I am constantly worried about not living up to my potential and so am constantly searching for ways to figure out, ahem, what my potential actually IS.
While I still don't know, one of the things that has helped me become a lot more comfortable with the journey was this book:
Dick Richards' premise is that everyone has a unique "genius" to give to the world. So unique, in fact, that you have to figure it out and name it yourself. And this book provides a number of exercises and tips on how to do that.
There are several things that I loved about this book.
First of all, who doesn't want to have a unique genius? That just sounds cool.
Secondly, unlike some other personality/aptitude tests I've read about/taken, the goal here is not to say, for example, "ok, my genius is caring for others, so I should be a nurse." The goal here is figure out how to put whatever your genius is at work in whatever you do--professionally and privately.
Richards has done a lot of coaching and the book includes lots of case studies, so there were a couple of folks who did end up changing jobs once they figured out what they're genius was, since it was patently incompatible with their current job or employer. But for alot of people, it was more a matter of helping them understand why they liked particular parts of their jobs more than others and how to maximize those.
I haven't entirely settled on what my genius is yet, but it's something like "Solving Puzzles." And, what I love about this, is that it's helped me understand myself better.
For example, a couple of years back, I really got into knitting. I learned how to do it and then spent the next several months knitting:
- a series of scarves--each using a different pattern and yarn,
- a stuffed lamb for my cousin's new baby,
- some baby booties & hats,
- a bunch of christmas ornaments, and
- a fingerless glove.
In the course of all this, I stocked up on yarn and needles and various knitting books. And then I lost interest. Where, previously, I might have beat myself up about that and put it down to lack of commitment or discipline or whatever, once I read Richards' book, I understood it. For me, the fun part about knitting was LEARNING HOW--solving the puzzle of it. Once I learned how, the actual KNITTING part was way less interesting. And even the end product wasn't that interesting to me. (In fact, with the exception of the fingerless glove, I didn't even keep any of the things I knitted. I gave them all away.) This really crystalized for me with the gloves--knitting the first glove was FUN, but the prospect of knitting the second? Deadly boring.
Since then, I've noticed this tendency in myself in quite a lot of areas.* And it IS fun to try to figure out how to feed this need/potential.
*It's also why I am loving Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, which I am currently reading. He turns the whole process of writing a screenplay into one giant puzzle.