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:
YOU’RE CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROBLEM. YOUR VIEW OF HER IS JUST AS LIMITING AS HER OWN VIEW OF HERSELF.
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:
WRITE A JOURNAL ENTRY DATED IN THE FUTURE ABOUT WHAT HER LIFE IS LIKE AFTER HAVING MADE POSITIVE CHANGES.
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.
HOW YOU SEE OTHERS CAN CHANGE THEIR LIFE.
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.
AND THEY TREATED ME LIKE I HAD ALREADY BECOME THAT PERSON.
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!
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.