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What holds people down? What blocks their growth? What chains them to unproductive behavior? What keeps them from finding their purpose in life and from using the talents God has given them? Answering these questions for yourself and helping others answer them is at the center of leadership. I don’t claim to have the answers, but I would like to explore the questions a bit with you in this post.

That is one of the topics about which I’m passionate. I hate to see so much wasted potential in others and in myself. Reflecting on this the other day, I wrote down a list of what I belief are five factors that keep people from developing their true potential: inhibitors, oppressors, saboteurs, and deceivers. Let’s take a look at these and, please, if you have any to add, speak up. I am truly fascinated by seeing leadership as a function of helping people overcome the forces that put them down and lead them to a life that is less than it could have been.

  1. Inhibitors would be the external circumstances that tend to keep us from fulfilling our potential. I was thinking here of external, physical world, circumstances, things like being born into poverty or with a physical handicap.
  2. Oppressors refer to the injustices pressed upon people by others. I was thinking here of things like racism, authoritarianism, and certain kinds of egalitarian social theories that discourage the individual from rising above the masses.
  3. Saboteurs are internal forces that weaken our own potential—even when it is encouraged by external and social circumstances! We all know people who were the most likely to succeed in their class but who crashed and burned anyway.
  4. Deceivers are attitudes that cause us to think we’re something we are not. Just watch the beginning weeks of American Idol and you’ll see plenty examples of this.

I’ve always struggled with taking too much of an analytic approach to problems so I now want to turn to some solutions. Let’s face it—it’s easy to sit around a table and take apart a problem with painstaking precision. And it feels like we’re being oh so clever. But to rise up and design solutions is a lot more of a challenge.

There is some benefit to categorizing these types of potential-killers. But the real benefit would be to begin a campaign of fierce opposition to them. I’m talking about taking a proactive strategy of attack. How about taking the following oath with me and sharing it with an accountability partner? Start today to sprout, grow, take root, and spread your branches to the sky!

My Vow to Become Fully Me

  • I begin today to change what I can in my circumstances to better fit who I am and where I want to go. As a good friend reminded me recently, some things you can’t change and it’s not worth worrying about them. But others you CAN change and you should.
  • I begin today denying my oppressors the right to suppress my creative possibilities. I refuse to fit myself into anyone’s preconceived mold unless it be that which God has prepared for me.
  • Today, I take affirmative steps to build my inner strengths. I feed my soul so that it can overcome my own self-defeatism.
  • Finally, today, I gather around me a few people who will be honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses. As the writer of Proverbs put it: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (27:6).

So there is my list of steps to take against my potential crushers. I’m sure you have more you could share. Please take a moment and let the readers of this blog know about them in a comment below.


Lead photo by author.

Portrait of Dr. Waddell

Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.