Reaching your highest potential and helping others reach theirs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Each of us has the capacity to reach our highest potential, whatever we define that to be, in the field or endeavor of our choosing. But we can't do that by just hoping or wishing. There are five key "to dos" for ourselves. But just as important, there are five key "to dos" for others. I've learned these by watching others fail and succeed, by reading and conducting presentations, by my own process of trial and error and through experience.

Five "To Dos" for Ourselves

The first "to do" is to realize attitude matters. A positive attitude sets a dynamic environment, and a negative attitude establishes a non-productive tone. By displaying interest, enthusiasm, gratefulness, commitment and professionalism in all we do, we set the right tone. We also need to realize that we are in control of our attitudes, thoughts, beliefs and values. Furthermore, we are responsible for our reactions and responses to situations, people and events.

The second is to know our priorities by knowing what matters to us. We need to determine if we are spending enough time with our families, loved ones and friends, and making lasting memories. Similarly, we need to learn what our boss and organization's priorities are in order to establish professional priorities.

The third is to turn obstacles into opportunities. No one is perfect, and we all have our flaws. Although it will take persistence and perseverance, we need to turn negatives into positives, failures into successes and obstacles into opportunities. I believe that "behind every cloud is a silver lining" and "everything happens for a reason." It is up to each of us to find the silver and the reason.

The forth is to be our best. Not the best but our best. We should strive to be the "go to guy or gal." We can be better, more professional, more proficient, more positive, more enthusiastic and more energetic than we were before. As author John Maxwell puts it, "Be better today than yesterday ... be better tomorrow than today."

The fifth is to work on personal development. We should think about our vision and our purpose, and create our personal goal setting action plan. We can and should make our road map all encompassing to include our personal desires, professional and career goals, educational and academic pursuits, financial aspirations, and spiritual needs. We shouldn't be afraid to be unique, and we should harmonize them with our family's plans.

Five "To Dos" for Others

The first "to do" for others is to request feedback from our supervisors, peers and subordinates. In the end it will make us a better followers, peers and leaders. We need to accept the feedback gracefully and graciously and act upon it swiftly.

The second is to learn how to lead, delegate and follow. We can take courses, classes and seminars, and we should take them seriously. Another good way is to watch and observe others' leadership and follower styles.

The third is to be a person and team player whom people want to be around. We should be professional, trusting, respectful, honest and kind. We need to communicate and collaborate well with others.

The forth is to see the potential in others and help develop them. We ought to capitalize on people's strengths and reward their initiatives. A great way is to mentor and assist others by helping them develop their goals, setting plans and road maps. Author John Maxwell put it nicely, "Put completing others ahead of competing with others."

The fifth is to treat all people with respect ... always. We're pretty good at praising in public. But when necessary, we should critique in private and ensure that communication is constructive and respectful. We need to treat others the way in which we deserve and like to be treated.

What Sets the Most Successful People Apart

When combined, some of these key "to dos" create a synergistic success effect that set the most successful people apart from all the rest: display a positive attitude, develop goals and take action, overcome obstacles by persevering and persisting with a passion even through the toughest of times, and most importantly, help others do the same. The greatest gift we can give someone else is to help them reach their highest potential.