights all the time. Self-reflection allows us to look back on our own personal growth and realize how far we’ve come, how our growth has helped develop more positive, honest, and open relationships with those in our lives. We learn valuable lessons, like why we hold these relationships and how our deepest values have developed, leading us closer to the best version of ourselves.
This personal growth work—evolving—is a big deal. It begins with catching on to our deeper yearnings. We start to explore the reasons behind we say certain words or take certain actions. We identify our limiting beliefs and how we can overcome them.
During this process, surrounding ourselves with allies who challenge us and who hold us to keeping our actions in line with our personal principles is vital. We each have a vast, limitless potential inside and it’s up to us to work towards it.
If you’re wondering how to start becoming your best self, you’re already on the path. Explore the yearnings of your heart, surround yourself with allies, and align with your principles as you continue the process of transformation.
For more on living your best life, visit the Wright Foundation website. Join us for an upcoming Foundations weekend, where we’ll explore these topics in-depth and help you build connections with others who are seeking to maximize their potential. We also want to announce the availability of many of our courses for download. Don’t miss out on the special introductory price for many of our courses and lectures.
Dr. Bob Wright is an internationally recognized visionary, educator, program developer, leadership and sales executive, best-selling author and speaker. He is a co-founder of Wright and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.