Heading into summer, New Year’s and all the resolutions that came with it are becoming a distant memory. I always start out the year ready to fulfill my potential, but oftentimes that resolve wanes throughout the year. I lose sight of what I imagined the possibilities to look like, or circumstances will shift and growth will occur. That’s the nature of life—and not something I want to escape, but rather something I want to be mindful of when I think about whether or not I am reaching my full potential.
I decided the best way to stay tuned into fulfilling that best version of myself was not to hold off until the days or weeks before Jan. 1 to think about who I want to be. Instead, I took the route of quarterly self-evaluations to check in with how I was adjusting, growing and accomplishing the goals of the previous three months.
Looking a year ahead can be daunting, and often our resolve wanes throughout the year (how many New Year’s resolutions are still going strong come May?), but by creating a quarterly system, you can re-evaluate every few months.
Here are four points of focus you can use to help you continually reach your potential:
Before the start of each quarter, I list habits I want to monitor, not because the habits themselves are life changing (despite what some have told me, drinking apple cider vinegar each morning has not revolutionized my world), but because creating healthy habits enables me to live up to my full potential. If I am making lots of effortless good choices, the next good choice is so much easier to make.
Try this: Track the habits you already have in place. They can be really great ones (like going for a run every morning at 5:30 a.m.) or mundane things you tend to overlook (like brushing your teeth). Now try adding a habit on top of the one already in place to pair them together. Drink a nutrient-rich smoothie following your morning workout or meditate for five minutes after you brush your teeth. This is called “habit stacking,” where the habit already in place becomes the cue for the habit you are forming.
Fulfilling your goals isn’t the same as fulfilling your potential, but having a vision for what you want to accomplish each quarter can help guide you in that direction. Our goals are usually a reflection of what we believe our best self can do, and so by revisiting or refining our goals each quarter, we don’t lose sight of what we believe our potential can help us achieve.
Try this: List whichever big goals you want to accomplish, be it for the upcoming quarter, the year or the next decade. Think about the habits and small tasks you can do this quarter that will lead to that ultimate goal, and then begin to break the big picture down into actionable goals. Becoming a published author is a big goal, but writing 500 words a week, posting to a blog twice a month and taking a creative writing course at your local college are all actionable steps to move you toward that goal. Make sure your actionable goals are specific and have due dates within the quarter so you keep up your momentum.
What does it look like to realize your potential? Being busy all the time? Spreading yourself thin to do everything humanly possible? Acquiring wealth? Conventional success? Of course not! Fulfilling your potential is not all about optimization, but rather about living in a way that aligns with your values. Therefore, the most surefire way to reach your potential is to make sure you are in tune with your values and check in regularly to keep your actions and goals in line with them.
Try this: You know what your values are, but have you ever taken a moment to write them down? A great exercise to keep you in tune with your value-driven potential is to list out some of your core values and pick one per quarter to focus on. If connecting deeply with friends and family is something you value, make it a priority by being the one to make phone calls and gather people together. Keep a running list of ways you have connected to review at the end of each quarter.
Reaching your potential will not always look the same from season to season. Sometimes circumstances will push you into survival mode, and other times you will be in the perfect environment for growth and experimentation. Be aware that slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean you are failing to reach your potential. It may just mean that you are going through a time of transition or grief that is temporary. Remember, nothing lasts forever, and there is always next quarter for a renewed sense of purpose and drive.
Try this: Give yourself a gut check to see if you’re truly fulfilling your potential in this season of life. Consider your circumstances, see if there is change in sight, and be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do in the moment. No one can tell you for certain whether or not you are living up to your potential, but you will know if you are. Trust that, and keep checking in with yourself.
Photo by @esspeshal via Twenty20