Why Past Potential Always Outshines Future Performance

how to pick someone based on potentialThe biggest challenge for those looking for a marriage partner, or looking to hire long-term employees, is projecting and evaluating one’s future potential. How can you predict on how they’ll act, look, respond, or perform, at some point down the road.

When hiring someone, does the job description involve determining how well they’ll fulfill the immediate task at hand, or how well they can exceed expectations.

It’s also a well known fact that post education institutions will usually select students, for admittance, based on who they feel has the most potential to excel. One criteria for qualification is based on assumed potential.

Those who are in the initial stages of dating will decide whether to either engage in a long-term relationship, or cut bait. This is based on their belief and instinct on how they perceive that they’ll interact as a successful couple in the future, and how that person has potential, and is marriage material.

What Are The Measurements Of Potential
So what then are the indicators that we use when it comes to making a decision regarding one’s future performance? How is it that you can gauge or measure one’s potential.

When it comes down to it, there are 2 criteria when judging one’s future. The first being the persons past performance and behavior. Someone who’s previously demonstrated the ability to perform at a certain level in the past, may then most likely be able to continue to perform well in the future.

The second is the measurement of an individual’s potential for future success, this even though that person hasn’t achieved any greatness yet. They do however show “rough” yet positive signs of being on the cusp of becoming great for achieving.


So What’s The Better Indicator
So what then is the better indicator when it comes to judging one’s future. You may think that previous performance would be the better signal than future potential.

This because since someone has already demonstrated and displayed their ability to do something well, they should also be able to project that into their future performance as well.

There are however documented situations where during the selection process, those who are in the position to choose, will actually give more credence to “potential performance” of an individual, rather than relying on actual past performance.

There was one test which was based on advertising performance. An ad was placed to promote a stand up comedy act. Different variations of the ad were created.

Some of the ads were focused on the actual performance of the comedian, such as, “Critics think he may be the next big thing.” The other ads were focused more on potential performance, “Critics are predicting he is the next big thing.”

The ads which people clicked on more was those on potential performance, rather than on previous performance. Other studies had the same effect when it came to job candidates, romantic partners, or athletes. Most chose potential over past performance.

Potential Over Performance
The reason for this may be because experts suggest that anything regarding potential will usually stir up more emotion regarding uncertainty, than does statements regarding actual performance.

The uncertainty that’s created generally leads individuals to think more about the options that are available to them, which gets them more involved.

One way this is demonstrated is by the increased involvement which manipulates whether the decision makers get regarding one’s potential, or what their actual performance is. Another factor is whether how the information supports the performance of the person that’s being evaluated.

A Test In Potential
A study on this was based on several letters of recommendation for entrance to Universities for a prospective graduate student. The student was either described as having excellent potential for future success, or already had previous success in their past academic ventures.


After the statement regarding actual success was used, the letter continued to describe what the student had already achieved. This description was either extremely impressive, or not really that impressive at all.

When the student was described to have excellent potential, people then paid a lot more attention towards their actual accomplishments, than when the student was just described as already having achieved great things.

What This Information Provides
So the next time someone is sitting across from you, and you’re required to evaluate them for the future, know that the information regarding potential will always instinctively lead you to pay more attention during the evaluation, than the information that’s provided by their actual past performance.

So attempt to counteract this natural tendency by exploring what they have already done. In the majority of situations, a person’s past achievements can be used as an excellent predicting tool of how they’ll most likely able to Perform in the future.


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