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What Stops us from Exploring, Developing and Maximising our Potential?

What Stops us from Exploring, Developing and Maximising our Potential?

    cc by M0les
    “You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take.” (Wayne Gretzky)

    I’m not particularly gifted (sigh) but I am pretty driven. I choose to be proactive, focused and disciplined (mostly) because I’m fascinated by what we human beings can achieve when we commit to exploring our potential and when we don’t allow our thinking or emotions to get in the way of our possibilities. In some ways, I guess my drive and determination come (in part) from my lack of inherent ability.

    Who knew that being not-very-talented would have an upside?

    Growing up, I wasn’t a great athlete, student, musician or a great anything for that matter. I was good at a few things (okay, eating), average at a few more and pretty crap at a whole bunch of things. For all the money my parents spent on years of guitar lessons, I should be frickin’ Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Slash all rolled into one. If only there had been some musical ability in the mix, I could have been anything.

    Based on what I still remember (and can still play), I think my parents invested somewhere in the vicinity of four thousand dollars per chord. Having said that, if you ever need somebody to belt out a horrible acoustic rendition of House of the Rising Sun at your next party, I’m your guy.

    What do you mean – “no thanks”?

    That hurts.

    And if, per chance, something is in need of repair at your house, whatever you do, don’t ask me to fix it. Sure, I may look handy but don’t be fooled; as a repairman, I’m about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. Combine my total lack of technical and mechanical aptitude with my enormous-for-no-good-reason ego, my enthusiasm, my unwarranted optimism (about my potential to fix things) and my ineptitude with tools – and I’m sure to create more havoc than harmony at your place.  

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    The strange thing is, part of me always thinks I’m going to be able to fix whatever it is I’m taking apart – despite my abysmal track record. It’s the one area that I don’t seem to learn in. Maybe it’s my over-developed optimism-gene kicking in. Fortunately, I’ve always had girlfriends with great mechanical aptitude. And large forearms.

    Stop it.

    Enough about me.

    Your Best Life

    When it comes to the matter of creating and sustaining our best life (whatever that means to each of us personally), the question we should ask ourselves is not, “how much potential do I have?” but rather, “how much of that potential am I currently using?”

    Earlier this year, I published a fantastic letter I received from Mel – one of our readers and part of our community. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a peek. Her achievement of creating and maintaining such a significant change in her world is inspirational. She lost 56 kgs (123 lbs) and has kept it off for a year and a half. But more important than the weight-loss (in my opinion), is the fact that she has also created and maintained amazing change on many levels beyond the physical.

    Go Mel.

    After years of stopping and starting. Of wasting time. Of not reaching her goal. Of living in a body which embarrassed her. Of feeling self-conscious. Of hiding in her house. Of crying. Of avoiding people. Of pretending to be happy. Of shortness of breath. Of poor health. Of chaffing. And of walking to the letterbox in the dark… Mel changed. Massively.  She transformed her body, her thinking, her habits, her behaviours and her life.

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    Her entire reality.

    Now, we could spend hours debating and discussing why it took her so long (to change once and for all) but the pertinent question for this chat is:

    Did she always have the potential to create amazing change?

    Of course, the answer is yes. She didn’t wake up one day and miraculously possess more potential. No, she woke up one day and started using what had always been there. And to keep using it no matter what. What she didn’t always have was the mindset, the awareness, the discipline or the momentum – but she always had the potential for incredible transformation.

    For a range of reasons, there was a time when she was not (genuinely) ready. Not prepared to pay the price. Not willing to get that uncomfortable. Not willing to face her fears. The potential was there but it wasn’t being exploited – kind of like the guy who buys the amazing car and then leaves it in the garage because he’s too scared somebody might scratch it. Or resent his success. Or steal it when he’s not looking.

    And when Mel created the right internal environment – when she got to that point – she opened the door to something that was always there: her own personal world of amazing. Her potential.

    You and Me?

    The amount of inherent potential you and I have is finite but how much of that potential we use is completely optional. Isn’t that great news? Of course, there’s no way of knowing, measuring or quantifying exactly how much potential we each have – or how much of that potential we will typically use in a lifetime (various figures like three percent get thrown around)  – but it’s my belief, observation and experience that most of us don’t use most of what we have.

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    So the next obvious question is…

    What Stops us from Exploring, Developing and Maximising our Potential?

    A bunch of things but mostly, it’s a fear thing.

