How to Invest in Yourself to Achieve Your Greatest Potential – Part 2: Take Ownership of Your Own Journey

It is my belief that achieving your greatest potential and living your dreams is something that must be owned and directed by you. This means taking responsibility for our own lives and for creating the outcomes that we care about. In this article I will discuss this concept using examples from my own experience and interesting theories from others that I feel have a lot to offer this subject.

Empower yourself to take ownership of your own journey

At one point in my journey, I was looking for an entry-level role in the field of learning and development (L&D) to take me towards my vision as it was at that time, basically thinking that once I had secured such a role, I would have to work hard of course, but that my journey and career development would essentially take care of itself, and one day in the future I would have my perfect job. I’ve learned a lot of lessons since then.

One of these lessons was realising that if I truly wanted to achieve my dreams, I would need to take complete ownership of my own development and my own journey. Once I learned this lesson, my thinking changed from simply thinking about how I was going to get my next job and hoping that everything would work out the way I wanted it to, and I started to look at the end goal and to create a plan to get there that would be based on proactively developing the specific knowledge, skills and experience I would need in order to qualify for the type of job I was ultimately working towards.

For example, I started exploring and undertaking a number of different voluntary projects that were specific to my career path. These projects were all incredibly enjoyable, interesting and worthwhile experiences and they allowed me to further develop myself in my chosen field which was just fantastic. This allowed me to get much closer to my goal, and to realising my ultimate potential.

Focus on what you can control

I am a big believer in focusing on things that I can control. Of course there are factors at play that we cannot control when working towards our goals. However, since they are, by definition, things that we cannot control, I prefer not to dwell on them and to focus my attention and efforts on things that are within my control.

At a slightly further along point in my career journey, I eventually reached a point where I was applying for entry-level roles and I was not being successful, which I learned was not because I lacked the sector-specific knowledge or skills, but because my administration skills (such as minute taking) were not the strongest. I realised that at this level, the recruiters were not really recruiting for a L&D professional as such, but for an admin person who happened to be supporting an L&D function. I then asked myself, at what level will they be recruiting for an L&D professional and what is stopping me from being qualified for these roles?

This led me to identify two key areas for development – my admin skills (which underpin the L&D profession) and my L&D specific knowledge and skills. With this in mind, I stopped applying only for entry-level L&D roles and I widened my job search to all high-level admin roles. Once I found such a role, I researched L&D qualifications and decided on the CIPD Level 3 Certificate in Learning and Development Practice. Both of these projects allowed me to develop myself to the next level in my career journey.

Nurture your intrinsic motivation

In order to take ownership of your own journey, I feel it is important to learn to love the process itself, and to focus on developing the individual talents that you have to offer the world, above all else, i.e. above networking or keeping track of what your competitors are doing. I have studied some of the people at the top of diverse fields and seen this common pattern. For example, Andrey Malanichev, one of the strongest powerlifters in the world, describes his training process as involving a number of factors such as secluding himself from the outside world, ignoring what other athletes (his competitors) are doing and working to beat his own world records. He says that if an athlete is not focused on becoming the best version of himself, he is doing something wrong and there is no need for him to do powerlifting professionally.

Similarly, when Jimi Hendrix was asked in an interview what type of compliment he likes to hear about his music, he replied “I don’t really live on compliments; as a matter of fact they have a way of distracting me.” He then discussed how musicians can be told how great they are at what they do, and how that can distract them and cause them to stop focusing on developing the actual talents that they have, to the detriment of their skills. You can see this trend again and again looking at different individuals who have reached the top of their field. Konstantin Konstantinovs, whose 426kg dead lift is the heaviest weight ever lifted from the ground by someone with their bare hands, stated that his goal was simply to get stronger, because of passion. Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors in the world, gives away many of his profits and invests as an end in itself, because that is his passion.

The people who achieve the greatest results in any endeavor are intrinsically motivated by passion or purpose etc that comes from within. They work to improve their talents and results as an end in itself, because of passion and because it’s who they are. So, I would say that in order to achieve your ultimate potential, after determining your individual purpose/vision/direction, it is important to empower yourself to take ownership of your own individual journey, by focusing on what you can control and nurturing your intrinsic motivation. If there’s something that you want to do in life and are unsure if you are capable of it, there will be factors that are out with your control and of course the future is always uncertain. But, it will of course also only happen if you take ownership of your journey and focus on what you can control. Ultimately, there’s only one way to find out.