Perhaps you had a teacher when you were young who saw something in you and nurtured it. Maybe it was your business mentor, or the manager at your first job — we all owe a lot to the people who believed in us along the way. At some point, however, we have to learn to take on that challenging, supportive ourselves, for ourselves. While you should never stop looking up to the people who inspire you, the most successful people know that they must take their development and improvement into their own hands and learn how to maximize their own potential.
Make a Conscious Choice To Pursue Growth
Next time you see an opportunity, any opportunity — leading a meeting, designing a new project, taking on new responsibilities or expanding into a new market — but you aren’t sure whether it fits in your skill set, take it. That little moment of discomfort when you are faced with something new and uncertain is the opportunity for growth knocking. You may find something new that you excel at or love, but even if you don’t you are certain to walk away with a new skill. Push yourself constantly and consider it your job to be constantly learning and improving. The key to real growth is simple: Always say yes first and learn how later.
Here’s the catch: when I say you must pursue growth, I don’t just mean climbing up the corporate ladder and securing ever more prestigious titles and accolades. If the only thing you are reaching for it the title for it’s own sake, you are missing the point — and you’ll have a hard time getting there.
After all, “Am I reaching my potential?” is not the same thing as “Am I rising to the top?” Asking yourself one of these questions will lead to a lot more enjoyment in your work, and a lot more success as well. Focus on improving your own abilities and not only reaching but expanding your own potential, and the titles and prestige will fall into place. Focus on your hustle, and the world will notice.
Set Your Own Goals
You should never be without healthy goals, and I don’t just mean the daily to-do list that gets you bogged down in the trenches. Keep a meaningful list of both short and long term goals, and never let the list get too short! Remember, you should always be pushing yourself further; there is no such thing as reaching all of your goals and being finished.
Now that you’ve set goals, it’s time to hold yourself to them. There’s no one watching over your shoulder to hand out report cards, so it’s up to you to set your own benchmarks and decide how you will measure success. Set aside time to honestly evaluate yourself, your progress, and your growth. Are you on track? Did you set your sights too low, or too high? How can you reevaluate and reposition yourself for success? Schedule this time the way you would a meeting and hold yourself accountable for showing up, because it’s just as important, if not more. Remember, the only person you’re short-changing when you slack off here is yourself.
Any successful businessman is constantly self-evaluating, but you also need to be aware that you are always at risk for becoming entrenched in your own viewpoint. Break out and get a fresh perspective by asking for honest feedback from those around you. How well you support and work with your colleagues is, after all, one of the most important measures of performance — it’s hard be truly successful when you are a metaphorical island.
Tempting as it is, don’t just focus on the positive reviews, and don’t only go to your boss for his opinions. Ask your subordinates, and make it clear you’ll respect what they have to say. To get any real feedback, however, you’ll have to be careful to approach your colleagues with humility and an open mind. Really listen to what they have to say, and thank them for their honesty. Create an environment where constructive feedback is welcomed and nurtured. Then go home and figure out how you can do better.
You should never stop striving for more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a moment to look around and congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come. It’s easy to lose track of exactly how much you’ve accomplished, and you deserve credit for all your hard work. Take the time to recognize yourself and enjoy your success in whatever way you find most fulfilling. Then smile, and get back to work.