    Fear of failure. Of embarrassment. Of being judged. Of the unknown. Of being ridiculed. Of the commitment required. Of the potential pain, discomfort and risk. The day we decide that we’re prepared to deal with those inevitable realities of the human experience, and the day we stop trying to keep everybody except ourselves happy, is the day the transformation begins.

    Personally, I’ve spent years making mistakes. Taking risks. Being criticised. Embarrassed. Judged. Labelled. Liked. Disliked. I’m okay with all of it because where there’s discomfort, there’s growth. There’s learning. And in the middle of it all, I found me. Despite many protests, I went to university (for the first time) at thirty-six. After being told that I wouldn’t get a book published, I wrote my first book at thirty-seven. I did my first (regular) TV gig at forty-two. I didn’t know what a blog was at forty-one. I’ve had two failed businesses. In order to build my speaking skills, I did hundreds of presentations for little or no money. For years. Some of them were horrible. I was horrible. My ‘apprenticeship’ into the world of professional speaking was a ten-year journey. I could go on, but I don’t want to bore you. Needless to say, my failures lessons far outweigh my triumphs.

    In some ways, the ‘safest’ thing for me to do would be to not share my thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs in such a public way. Some people don’t like it. Doing what I do – sharing my philosophies with a large audience – means that I will be criticised, disliked and uncomfortable on a regular basis. That’s okay, I’ll simply choose to live, laugh, love and learn. Because I can.

    One of my favourite mentors at university (Dr. Paul Callery) once told me:

    “If you don’t want to offend anyone, then say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.”

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    Smart man.

    I’ll finish today’s post with a message I often share with my charges:

    I don’t care how young, old, fat, fit, tall, small, genetically gifted, intelligent, qualified, skilled, experienced or inherently talented you are (or aren’t), all I care about (in terms of you creating lasting change in your world), is what you do with what you’ve been given. You can’t change your genetics but you can change how you use them. You can’t change your chronological age but you can change what you do (choices, behaviours, habits) at your age. And in the process, you can lower your biological age. You can’t change other people but you can change how you behave and react around them. You can’t alter your level of natural ability (potential), but you can determine how much of that ability you tap into, exploit and develop. You can’t change your past but you can change the way you let it influence and impact on your present and your future. That is, you don’t need to be limited by, defined by or determined by your history (as many people are). Your history doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about your potential and is often a poor indicator of what’s possible for your future. If you’re like many, then your achievements – or perhaps lack of achievements – are more a reflection of your fear (to take a chance and get uncomfortable) than they are a reflection of your potential.

    And finally, don’t allow your self-limiting, over-thinking, fear-influenced mind to stand between you and happiness. You are good enough, talented enough, courageous enough and definitely worth it.

    Enjoy your journey.

    And your potential.

    More by this author

    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on November 27, 2020

    15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

    15 Office Design Tricks That Will Increase Your Productivity at Work

    Where you work has an enormous impact on how you work – on your ability to focus (and stay focused) and your overall ability to be productive. That means the design of your office, whether you work at home or in a larger company environment, is of supreme importance. This isn’t just about Feng Shui, this is about producing results and getting things done.

    According to studies done on workplace and productivity, the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus is their physical environment. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity about 20%. However, despite the studies and statistics, nearly half of the employers interviewed don’t consider workplace design a good business investment.

    So what is a productivity hack to do? What if you work in an environment that doesn’t promote focus?

    Check these 15 factors and make changes where you can. A little adjustment can produce a lot of impact.

    Lighting

    Lighting is one of the most important factors in staying focused and feeling inspired to create, yet it’s one of the most overlooked and least invested in. Bad lighting can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches and overall irritability. Dark spaces can actually produce depression.

    If you work in a company office:
    You probably have no control over your general lighting so bring in your own, if need be. Consider using natural light bulbs or a light therapy device.

    If you work from a home office:
    Open the windows and doors and let natural light in. Using lamps in a variety of areas for cloudy days or when it’s dark.

    Chair and Table

    If you’ve ever sat at a desk to do work but found yourself adjusting, stretching and moving too often to actually stay focused, then you’re aware of the importance of having a correctly fitted table and chair. In today’s work environment where so many of us are sitting for most of our day, it is critical that your throne fits your body probably.

    Consider these quick ergonomic checks:

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    • Eyes 24-36 inches from the computer screen. The top of the monitor should be below or at eye-level.
    • Feet should be on a foot rest or resting on the floor.
    • A slightly reclined chair posture is best to reduce pressure on your spine and minimize lower back pain.

