On a train from Vienna to Saltzburg, I am wondering whether reaching our potential is something that is center most on peoples’ minds.  Is it a driver in how we lead our lives?  It has been on my mind after reading an article by Robert Kaplan, Reaching Your Potential, published in Harvard Business Review, July-August 2008.  On the journey towards reaching one’s potential, Kaplan writes about the need to “know yourself.”. (page 80)  While he applies much of what he writes to the business world, I think the phrase “knowing yourself” implies a more personal than professional exploration.  In my career, I have been faced with a number of transitions where I had to reassess my skill set, performance, and career aspirations.  The personal reflection and decision-making process was complicated by previous commitments, both personal and professional that I had already made.  In some respects,  these previous commitments weighed heavily in the decisions I made, as well as clouded my judgment.  They made it hard to objectively evaluate the options I had at these critical transitions.

As I became more savvy or aware of myself when handling a transition, I relied on mentors to guide me through the process. My mentors have been professional friends, personal friends, family members, writings, and internal dialogues with myself. In earlier times, I tended to rely on myself as the guide, not being confident enough to use others’ wisdom.   Now, I have greater appreciation for the guidance a mentor can give as the journey towards reaching my potential unfolds.

Kaplan writes:

the challenge is for you to identify your dream, develop the skills to get there, and exhibit character and leadership.  (page 83)

Identifying the dream is about closing the gap between the values we embrace and the commitments that drive us.  Developing the skills requires exploration, feedback, reflection and adjustment, driven by the desire to become better at whatever it is that calls us into the world.  Exhibiting character and leadership is about the courage to go into the world willing to learn from others and sharing what we know and who we are. Learning happens when we take the risk to be open and vulnerable to the possibilities in our midst.

I hope in 2016, I can seek out mentors who help me along the journey to reaching my full potential.