Demystifying Coach Language: What the heck is “Human Potential”?


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The coaching world is filled with “Coach Language”. These often cringy, jargony words and phrases include things like “breakthrough your limiting beliefs” and “foster an abundance mindset”, but what do they actually mean?

In this blog post, I’m sharing what it means when you hear someone talking about helping you to “unlock your human potential”.

Demystifying Coach Language - What is Human Potential

The Human Potential Movement

Human Potential is not just eye-roll-worthy Coach Language, and it is not a new concept.

The Human Potential Movement began in the 1960s with its roots in existentialism and humanism. It is often linked to humanistic psychology and was strongly influenced by Abraham Maslow’s theory that it’s our desire for self-actualization that ultimately motivates all our actions.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), was an American psychologist considered to be the father of human potential and self-actualization research. He further theorized that all humans have innate needs that we must meet in order to reach self-actualization.

Human Potential and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

He placed these needs in a hierarchy (shown above), showing that in order to achieve self-actualization we must first take care of our basic survival needs, then we need to feel safe, connected, and supported before we can begin to reach our full potential, or “Human Potential”.

Coach Language: So what is Human Potential?

In his book, Motivation and Personality, Maslow says, “What a [person] can be, [they] must be.” He believed that the drive for self-actualization motivates all of our needs. We’re driven for self-actualization, so we get our basic physiological needs met, we make sure we are safe, we make connections, and we find support.

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy this way can lead to the idea that reaching our potential is some far-off distant goal. Like we have to have a purpose and that purpose will give us the drive we need to meet all our needs. As a result, we often think of it as a destination that we can arrive at, which is false and problematic.

With everything going on in the world today, many people are working just to meet their basic needs and don’t feel like they have the “luxury” of focusing on reaching their “full potential” – like it’s a selfish concept.

This stems from self-actualization being confused with what we want to DO, often a side effect of our antiquated education systems. However, true self-actualization is NOT what we want to DO, it is what we want to BE.

The truth is that we all have an ideal image of who we want to BE, and in order to live our BEST life we need to live and act in a way that is aligned with that image.

In this sense, Human Potential is the journey of living life as the BEST version of yourself.

How Do You “Unlock” Your Human Potential?

To unlock your full Human Potential, grab a journal and start asking yourself these questions:

⚡ What values do you want to live by?
⚡ What characteristics do you want to put forth in the world?
⚡ How do you want to make people feel when they are around you?
⚡ What do you want to contribute to the world?
⚡ What do want to be remembered for?

Look at your answers and reflect on how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you want to be with them. A life coach is a great resource for helping you do this.

We all know that you can achieve the highest success in your dream career (the ultimate in “DOING”), but if you have not taken the time to think about who you want to BE, you will not have reached your full potential as a human BEING.

.. I know it’s so easy to forget that we’re human beings, NOT doings… but we are.

In Conclusion

There are a lot “coachy” words being tossed around these days. Often this is because coaches have already done the work and understand the value in these concepts. But your average person on the street is just rolling their eyes.

However, these are important concepts for living your BEST life, so demystifying them is important.

Human Potential is just one of these terms. You can see people’s eyes gloss over when you bring it up. However, that is not just because it’s “coach language”. The concept has its roots in the Human Potential Movement of the 60s and it has been misconstrued to be mean “reaching lofty career goals” when it is SO much more than that.

Reaching your full potential isn’t an end goal. You’re a human your whole life. Who do you want to be? Put the work into BEING that person now, and enjoy the journey that is life.

~ SMae

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