    If you work in a company office:
    Ask for an adjustable chair. Add pillows for your lower back or bum, if you need it. Many companies will also provide risers for computers to adjust the height of your computer screen (and a separate keyboard to keep your hands and wrists in the ideal position)

    If you work from a home office:
    Invest in a decent chair or at least use a few pillows to make the chair more comfortable. If the table is too high, add pillows to your chair. If it is too low, consider buying leg risers from your local hardware store and using books beneath your computer to raise the screen. Use a separate keyboard.

    Clutter

    Your mama was right, it’s important to clean up your room. Clutter may help the creative mind create, but it isn’t necessarily helpful for focus and productivity.

    If you work from a company office: While you can’t control the cleanliness of the office at large, do keep your own environment around you clean. Spend 10 minutes every morning or evening making sure things are put away, filed, organized and generally out of sight so you’re not distracted by it later.

    If you work from a home office: Because you work from home, the entire house or apartment is potential for distraction. If you can afford it, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your home clean. If not, schedule a specific day and time to clean your home. Commit to doing daily pickup at a specific time. And spend at least 10 minutes every day making sure your office  is organized and tidy.

    Room Color

    The colors around us all have an effect on our moods and brain function. It evokes both a physical and emotional response. So choosing the right colors for your work space has the ability to affect your productivity. For instance, blue has been said to illicit productivity. Mind you, too much of anything can be overwhelming, even color.

    If you work from a company office: Bring in items from home that are a certain color that inspire you and keep you focused. Use postcards, magazine cutouts, even just blocks of color will do.

    If you work from a home office: If you work from home, you have much more control over the colors around you. Consider repainting a wall, adding color to the table you work at, or hanging pictures that are dominated by a specific color.

    Room Temperature

    Most offices keep their temperatures around 65-68 Fahrenheit but it turns out that this might not be good for productivity. Warmer rooms actually make people more productive.

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    If you work from a company office: Most offices are regulated by somebody else, so bring a space heater, sweaters and blankets to your work space.

    If you work from a home office: Depending on the season, open the windows or adjust the heat or a/c so that you’re more comfortable and warm. Pile on the sweaters in the winter or add a space heater to your feet.

    Room Scents

    Like the color of the space you work in, our sense of smell can powerfully affect our mood, mindset and thus our productivity. Consider adding scents to your work space to jar your mind into focus when you start to notice yourself drifting off.

    Try using these scents to stay focused:

    • Pine – Increases alertness
    • Cinnamon – Improves focus
    • Lavender – Helps to relax you during a stressful work day
    • Peppermint – Lifts your mood
    • Citrus (any) – Wakes you up  and lifts your spirits

    If you work from a company office: Most people will not appreciate added scents to their work environment so you’ll need to keep it subtle. Keep essential oils in your bag or drawer and when you’re in need of a boost put a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball.

    If you work from a home office: Use candles, incense or essential oils. You can also simmer herbs and spices in the kitchen to fill your home with a warm scent.

    Noise Level

    The noise level in a work environment can vary greatly depending on the size of the team you work with, the office design and company culture. But make no mistake, the noise around you affects your ability to stay on task. Not only can it be distracting, it can also raise stress levels making your ability to sustain productivity far more difficult.

    If you work from a company office: Bring in noise cancellation headphones and use music services like Spotify or Songza and choose concentration boosting sounds, like white noise.  Find out if your office offers quiet work spaces for times when you need the utmost focus.

    If you work from a home office: Sometimes the complete quiet can be as distracting as an office. Use a service like Coffivity to mimic the noise of a coffee shop, which has been said to help with concentration.

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    Air Quality

    Air quality can drastically affect our ability to focus and think clearly. Get this: OSHA estimates that the total annual cost of poor air quality in office environments costs employers $15 billion “due to worker inefficiency and sick leave.” Yeah, it’s serious business.

    If you work from a company office: Talk to them about installing air filters. If there is a way to bring in fresh air through windows or doors, arrange to have them opened for at least a portion of the day. If nothing else, get a personal air filter to have on your desk or nearby.

    Also, get a plant (or better yet, have the company buy and use more plants in the office!). Plants are great at filtering the air and providing clean, purified oxygen.

    If you work from a home office: Open windows and doors and let in the fresh air. Install an air filter or get a portable air filter to keep near your desk. And, yes, you too should get a plant.

