Nurture the Seed of Potential
Metaphorically speaking we all come into life with the seed of something significant within us. This seed of honest potential, if it gets enough light, nutrients and nurture allows us to grow tall, put down roots and become what we really ought to be. If the seed doesn’t get the right balance of light, nutrients and nurture it fails to thrive. We don’t grow straight, true and vigorous in the way we ought to have done. We don’t put down the substantial roots.
It doesn’t take much – strong parental views perhaps, both positive and negative (I knew someone who was told he should get a career standing outside a post office with his tongue out – so people could dampen their postage stamps on it prior to posting their letters*); over-protection or neglect; critical comments from significant adults or our siblings; having our natural talents dismissed in favour of other people’s career preferences maybe - to conspire to stunt this growth. We may have illnesses or critical events in play that throw us off course. I had two significant childhood illnesses – one that nearly killed me (or so I was told) and one that was recurring and painful over a number of years. All sorts of things can pull the rug out from under our feet.
We can be led away from our innate talents and abilities in one fell swoop (a parent telling us we are useless) or over a long period of time (when a chronic illness or pain saps the will to live). Sometimes it’s a combination of events and influences that conspire to set us off on the wrong foot. In truth an awful lot of the worst criticism and misinformation often comes from people who would regard themselves as truly well meaning and with our best interests at heart. So we trust, we conform, or we fall into the path of least resistance. Or all of the above.
The trouble is, the faulty beliefs that are generated this way are what we become used to and our easy familiarity with them is hard to give up. This, after all, is the self we have become in order to survive. In my work as a coach I often work with people who are struggling with the growing tension created by the knowledge that their real potential has not been fully realised, and a growing realisation that the script they have been following was never really of their own making. They have been surviving with a version of themselves that is a far cry from their innate potential - had it been allowed to evolve freely.
No wonder then that as we mature and our self knowledge increases, we may feel a tugging towards something new and indefinable – a yearning for change. A strong frustration that things are not right – or indeed have never felt right. This existential disarray bubbling under the surface plays havoc with our sense of purpose, sense of direction and inner confidence to boot.
The sense of disarray feeds our behaviour:
- Not standing up for yourself because you’ve been conditioned to rank other people’s priorities and opinions above your own.
- Becoming perfectionist – always on the lookout for the right answer, the right arrangement, and the right response from others. Other’s standards and behaviour constantly fall short of your expectations.
- Rejecting compliments, or worse still, reading them as direct criticism.
- Constantly putting things off. Nothing seems to fit or feel right, so nothing gets done.
- Inability to allow yourself to take credit for your talents and achievements, instead thinking you will be found out, or that you are somehow fraudulent.
- Struggling to get out into the stretch zone as a result of being told that things are beyond your capacity.
You develop a mental filter conditioned by past experience, that conditions the brain to look out for familiar signs and act accordingly. If you are used to conflict you will find conflict. If you are used to criticism, you will find criticism in what others say to you. What does not change is the seed of honest potential. It’s still there.
The good news - these things can be worked with and resolved.
That’s your quest – find what’s at the core of you, tease it out, give it the nutrients it needs. Find the seed. Nurture the seed.
*He (my father) left home, went to sea at 16, and rose through the ranks to become a master mariner.
Best wishes - Pete
This video clip is from a full-length talk I delivered at the Happy Startup Summercamp. If you run, or aspire to run, a business that's driven by purpose rather than profit, check out The Happy Startup School.