Do you ever feel you have so much potential inside you that you can’t sit still?

As an executive coach and consultant, I see this in many of my clients. They come to coaching sessions with possibility boiling up inside of them, but are unable to express it because they’re constantly playing catch-up at work or spending time doing damage control.

The heart of the matter is that they’re not making their highest and best contribution. Once they have realized this and shifted their focus of engagement to make this possible, the results are remarkable. The key to realizing your full potential is becoming aware that there are things you can do better than anyone else. There are contributions that only you can make, by virtue of your unique combination of talents, skills, interests and relationships with others. These are your highest and best contributions.  Clients often begin defining their highest and best contribution as a  function of their role or position, for example as a marketing director or a CEO, overlooking the fact that these kinds of contributions are as transitory and changing as the roles themselves.

A much more powerful way of identifying your highest and best contribution is to look for something that is uniquely yours, and is independent of your position in an organization or in society as a whole.

This contribution will be one that you can always make, regardless of your position or situation in life.

Contributing at your highest level is incredibly important for achieving breakthrough effectiveness, defined as the ability to achieve high-quality results within an optimal timeframe. Often, effectiveness is simply reduced to speed, but if we favor quick yet shoddy results, we actually reduce our effectiveness. Quality is a key factor in how effective we are, with our best outcomes made possible by simply focusing on contributing enthusiastically at the best of our capacity.

It’s important to make the distinction between what you can do well, or even what you can do better than others, and your highest and best contribution. The difference lies in fulfillment. When we’re passionate about our contributions, our curiosity and creativity are engaged at entirely new levels. When we apply this level of engagement to our unique abilities, we have a potent combination that leads to amazing results.

As an example, a friend of mine excels at her job, which is writing press releases. It is second nature for her and she could write them in her sleep. Even though she has this amazing ability, this work doesn’t provide her with any joy. After long consideration, she discovered that what gives her the most fulfillment is discovering the optimal intersection of customer need, company capacity and communication forums to create outrageously great marketing strategies. Thus, while writing press releases may be valued by her current company, it isn’t the highest and best contribution she could be making to the organization.

What are her choices?

  • She could just keep writing press releases and make a contribution that’s good enough for others, but clearly not her highest and best.
  • She could build the capacity of the organization by training someone who really wants to write press releases. This would allow her to  focus on strategy and contributing at her highest and best.
  • If a strategic role isn’t available within her current organization, she could change organizations or become a marketing strategy consultant. This way she would be contributing at her highest and best while also extending her reach.

Sometimes contributing at your highest and best requires a structural realignment with an employer, partner, or even family member. The point is to achieve genuine effectiveness within your lifetime by applying your unique abilities in the best way possible. Being truly remarkable is the foundation of your legacy. It is the gift that you give to yourself and to the world you engage with.