Of the 15 competencies of the emotional intelligence assessment, self-actualization is paramount to unlocking your fullest potential. Many leaders that I coach score medium to low in the category of self-improvement. Below are the most common failings that derail leaders.
- Resisting new ideas
- Lacking in interpersonal skills
- Do not show enthusiasm
- Either are lacking in a clear vision or fail to communicate the vision
- Do not see the value in development for their organization
- Do not collaborate well
- Have different expectations for themselves than for others
- Repeat mistakes because they do not learn from their mistakes
- Are not star performers setting the bar high enough
- Often have poor judgment
All of these shortcomings can be remedied through self-development. If you identified with one or more of the above, then you have an opportunity to move into your fullest potential by having this self-awareness. Let’s first consider the definition of self-actualization.
The online dictionary defines self-actualization as:
The achievement of one’s full potential through, creativity, independence, spontaneity, having a grasp of the real world and the process of establishing oneself as a whole person, and able to develop one’s abilities and to understand oneself.
In this definition, developing one’s abilities is the core to unlocking one’s fullest potential. Yet, what is the resistance to cultivating a posture of self-actualization? Throughout my career and research, I have found two core reasons. Developing oneself requires mental effort and when we use mental effort it drains one’s energy.
Basically, we are lazy. We don’t like to have to think. We enjoy staying in cognitive ease. Cognitive ease is also known as Fast Thinking, a term coined by Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Repetition induces cognitive ease and as a result, a comforting feeling of familiarity. For example, when we learned how to tie our shoes, it required mental effort to remember all the steps and execute them properly. Over time, through repetition, we could tie our shoes without having to think about the procedure. We have become so familiar with this process, we can now hold a conversation or think about our “to do” list and not give any attention to the task at hand.
The downside to cognitive ease or fast thinking is that, as Kahneman points out in his book, we cannot turn fast thinking off. Here’s what happens:
- We operate automatically
- Errors are often difficult to prevent
- Biases cannot always be avoided
- There is an excessive confidence in what we believe we know
- We are influenced by our biases
- There are unconscious processes going on which explain our judgments
- Associative memory is the core of our fast thinking
Overcoming cognitive ease is the challenge. Ask yourself, “What is required to embark upon new challenges and step into developing areas that are not your strengths?” We tend to develop in areas that support our strengths and ignore our limitations. Malcolm Gladwell identified two types of learning in his book, “David and Goliath,” that address this issue. There is capitalization learning where we continue to focus on building upon the strengths that come to us naturally and there is compensation learning where we have to focus on and look at what needs development by admitting our limitations.
To shift from developing upon your strengths and turn the dial to compensation learning requires a certain attitude. You need an attitude that you have nothing to lose by embarking upon developing areas that are weak and limit your fullest potential. Adopting the attitude that you have nothing to lose is freeing as you step into a mindset of being open to learn new skills and/or a willingness to try new endeavors. In this freedom, you have moved out of your comfort zone. In this new realm, you need to nurture certain characteristics. These are:
- Having patience with yourself
- Developing organizational skills
- Being open to learning from your mistakes
- Having confidence in yourself
- Being realistic in the goals you set
- Working hard to attain measurable achievements
- Staying inspired even during setbacks
Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses is the first step. The next step it to focus on what you can improve and spend time daily on working toward your goal. Overcoming barriers to learning is a new skill in itself, and a challenge for some. Learning new skills can broaden your opportunities and empower you and move you further along in your career. Once you have grown in a new area, your self-esteem will increase. It is up to you to take the leap into unlocking your fullest potential. Having an executive coach can propel your momentum through their insights of your limitations and patterns of behavior that stump your progress. Most important to remember, only you can stall your career by playing it safe. And remember, Success Starts With You.
Send me an email to take the EQi – 2.0 assessment to learn what areas you can develop. If you found value in this article, please share your comments and insights.