How to See The Potential in Other People


It seemed like every decision I saw her make was wrong.

  • She couldn’t hold a job for very long, so she sponged off friends and family for a place to stay.
  • She spent a few years doing drugs and never quite finished a basic education.
  • If she had money, it was never for long and always spent on the most frivolous unnecessary purchases.

I could give a laundry list of her poor choices in the last few years.

A friend asked me the other day, “How is Shannon doing?”

I sighed. The typically frustrated sigh of a family member who is tired and saddened by the choices of someone they love.

“She’s stuck. Her life is stuck. Nothing she does ever brings her out of her patterns.”

I went on to detail the latest poor choices in Shannon’s life, but as I drove home I had a guilty and sick feeling in my stomach. I wouldn’t necessarily classify my conversation as “gossip”, though I figured that was the reason I was feeling bad about my words. It wasn’t until later that the truth of the matter really surfaced:


It was a startling realization. The very idea that my own limiting belief about her could actually be influencing Shannon’s life. Every limiting and judgmental word I spoke or thought in my mind contributed to the negative energy that already surrounded her daily existence.

“I don’t want to do that anymore.” I admitted. “I’d much rather be a positive influence. But how do I learn to sincerely SEE something better, when the present is anything but positive?”

I spent the next few days journaling my thoughts on the matter when an idea arose that changed everything:


And so I did. And my world changed.

“…Shannon is doing amazing. I am so happy to see the empowerment that has come into her life. She loves her new job and is making valuable friendships, acquiring new skills and everyone gets a delightful taste of her humor. It’s so exciting to see how she has come into her own. Working has given her confidence in herself and she is using her natural gifts and talents that for years went unnoticed, but now are flourishing. People love to be around her because she makes them laugh and brightens the mundane routine of life. Best of all, I am so happy to see how her view of herself has changed. She knows who she is and what she is capable of. She is courageous. She knows what it means to fight temptation and win. She is using her past experiences to help other people get back on the right path in their own lives. She is a hero to me and I admire her triumph. I am blessed to know her and have her in my life…”

I wrote several pages, moved by the vision I was creating.

It was a vivid description. A picture that was so detailed in every part of her life that I saw it clearly. The exercise did more than make me feel better about her, it made me see her differently and love her differently. Truly. I saw her potential in the most marvelous way–so powerful in fact, that I could feel it and most importantly I deeply believed it.

I’ve been taught my whole life to “see others the way God see’s them.” The concept is important. But knowing how to do it has always been much harder for me, not to mention, vague. Never before have I had such a clear picture of both what it looked and felt like.


Among the most influential people in my life, all of them have something in common:

They saw my potential.
They believed in me.
They saw what I could do and become, even when I couldn’t.

One such person was my college Music Professor. Every week I would leave my private music lesson with him feeling like I could change the world. Weekly, he expressed to me what he saw in me and described the impact I would have on others with my work. Even though I couldn’t see those qualities in myself, I leaned on his faith. I trusted him because I knew he loved me. As such, I began to work and act like the person he described.

Our ability to see the potential in others can change their life. Literally.

It’s human nature to see the flaws. To define a person’s choices as who they are. When it is a family member, our child, spouse, parent, or close friend, it is more important than ever that we truly get a clear picture of the potential they carry inside because our interactions with them are so powerful.

People know when we don’t believe in them.
And just as powerfully, they know when we do.


What helps you see the potential in others? Please share!

bwselfie Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle Photographer and Abundant Living Practitioner. She delights in dining outdoors, cycling through Utah canyons, and spending leisure time with her husband and adventurous 3 year old son.

29 Responses

  1. Thank you for taking the time to help others. I love it when I leave a blog feeling inspired. You continuously provide inspiration for me and so many others. You have such a gift with words. Thank you again.

  2. Thank you for this, dear Brooke. 🙂 Loved it. NEEDED it. You’ve been an inspiration to me for as long as I’ve known you. Thank you–for being YOU!

  3. Your post made me think that this type of exercise would be a good one to do on ourselves also. It would be beneficial,in particular, for those of us who ‘act’ like Shannons or ‘feel’ like Shannons. For those who are too hard on themselves, those who feel they have nothing to contribute or are too afraid to try. Those who judge themselves harshly, feel ashamed of themselves or are clouded by guilt; all of us who have yet to learn how to love ourselves. When we begin to see our potential, hope and belief emerge. When we hold on to these, we start seeing the truth of who we are and can be, and can begin the journey toward our best selves.It is at this point that, as we choose to see others as we see ourselves, our vision is open to their potential also….
    I, too, am grateful for people like you who are amazing, and take the time to share and inspire others. I don’t think I have ever left your blog without being uplifted or edified in some way either. And, often times, I have shed a tear or two. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

    1. Oh my! Tiziana! This is exactly why I LOVE LOVE LOVE it when people comment! Great ideas suddenly become brilliant ideas when everyone adds their own insight and perspective. I love your idea of doing this for yourself! It is so true that too often we are harsh judges of ourselves, and if we had any idea of our own perspective it would probably amaze us 😉 Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. This is a great post Brooke. Thank you so much. I need to do this. Making the process of seeing others’ potential so personal and realistic really makes a difference. Thanks again. Your post brought tears to my eyes as I thought about people that did that for me in my life… and also when I thought of how much better I could be doing that for others.

  5. Hi Brooke,

    I just wanted to stop by and say your post is beautiful, it will make us stop and think and revisit how we see those around us and think twice about how we think of them. It’s positive and refreshing, thank you.

