Defy expectations and make the most of your talents

Defy expectations and make the most of your talents - Network She

Have you ever had a moment when you used your talents and had a keen sense of what you are capable of? An insight into your true potential? Maybe you surprised yourself when working on a new business idea and the people around you were amazed by what you were able to achieve!


I remember an early experience of such a moment when I was at secondary school. I was landed with a major part in the school play just one day before it was due to be performed to the entire school. A cast member had to pull out unexpectedly and I was asked to take her place. I didn’t know the lines and had the additional challenge of singing a solo. I not only smashed it, I also thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


My teachers were totally amazed that someone, generally perceived to be shy and quiet, could pull this off. Another example happened years later, when I came from behind to win a karaoke competition at a work event.


Different people said the exact same thing after such events; “I had no idea you had it in you!”


This left me wondering: why hadn’t others seen this side of me before? Reality is perception based and is grounded in social interaction. When judging others, we ask ourselves if they fit our version of normality, do they speak, act, dress and behave as we think they should? We make a split-second decision and categorise them accordingly. Our version of ourselves becomes a mix of who we think we are and who others think we are. The result of this can be that we limit what we put out to the world.


Changing perception

To have any chance at changing this perception and tapping into our inner potential we need two things: opportunity and bravery.


The first, opportunity, comes from an external source. By their very nature opportunities present themselves unexpectantly. We may, therefore, be caught on the hop or feel unprepared to take them on. The moment to seize the opportunity could pass us by leaving us with feelings of that we didn’t have the gumption to take the plunge.


The big obstacle most people face when deciding whether to take up an opportunity is self-doubt. So how can you overcome this and allow your true potential to come to the fore? The solution lies in garnering inner strength so that you do bite the bullet and go for it. This is the second ingredient in the equation.


To this end it is worth remembering that our feelings can trace a pattern during the precious moments Whitney Houston sang so beautifully about in the song One Moment in Time.  You may recall the words:


Give me one moment in time

When I’m more than I thought I could be

When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away

And the answers are all up to me


When an opportunity comes to your attention hope and enthusiasm will be the first feelings you have. Self-doubt, however, is never far behind. It can act like a poison ivy, stifling any courage that begins to surface. It may help to compare these feelings to fledgling birds. They muster the strength to take off for their first flight only to dip sharply when they do. However, they quickly learn to glide and then begin to soar. What’s needed during these times is to hold your nerve until you are through this self-doubting stage.


Next steps to help you to tap into your potential

The following steps may help prevent us from shying away from opportunities and to bravely take on new challenges.


  • Visualise a successful outcome. Think of the benefits that this event or project will lead to. How will your self-perception change? How will your self-image improve as a result?
  • Be brave enough to give the opportunity a go. You are bound to learn something even if it doesn’t turn out quite as planned. You’ll feel better for trying, and others will admire you for your courage.
  • Keep a notebook of how you are feeling during the initial period of a new experience. You’ll notice the pattern described above; the emergence of self-doubt and unease, gradually giving way to a more familiar experience.
  • Look to someone you admire in business or in a favourite hobby or sport. What possible struggles might they have had? If they’ve written a biography, read it. Learn from how they overcame challenges.
  • Learn from yourself. Build on any positive experiences you have had in the past, no matter how small. Write down how you mastered those tasks, any struggles you had in the process and how you overcame them.
  • If the challenge ahead feels enormous, break it down into smaller chunks and work on them, step by step.
  • Start small. For example, volunteering at a local event such a charity fundraiser. This can help garner inner strength in a low-risk environment where you’ll get support and encouragement. You will feel your confidence grow.


Once you are through the turbulent waters of self-doubt you will become more accustomed to your endeavour. You’ll be able to build up your platform of experience and really harness the power of your inner strength. This is where your true abilities can begin to thrive, and your fears will diminish rapidly.


Always be open to opportunities, and be ready to shine. Keep this in mind the next time you notice yourself hesitating before taking action that could lead you along the path to greater things, whether these are in your business, career, hobbies or elsewhere in your life.




Aine O’Neill is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs.

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