Your past is not your potential

When you look at the plant in this photo, what do you see? Be honest with me. Will this plant someday grace the cover of Gardens Illustrated?

A couple of months ago, I repotted this pothos. I was ecstatic when I finished. I saw its potential, not its reality. When I eagerly showed Kate, she admitted, “It’s not what I was expecting. It looks like Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk is going to slide down it any minute.”

“WHAT?! It’s going to be a beauty,” I replied. Later that day, I looked at our pothos and realized that Kate was right: it’s a sorry-ass plant in a beautiful pot. How did I miss that the first time?

I’ve been reflecting on this conversation recently. I’ve always seen the potential in people… and now apparently in plants. Unfortunately, having potential doesn’t equal results.

When you think about your potential, do you have a vision, a goal that you’ve always wanted to achieve? What if, every time you looked in the mirror, it reflected back all of the things that were possible for you? Does that idea scare you or excite you?

I believe that one of my superpowers is to see the potential in others, even if they can’t see it in themselves. In my coaching, I push people to fulfill their potential. Like growing plants, there are strategies that can help. Here are four ways to grow your potential:

  1. Sunshine: Just like plants need sunlight to grow, our goals need light for us to see our path. Who’s on your team to help light your path? Who’s encouraging you to take the next step? Do you have a coach? Coaches can provide the light to guide us in our journey. Think of these folks as the sunshine to achieving your goals.
  2. Smaller Pots: Speaking of coaches, my coach made an excellent analogy when I shared the story about the plant with her. A small plant doesn’t fill a big pot right away. But, to grow a small plant into a big pot, it helps to have a plan. I have a big vision to grow Right to Shine, but I also need to step back and think about the next seed that I can plant and the next pot that I will need.
  3. Miracle Grow: Regardless of your goal – to get healthy, to start a business, to change careers – you can always use a little fertilizer to speed up the process. Start taking continuous action towards your goal. If you want to get healthy, you can hire a coach, start listening to a health podcast, buy a healthy cookbook, make a weekly “movement” date, keep a journal of your progress, and do a health assessment of your home and work environment. Think about the progress that someone would achieve by taking those actions, compared to the progress that someone would achieve by occasionally working out. Who’s adding fertilizer to their goal?
  4. Patience: From my book Self-Care Hacks, remember that “being patient is as important as working hard.” The plant in our house will take years to fill its pot. We’ll have to care for it and remind ourselves that its roots are growing even though we can’t see them. (For a burst of motivation, listen to Les Brown highlight this point in his talk about the Chinese Bamboo tree.)

As you think about your potential, keep this quote from Marilyn Ferguson in mind: “Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of our goals because of what we have or haven’t achieved in our past. Remind yourself that story is bullshit. At any second, you can create a new tomorrow.