How to Invest in Yourself to Achieve your Greatest Potential - Part 1: Purpose, Vision and Direction

What’s this article about?

In 2019, I had the opportunity to design and deliver a workshop for a qualification I was doing, which was really exciting and also a little frightening, my first facilitated workshop. Over the last 10+ years I’ve learned to invest in myself and my own development and have made a lot of progress towards realising my own potential. I saw this as an opportunity to collate what I’d learned and create something of value for others. I put a lot into the workshop and it went great and was one of the proudest moments of my career so far. This is my first attempt at writing an article on this subject. I’m going to discuss various theories and approaches to investing in yourself and achieving your greatest potential, starting with the topic of purpose, vision and direction, which I feel is the best place to start. I hope this is useful to you.

Follow your individual interests

So how does one discover their purpose, vision or direction? At any stage of life, I feel that the key idea is to start by exploring your own individual interests in the first instance and see where this takes you. Sometimes this can take you to a dead end, in which case you at least have discovered something that is not for you. As the famous Thomas Edison quote goes, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work”. When I finished school I had no idea what I wanted to do but I knew that physics was the subject I found the most interesting at school and so I went to university to continue studying physics there. I hated it and dropped out at the end of the first semester but at least I learned one thing that wasn’t for me.

Often though, exploring and developing your interests will lead you either straight to a place that is right for you, or from one place to another that is a better fit for you. After discovering that studying physics was not for me, I explored other options and eventually found a full-time job making up chemicals in a lab for a very small business in the pharmaceutical industry. I loved this job at first, it let me continue to develop my interest in science. What eventually happened was that with the business being so small, I was invited to meetings where marketing and production strategies were discussed, and through this, I became fascinated by business strategy and decided to leave to study business at university… and at university I discovered personal development which is the area that is perfect for me. So, given my own experiences, I feel very strongly that in order to discover your purpose, vision and direction, starting by exploring your individual interests is key.

Explore and develop your unique, individual qualities

We each have our own individual qualities and areas of strength, and of weakness. I believe it is key to success, as well as a lot more fun, to focus most on identifying and developing strengths, rather than correcting weaknesses. People who achieve great success in any endeavor do so through maximizing a small number of key strengths, not by correcting their weaknesses.

One of the best tools I have benefitted from is “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Wrath. I found the insights into my strengths and how to further develop them very accurate and beneficial. For example, one of my strengths is organising information and one of my suggestions was to invest in furniture that will help me organise my information. Later when I moved into my own home, I turned one room into an ‘office’, with a desk, bookshelf and chest of drawers, all dedicated to my purpose, vision and direction. This has really contributed to my development and the realization of my potential. Of course your strengths and the ideas on further developing them might be very different than mine.

Think about what, specifically, you want

So, I feel that exploring and developing our individual interests and qualities are key to developing our sense of purpose and direction in life. I also think that whilst this can lead to one developing a personal vision naturally, and has to an extent in my life, what also really helped me is conducting exercises for the purpose of thinking about and reflecting on goals and desired outcomes in life. One of the best tools that I have used to this end is the exercise on goal setting in Tony Robbins concise book, ‘Notes From a Friend’. The approach in the book suggests essentially sitting down and reflecting on everything you would like to achieve in life, from your current perspective, writing it all down in succinct and if possible quantifiable items, and subsequently writing out four or so SMART goals to achieve this year, based on the results of your reflective exercise.

This approach has worked very well for me. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, ‘Total Recall’, he mentions that he sets goals in a similar fashion, setting concrete goals each New Year’s Day. At one point he also mentions being unsure about his future direction and saying that he was not worried about this because he believed that his vision would crystalize, “in its own good time”, and explaining that he works towards his vision with the use of his concrete, annually set goals. I think this is an excellent philosophy and approach. I personally took this idea very much to heart. I would describe discovering your vision as looking up at the peak of a mountain, which being so far away, is covered in mist and cannot be seen as clearly as what is right in front of us. In order to move towards it, on a basis of maybe once a year, I ‘look up at the peak’, visualize it as clearly as I can and then decide on concrete goals/plans to take me towards it. After achieving these goals, I then recalibrate and create my new strategy.

Long-term vision OR short-term focus

There are many other ways to go about this stuff. To give you two more examples which I see as being at either side of a scale (though not mutually exclusive), on the one hand, in ‘Tools of Titans’ by Tim Ferris, the former gymnastics coach Christopher Sommer discusses essentially defining the long-term goal(s) that matter most to you and then simply working towards them without setting any short-term goals. The ethos is – “Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process… the secret is to show up, do the work, and go home… A blue-collar work ethic married to indomitable will. It is literally that simple. Nothing interferes. Nothing can sway you from your purpose… accept that quality long-term results require quality long-term focus. No emotion. No drama. No beating yourself up over small bumps in the road. Learn to enjoy and appreciate the process.”

Conversely, the peerless Jimi Hendrix once said, “My goal is to be one with the music. I just dedicate my whole life to this art”. This approach is one of, having chosen your purpose, direction, profession, or calling etc., basically dedicating yourself to the process of mastery in that area, without necessarily nurturing a vision, and seeing where that takes you. As you can see there are many ways to go about this. I would encourage you to reflect, experiment and discover for yourself what resonates the most with you, and what is ultimately optimal for helping you to invest in yourself to achieve your greatest potential.

I hope this helps someone, feel free to let me know what you think and/or ask any questions you might have.