What Are You Doing With Your Potential?

Photo of a hand holding a mound of soil in which a legume plant is growing. There are trees in the blurred background.

The Zone of Potential is one of the five Zones in The Strengths Deck Matrix (which you can download a free copy of from here). It contains the things that make you say “I enjoy this but I’m not great at it”.

People’s first reaction is often “Ah, so this is the stuff I should work hard on to improve my performance!”. And they get a surprise to discover that’s not always the case.

What if what’s here is something that you could enjoy without improving your performance? What if it’s a fun hobby that you pursue simply because it’s pleasurable? And when did we get so hung up on performance as the ultimate value for what we do?

Of course, you might also have some hidden Genius strengths in this Zone, just waiting to be discovered.

So how do you tell which is which? And what should you do once you know?

What is the ‘Zone of Potential’?

Let’s start with the name of the Zone: “Potential”.

Definition 1Definition 2
Dictionary.com defines potential as:
* “possible; as opposed to actual
* capable of being or becoming
* a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.”
In science, “potential” refers to a energy stored up within something that can be released. Examples of potential energy include gravitational (water in a hydroelectric system) and elastic (a spring or rubber band).

Both of these senses are true for this Zone.

Firstly, you may have some hidden Genius strengths in this Zone. One of the signs of a Genius strength is that, not only do you really enjoy using the strength, you learn the skills within it rapidly, and achieve reasonably high Performance in a shorter timeframe than most people. This is the Definition 1 aspect of the Zone.

The Definition 2 aspect of the Zone means that the strengths that lie in this Zone are a source of energy that you can unleash into your life and work. Wellbeing and goal achievement aren’t just about peak performance – they also require that you curate your energy, so that your efforts are sustainable long-term.

How can you use your Potential strengths?

The only way to know if you’ve got a hidden Genius strength in here is to use each strength a bit more frequently, and look for signs of rapid progress. As long as you still continue to enjoy and feel energised by using the strength (that is, your Preference stays high), if your Performance lifts, then that strength is well on its way to your Zone of Genius.

Your Preference might take a bit of a dip as you lean into honing the skill – if it doesn’t bounce back quickly, then try putting the strength aside for a while, and returning to it later. The last thing you want to do is squeeze the joy out of something!

If your Performance doesn’t lift much, and you still enjoy and feel energised by using the strength, then you’ve found yourself a reliable mood-booster that you can use in many different ways. You can reach for it during your downtime to recharge your batteries, or during times of stress to lift your spirits.

And if you get a case of the “blahs”, then using a Potential strength might be the perfect pick-me-up to bring a little joy back to your life. You can also pair it up with a Genius strength, or perhaps even a Reputation strength (which is something you’re good at but don’t enjoy), for an extra dose of energy and enjoyment.

Exhausting yourself is a no-no

I’m not big on rules – after all, following rules is not in my Zone of Genius! So, let’s call this a guideline for using your strengths: if what you’re doing is depleting and exhausting you, it’s not the right strategy. We’re aiming for wellbeing and results to be in harmony.

Pushing yourself relentlessly to try to turn a Potential strength into a Genius strength risks flipping it over to a Reputation strength – something you’re great at, but don’t enjoy.

Slow and steady wins the race on this – create an experiment to use your Potential strength, and observe the results. If you try using the same strength a few different ways and your Performance doesn’t budge, or your Preference for it starts to drop, pause the experiments and turn to a different strength.

Not everything has to be a Genius strength. Instead, focus on what’s already in your Zone of Genius, and look for ways to “sprinkle” your Potential strengths across what you do. You’ll boost your enjoyment of the tasks at hand, which will make your efforts much more sustainable and likely to support and enhance your wellbeing while you create the life and results you’ve been dreaming of.


If you’d like to learn more about your strengths, and what lies in your Zones of Genius, Potential, and elsewhere, drop me a line via the contact form, send me an email, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you’d like to get your hands on The Strengths Deck, you can grab your set here. They come with everything you need to start using them right away. And if you’d like to turbo-charge your strengths, you can book me for 1:1 coaching – set up your free discovery call here.

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