    Different Spaces

    If you can manage it, give yourself more than one space to work from. Putting yourself in a new space with different qualities and things to look at quite literally shifts your brain and helps you stay focused.

    If you work from a company office: Many offices offer a variety of environments to work from: your personal space, lobbies, break out rooms, conference rooms, kitchens and eating areas and, if you’re lucky, they also provide lounge areas. Use all these spaces to vary your routine. Make sure your supervisor knows so they don’t think you’re slacking off and know tat you’re actually getting more done!

    If you work from a home office: If you work at a desk, add a comfortable couch or chair to the room. If your space is less flexible or ultra tiny, think about more creative ways to change your work space. Rotate the pictures on your walls every couple of days. Sit on the other side of your desk. Get a lamp and multiple colored bulbs. Or go work at a café, the library or in a park.

    Organization of People

    Most employers organize employees around job function or in specific divisions. Instead, studies show that people are more creative and productive when they are sitting with colleagues that share the same goal or client. Not only are you able to get answers and generate solutions quicker, but because you’re directly accountable to the people around you, you’re more likely to stay on task and productive.

    If you work from a company office: Ask your employer if you can experiment by clustering your group together in a conference room for a day or a week. Get feedback from everybody involved. Show the results. If your company won’t make permanent adjustments, perhaps they’ll allow you to work together a couple times a week when the conference room or lounge area is free.

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    If you work from a home office: This is a little bit more difficult because when you work at home you’re not with colleagues. You can recreate a similar space digitally, however. Create a Skype group and have everyone logged in during working hours. You can do morning accountability and check-ins while remaining available for questions, solution-finding and general banter that promotes creativity.

    Idea Storage

    Ever been working hard when you’re suddenly distracted by a great idea? At first you try to push it away, but then the next thing you know you’re 20 pages deep into an online search on the topic. Ideas should be encouraged and cultivated, but when they come right in the middle of another task it can be incredibly distracting. Instead, create a place to store your ideas that’s easily accessed from your work space.

    For both a company and home office: Keep pads of paper around, have a chalk wall, get a white board – when you have a spark of inspiration write it down right away to get it out of your head then return to the task at hand. Then, at the end of the day or when you have free time, collect all the ideas and review them. With a little time and space you can better decide if it’s worth pursuing or better to leave it on the back-burner.

    Refreshment

    Our brain needs nourishment to keep going, especially when we’re driving hard and staying focused. You can let a rumbling stomach go on for only so long before the brain shuts down. Assuming your different is like wanting your car to keep driving without having to stop and fill it with gas. A novel idea, but not realistic.

    If you work from a company office: Pre-make snacks for the day and/or week. Or, bring in prepackaged snacks. Keep in mind that junk food has properties of diminishing returns so if you’re buying your food prepackaged think nuts, fruit, unsweetened yogurts, and hummus and crackers. Likely, your company provides coffee, tea and water so you don’t have to worry about supplying that for yourself.

    If you work from a home office: If you work from home, this can be a key distraction. Try to reduce the number of times you walk into the kitchen each day. To do this, keep quick and   easy snacks pre-made or prepackaged ready and near your desk. Keep a water bottle nearby. And consider bringing a kettle into your office and stocking tea and coffee so you’re   not tempted to wander around the house and lose time poking through the pantry.

    Bring in Nature

    We are biological creatures, first and foremost. So we are deeply affected by our access to (or lack of) the natural world. It’s important for our psychological and physiological functioning, which directly affects our ability to be productive.

    If you work from a company office: If you don’t have windows in or near your work space, bring in pictures of the outdoor world. Keep a picture of something natural as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks outdoors at lunch or in between major tasks. Just a few minutes outside in the fresh air and sunshine can boost our mood and shake out the doldrums. Be sure to add a plant to your desk, too!

    If you work from a home office: Keep the shades open and, if you can, let in fresh air. If you can’t see anything natural out of your window, keep pictures of the natural world as your screensaver and/or desktop wallpaper. Take walks. Or, just step outside and put your feet on the ground. Put plants in your office – research shows that having live plants in your office makes you more productive, happier and less stressed.

    Digital Space

    For most people, our primary work is housed within our laptops and our physical environment simply the backdrop to our digital lives. Make sure your computer has software that helps you sculpt the digital environment that best elicits productivity. Use focus apps like this one or this to decrease distractions. Or design your day using intervals with an app like this one to keep you at your peak focus throughout the day.

    Featured photo credit: Phil Desforges via unsplash.com

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