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Akanna Okeke: Awareness, Ability & Choices! 3 Factors That Influence Reaching Your Capacity

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At the weekend, I attended a leadership conference.  The main speaker was the leadership guru himself, John C. Maxwell.

While talking about one of his new books, No Limits, he mentioned something that caught my attention very quickly, and kept me listening to him, attentively, throughout his first talk.

He started by quoting the statistics that says that, on average, we only reach 18% of our capacity throughout our lifetime.  This means that we leave a whole lot on the table before we die.  It’s like short-changing the world by not delivering all you were sent here to deliver.

It’s not like we don’t want to reach our potential or capacity.  Only a few people intentionally do not want to. But for the majority of us, that’s all we dream about and wish for.  We wonder why we can’t be like Leonardo da Vinci, for example; a man who, in my opinion, died empty.  Just watching documentaries about him blows my mind.  It makes me wonder why I’m not delivering on all my talents to my full capacity.

John says there are 3 reasons why.  I haven’t mastered these 3 words in my life yet.  These 3 words, when understood and mastered, will help us reach our capacity.  They are: Awareness, Ability and Choices.

He says when we grow our awareness, develop our ability and make our own choices; we begin on a path to reaching our capacity.

Let’s break it down.

“Are we aware of what limits us in life?  The answer is NO.”  I was shocked when he said this, but I think it’s true.  Actually, it is other people that have to bring awareness to you.  They see your ‘bind spots’, and if they are good people, they will bring those blind spots to your attention.

This means we have to surround ourselves with good people.  People who can see what we are good at –that we don’t see ourselves –and make us aware of those strengths.  If you have people around you that keep on criticizing you, telling you about what you are not good at, then that’s not helping you.  You need people who will equip you to do more than you are currently doing, not those who will discourage you.

Now, we shouldn’t leave all the work of raising our awareness to other people.  We have our own part to play.  Experience is NOT the best teacher; evaluated experience is.  We have to evaluate every one of our experiences at the end of each day and ask ourselves: “What did I love? And what did I learn?”

This helps us to become reflective and, in turn, raise our awareness of our capacity, limits and opportunities.

Now once your awareness is raised, you will begin to identify what you’re good at –your abilities, your strengths, your talents.  The next step is to begin to work on them. Focus on your strengths.

One big reason we don’t reach our full capacity is because we focus on our weaknesses, we work on them, we try to fix them, we go for counseling.  “Counseling focuses on weaknesses, equipping focuses on strengths.”  So instead of getting a counselor, get a coach, get a mentor!  Don’t get someone who will hold hands with you, light a fire and sing kumbaya!  Get someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth, to call you out and to push you!

When you focus on your weaknesses like trying to be someone else or even working a job you are not cut out for, you will waste a whole lot of time before you get fairly decent.  It will look like a lot of hard work, but we know that working hard has very little to do with success –working smart does!  Working in the right areas (on our strengths, not our weaknesses) will give us a very high ROI – a good return on our investment.

Now, John did not explain this point (I guess he wants me to get his book).  But I think I know a little bit about choices.  The choices we make, make us.  Life is nothing but an accumulation of choices.  We are where we are today because of the choices we make.  Even if we choose not to make a choice, that’s already a choice being made!

So how do choices tie into reaching our capacity?  Well, it starts from choosing our association.  Who do you listen to? We should judge people by their fruits, because by their fruits you shall know them!

When you are about to do something (great) for the first time, please don’t ask someone who hasn’t done anything (great) with their lives before, just because they are close to you and they love you.  They will only give you advice according to their fruits –according to what they’ve done.

Someone has literally asked me what I thought about them doing a PhD, like I’ve done one before.  These are the mistakes we make in our lives.  We want to start a business and we ask an employee what they think.  We have problems with our girlfriends and we call up our single male friends to complain to them and seek advice.

We have to choose whom we allow to speak into our lives.  When we allow the right people, they will help us reach our capacity by pointing out our hidden strengths to us.  Then, we have to again choose to build on those strengths –to actually do something with it and get past the feel-good moment when your friends tell you how ‘good’ you are.

Reaching our capacity is not easy –that’s why we only reach 18%, I guess.  But it is simple.  It takes simple steps.  The hard part is choosing to take those steps –choices!  But we must, if we want to reach it.  We just have to figure out a way to choose the association of people in our lives first; because these are the loudest voices in our lives. And we listen to the loudest voices by default.

They become our input.  They feed us with their ideas and opinions about what they think we should do.  And then those become our thoughts.  We begin to think on the things they say.  Next thing, they become our words.  We begin to repeat those things even in our own speech.  We begin to say what our friends say because we now think like them.  Then they become actions, because of course we will begin to do what we say.  And there slides in habits –repeated patterns that soon become our character.  And once it gets to this stage of forming our character, it sure becomes our destiny –our output.

So, 3 things determine whether we reach our capacity or not. Awareness, Ability and Choices.  But I believe that the most powerful of them all are the choices we make and, like all powerful things, they are the ones that are a hundred percent within our control.

So I chose to share my takeaway from an amazing conference with the hope that it will have a powerful effect on the way you make your own choices going forward.    Have a splendid rest of the week, and here’s to growing your awareness, developing your abilities and making the right choices; to reach your capacity!

Photo Credit: Ocusfocus |

Akanna is an avid reader, writer, Risk Analyst and a budding Social Entrepreneur. He’s passionate about personal development, and influencing others to succeed!

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