Have you ever heard of Christmas in July? What about New Year’s in May? I’m guessing you’ve heard of the first, but not the latter. I may or may not have just invented that one. Working on a college campus, this time of year is all about promise, potential, and embracing the possibilities for the future – making it feel a bit like the excitement at New Year’s.

The refrains of Pomp and Circumstance bring tears to eyes as spirits leap and the promise of bright futures are considered. But, you don’t have to be a new graduate to look ahead with optimism and anticipation. As long as you have breath in your lungs, there’s a purpose in your spirit! Why not be inspired by the excitement in the air? On your journey to a brighter future, watch out for these three things that can kill your potential:

  1. A limited definition of success – Be willing to adapt your definition of success based on your chapter in life. Sometimes success is obvious. It’s winning a championship or getting your dream job or promotion. Other times, success is far more subtle. When life is challenging, we need to be free to modify our definition. To a new mom, success could be showering and getting dressed before noon. To someone overwhelmed by their finances success might be opening all of their mail and making a plan on how they will pay their bills. Limiting your definition of success robs you of recognizing key victories that motivate you and propel you to life’s big wins.
  2. The wrong playlist – What are you playing on repeat? The messages you tell yourself will carry more weight than the other voices in your life. Sometimes the messages we tell ourselves are negative words we’ve heard from critical people – a parent, a teacher, a coach, or a peer. In high school I had an English teacher that told me I couldn’t write. If I had listened to her, I wouldn’t be a published author or a speaker. The impact I have had would have been silenced. In life we all meet people who fail to see our potential. Do not be robbed of your vision because someone else lacked the ability to see your worth. Do not let their words live on as an internal whisper that holds you back. Instead, go prove them wrong!
  3. A fear of feedback – Try, learn, grow, and repeat. When we actively seek constructive feedback, we grow. When we ignore the feedback loop, we’re doomed to repeat the next chapter “as-is” without the opportunity to grow and do it better. As an example, one of the hardest things for a new public speaker to do is to record a presentation and watch it back. It can cause the most ambitious novice to recoil. But, it shouldn’t. When we try something new and seek honest, truly honest constructive feedback, we can become better versions of ourselves. Embrace the question “What’s one thing I could do to improve this next time?” Ask it of those you trust and admire, and ask it of yourself. The result will be personal growth.

If you celebrate commencement with friends or family this year, take time to ponder your own journey. What possibilities are you ready to pursue? Use this time of the year as a reset and regain the momentum of New Year’s. Embrace your potential. Try, learn, grow, and repeat! The future looks promising!

If you’ve been encouraged by this post, please share it with your friends. I welcome your feedback, so why not join the conversation. Let me know which one or more of these you might employ to help you reach your potential, or do you have one you can share with me? I’d love to hear from you.