An Uncomfortable Question

Published on May 9, 2015 by

None of us really comes close to the edge of our true potential. We don't even know what our real potential is. In fact, we all have unexpressed potential we don't have a clue about.

True, a few of us seem to have expressed our full potential in certain areas of our life. That’s why we marvel at people like Steve Jobs, Michael Phelps, Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet for achievements in certain areas.

Then there are people we never hear about that are exceptional in certain areas. These are the parents, sons or daughters to their aging parents, friends or community members that stand out for who they are and how they impact others.

They are role models and indicators of what’s possible for the rest of us--in the areas in which they shine.

But how many of us reach exceptional levels even in one area of our lives?

That’s the hard question we don’t want to hear or think about. And yes, you might be the exception to that statement.

For most people, that question is too uncomfortable.

At the same time, almost everyone admits to having hidden and unrealized potential.

But what happens when someone addresses that topic with us?

What happens in the workplace when a manager or leader is challenged that their leadership or that their team can be and do far more than what has been demonstrated?

That's usually when we put up our defenses and go into protection mode. We begin to defend where we’re at and speak to how well we're doing  or to  how much we’ve changed in one area of our life.

We want to be affirmed, congratulated, accepted, respected and admired.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have inherent needs to be accepted, respected and loved.

Here’s the challenge: We have to keep nurturing our sense of self-worth, self-love, self-confidence and self-esteem so we feel accepted, loved, respected and powerful.

The more we nurture these inner qualities the more we are naturally motivated to see how much more we can learn, grow and transform without feeling defensive, rejected or “less than.”

We can’t grow and thrive without being challenged—either by self or others.

However, we can only challenge ourselves to the extent we feel safe enough and strong enough to consider the challenge not as “criticism” but as something that can enable us to keep learning, growing and thriving.

What do you think? Leave a comment or a question for us all to consider. (If you're reading this in your email, click on the title of this post to go to my website where you can leave a comment.)


  1. Beth Staff

    It's a wonderful thing to begin to love and look forward to a challenge, not being controlled by the fear of it: letting it come into the present without dismissing it before we have a chance to try. The practice of self love and nurturing our self worth/esteem is such a simple concept and yet so powerful when put into practice.
    Thanks, Alan.

    • Alan Allard

      I agree with you Beth and I really appreciate you adding to the discussion!

  2. Dana

    "We can't grow and thrive without being challenged- either by self or others." What a great statement this is, and so true! At times it can be difficult to be challenged by others, and defenses may go up, but if we looked at it as an opportunity to grow and thrive, how different would our mindset then be!? Thank you for the reminder to turn challenges, and even criticism to help us unlock our greatest potential!

    • Alan Allard

      Thanks for your comments and insights Dana, I appreciate that.

      I agree fully with you comment/question: "If we looked at it as an opportunity to grow and thrive, how different would our mindset then be!?"

  3. Steve

    My guess is that most people are not living at their full potential, and not aware that they are not nor that they could be. Since it's not on their radar, except for when they watch an inspiring movie, they rarely discuss it, much less ask or challenge others to do it. In other words no one wants to hear or ask the uncomfortable question.

    • Alan Allard

      Steve, you make a good's just not on people's radars. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Michelle Hill

    What an insightful and thought-provoking article Alan! I think it relates to Marianne Williamson's famous quote, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

    I think not being willing to explore or tap into our full potential stems primarily from fear of who we think we'll be if we're powerful. Will it change us? Will we lose sight of who we really are? Will we become cold, unfeeling monsters? As we've previously discussed, power, money, success, and even tribulation, simply reveal more of who we already are.

  5. Alan Allard

    Michelle, I just saw your comments, thanks for sharing your insights. I love that quote by Marianne WIlliamson. You're right that many of us have fears about our talent, strengths and power. That's why self-trust is so important.

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