  6. What a wonderful thing to be reminded of. My husband and I try to do this with our 3 boys. I can remember times when I was so frustrated with our middle strong willed child and I would make myself visualize the man I knew he could be. He is now 14 and amazes us every day with his accomplishments and perseverance. Focusing on the positive can be challenging at times, but always pays off in the long run.
    I like your idea of writing down the vision we have for that person. Thanks for this post-truly inspiring!

  7. Hi Brooke, I am a friend of your Mom’s. I am glad you send out emails because I would otherwise forget to check your blog. You have a gift to inspire others, which is at least partially due to your courage to be a real person–i.e. to say that you are scared to send out those emails! I LOVE this post, and will most definitely be using it to strengthen some very important relationships. This was so needed in my life. Thank you for being courageous!

    1. Lovely Katie 🙂 I have heard wonderful things about you from my mom 🙂 Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! It makes me less scared to send out the emails especially knowing that you LIKE to receive them! ha ha!! You’re the best!

  8. What a wonderful post. So encouraging for me right now. I totally believe that we speak life and death, because that is what the Bible teaches us. I have never thought about writing out a beautiful future fir someone struggling. What a marvelous plan – I will do it!

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  9. You are such an inspiring person. Not only are you a great example but you are able to put words to thoughts and feeling. You are able to see the teaching moments-the hand of The Lord in your life guiding you. Thank you for sharing, you are helping inspire so many.

  10. What helps? You. You help. You have helped to remind me of the potential of loved ones all around me. Your thoughts and lovely quotes are … graceful. Thank you for reminding me to face fear, to see the good in myself and in others, to welcome grace and to look forward.

  11. What a beautiful post Brooke and what a fabulous idea. Your music teacher was right about you, thanks so much for your courage, for going with your flow, you write so beautifully. I’m not in a happy place right now and your posts are exactly what I need, they are uplifting and inspiring! P.S. I love your new black and white profile image, your gorgeous thing you! Hugs ♥

    1. Moira! Thanks so much for your kind words 🙂 I hope life moves towards a brighter place for you soon! Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers 🙂 You’re fabulous!

  12. Such a powerful tool, Brooke! I do this often with my own life, but haven’t applied it to those whose lives mirror Shannon’s.

    A thousand thank you’s for sharing!!!!!

  13. Brooke! You are such a bright, warm light inspiring the world! I absolutely love this new season and direction your teaching is going! It’s big picture, it’s wonderfully refreshing, and so motivating. If photography is really all about light, than it has to start inside of us and you are a master at helping others to understand that! You have such a gift for teaching and inspiring others and I’m so grateful to have you for a friend and mentor! Thank you, thank you!!

  14. Brooke, I was overwhelmed by the insights in your post. I, like, Tiziania feel it applies to self as well as others. Now, I am doubting my abilities and skills to deal with everyday aspects of my current life. I so look forward to applying some of your suggestions to myself! Thank you for writing the post despite your fears! Thank you, Brooke Snow!

    1. Dearest Thelma! My heart goes out to you with all that you’ve experienced recently. You are amazing and have so many marvelous things ahead of you and a wonderful legacy that has already paved in the past. Thank you for your example.

  15. Thank you for a life-changing post. I have been praying to be filled with the love of God for some wandering souls in my own life and this answered my prayers about how to begin. I wrote a future journal entry and found my burden immediately lifted. This is an amazing exercise that I will use again and again. I can’t say thank you enough.

    You are welcome in my inbox any time. I always feel uplifted after reading what you are inspired to write.

    1. Barbara! What a delight to hear this! I’m humbled and grateful that this post was helpful for you. Even more so, I think it is incredibly amazing that you’ve done it for yourself and had a burden lifted. Thank you so much for sharing your own experience!

  16. You are amazing! I actually cried while reading this post and thought about how I haven’t been that support system for a lot of important people in my life. I will be printing this and posting it on my fridge to remind myself every day to try to focus on on the potential in someone instead of on the poor choices they may have made in the past (myself included).

    1. Such important things to remember, isn’t it Sara? I need the reminder too! I should print it and post in on the fridge as well 🙂 Great idea!

  17. Thank YOU for seeing that potential in me and making me realize that it was in my potential to change the lives of others. I quit my teaching (last day was Tuesday) to pursue my business full time and I’ll never forget the push you gave me to effect change in the pregnancy loss community. So grateful for you and what an inspiration you are. xo.

    1. You are doing amazing things Beryl 🙂 So glad that you are following your own unique path helping others!! Congrats on going full time! That is HUGE!!!! I’m thrilled for you!

  18. I’ve been doing something similar lately. Whenever I feel myself judging someone, I know that I am looking down on him/her, trying futilely to raise myself up. So when I feel those judgmental thoughts coming on, I consciously try to “raise up” that person–have a positive thought about him/her, see the silver lining. In the end, I like both of us much better!

  19. You have no idea how relevant this blog post is in my life right now. I have been struggling with a very painful situation involving my daughter and am struggling with how to conceal my negative emotions about some of the choices she is making in her life right now. This blog is such a revelation to me and I am going to start immediately writing down my thoughts and beliefs about who I know she is and who I hope she becomes. I will pray that God can send His loving acceptance through me and that she will start to feel less negativity from me. Thank you for doing the hard work for us and sharing your wisdom and insights. You are a gift.

    1. Oh I love to hear this Lisa! Thank you for sharing your own experience. I hope you’ll be able to apply this exercise to your daughter as well! I know that I’ll need to do this exercise over and over again for many people (and sometimes the same ones 😉 for the rest of my life. I”m glad to have stumbled upon something that helps me so much and am glad others can benefit as well!

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