~ Deepak Chopra
I was invited to spend the day with a group of manufacturing managers. "We want something in the area of professional development," my host, who extended the invitation, told me. "If it can also be uplifting-you know, pick up their spirits-that would be especially helpful, because this group is overworked and feels overwhelmed and unappreciated most of the time."
This vague request was both satisfying and frustrating; satisfying because the client, who I have worked with previously, trusted my judgment, but frustrating because his description provided little direction. One thing seemed to be clear, though: this group was not in a good place physically or emotionally ("overworked and unappreciated"), and they expected me to "pick up their spirits."
After a few days of thought and still no sense of what to do, I found myself reading over an email before hitting the send bottom, and my sentence jumped out at me: Awakening, Inspiring and Empowering Human Potential.
Yes. That was it. I would develop a program using my sentence.
I wake up most mornings to this thought: What opportunity will present itself to me today in which I can awaken, inspire and empower human potential? The answers don't always pop into my head, and there are days when I find it difficult to awaken, inspire and empower my own potential, yet it is amazing how just keeping that thought present allows opportunities to present themselves. In these instances I find a way for my sentence to move from my head to my heart to concrete action.
Working with these manufacturing managers, I found myself facing a new opportunity to put my sentence to work. Now all I had to do was deliver.
I started by telling the group about how I came up with the idea for the presentation. I shared my sentence and explained how it has impacted me since I crafted it five years ago. Then I asked the participants to partner up and provided each with an agenda. On it, a quote by Jane Wagner: "A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?"
I asked everyone to respond, and it was unanimous-no one believed they were living up to their full potential. They all felt lost or thwarted in their ability to do so. Unsurprisingly, they identified the primary potential-blocking culprits as stress and a lack of direction or purpose.
Fortunately I was prepared. Not because I have great predictive powers, but because I seen and heard the same response over and over, and I understand the extent to which stress and the absence of purpose entomb potential. These two "potential killers" block individuals and organizations from experiencing the rewards and benefits of their return on potential (ROP).
The four batteries of potential energy
We need energy to find and unlock our potential. And our four batteries-our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being need to be at or near full capacity for us to live up to our potential. If even one dips below capacity, it drains energy away from the other three, and that stress is a disease that ultimately drains all four.
I talked with the managers in depth about how to maintain your physical energy through exercise, nutrition, sleep, and setting aside time every day for mindful and reflective activity. We practiced a progressive muscle relaxation exercise for five minutes, which helped everyone let go of the tension they were holding in their body and regain a sense of balance and relaxation. I also introduced the Seven Rituals of Renewal, which if practiced daily will help keep all four batteries charged.
Next we explored our emotional battery. I asked them to identify what feelings or emotions they experienced going to work, during the day, and driving home at the end of the day. The list ranged from "anger" to "zoned out," all of which were unproductive in creating and maintaining the energy one needs to access one's potential. The emotions they were experiencing made them feel so drained of energy they were questioning if they could even find their potential.
One key learning was that most of the group had fallen into an emotional rut, meaning they had accepted their unhappiness and forgotten that we choose our feelings the same way we choose which shoes to put on in the morning. This realization alone was an awakening that stirred their interest and opened the door to emotional empowerment.
What about that sentence?
How can a sentence keep our batteries charged and lead us to our potential? Daniel Pink has a wonderful short video I shared with the group called "What Is My Sentence?" The video highlights the ways in which one sentence can focus our energy and provide the motivation we need to live up to our potential.
The video and discussion afterward awakened their interest and curiosity, and now they needed some inspiration. I decided to show them the DeWitt Jones film Celebrate What's Right With the World.
In it, Dewitt uses the sentence "Celebrate what's right with the world" to show us that no matter how bleak things may appear, if we are willing to open ourselves up to the possibilities, we can always find something to celebrate. Through his photography he demonstrates how our mindsets can make all the difference between an average photo and a great photo. The key is remaining open to the possibilities.
I could see everyone engaging with his words and photography. I could feel they were becoming inspired-inspired to discover and live up to their full potential, and to put effort into accepting that there was much more to celebrate that what they were experiencing at work. After the film I shared a story that ran in my local newspaper. To me it demonstrated the power one sentence has in helping a person live up to his or her potential.
Our local AHA hockey team, the Providence Bruins, is in the playoffs against the Hersey Bears. One of the players had a dream during a pre-game nap. The dream was about hockey, but then a sentence appeared: Be the better bear.
The player wrote it on the locker room bulletin board and the team immediately took it to heart. The Bruins were in a must win situation needing to win the next two games or be eliminated. Every member of the team used "Be a better bear" to be the better hockey player. They won both games and moved on to the next round of the playoffs.
When asked about his dream and the sentence, the player responded, "It means when you line up against your opponent, you have to take it upon yourself to be a better hockey player."
The Bruins may not win the championship, but they are living up to potential they didn't realize they had and celebrating victories they didn't think they would experience.
As the day came to an end, I asked, "How many of you were awakened, inspired and empowered to live up to your potential today?" The answer was a hearty applause. I have since received emails from individuals in the group sharing their sentence-and I have my own sentence to thank for that.