Have you ever heard the expression, “He had so much potential, it's a shame he squandered it?” Not living up to your full potential is frowned upon in our culture, but why?
In this article, we will look at the factors that influence a person's potential as well as strategies for helping you live up to your full potential for a successful life.
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What Factors Influence a Person's Potential?
Several factors influence a person's potential: physical security, emotional security, environment, and mindset.
Our basic physical needs must be met before we can even attempt to reach our full potential. Without adequate food, water, and shelter, we must spend our days acquiring these basic necessities in order to survive.
Consider this: the person who has the potential to become the most brilliant computer programmer in history may be living right now with a nomadic tribe in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, because they must spend their days attending to their basic physical needs, that potential will go untapped.
Humans are social animals who do not thrive in isolation. According to studies, forming intimate bonds with others is extremely important for our mental health. These bonds begin to form in infancy; babies rely on this bond with a parent or caregiver to meet their needs, and if the bond is broken for any reason, it can have long-term psychological consequences.
Another important factor that influences how you reach your full potential is your environment.
In the same way that the computer programmer in the previous example. You could have the potential to be the greatest composer since Beethoven, but if you didn't have access to music or grew up in a family that didn't value that skill set, it's unlikely that you'd reach your full potential.
Most of us do not have to worry about not having enough food, water, or shelter. Our physical and emotional needs have both been met (to a large extent anyway). And any constraints imposed by our environment are minor (especially with the availability of the internet).
So, for the majority of us, the main thing preventing us from reaching our full potential is our mindset. Our mindset is the story that we carry around in our heads. It begins to form in childhood and can last our entire lives.
Your Mindset Is the Key to Realizing Your Full Potential
The issue with most people's mindsets is that they are negative and limiting. The good news is that you can alter your perspective. In her best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author Carol Dweck distinguishes between two types of mindsets: fixed and growth.
A Stuck Mindset
A fixed mindset is one in which you hold firm beliefs about yourself. Someone with a fixed mindset created “their story” as a child, and it hasn't changed much over time. They may believe they aren't good at public speaking, math, or writing because they struggled in school with those subjects.
When something goes wrong, someone with a fixed mindset may think, “What an idiot, I knew I wasn't any good at that.” Or, “Well, that just confirmed what I already suspected; I won't do that again.” A fixed mindset simply reinforces negative thoughts and attitudes, making it more difficult to reach your full potential.
A Growth Attitude
A growth mindset, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of this. With a growth mindset, you believe that anything is possible (but this is not the same as being delusional!). I'm not going to play in the NBA as a 5'10” 54-year-old!). It's more about how you approach and think about problems.
Let us return to the issue of not being good at public speaking. When things go wrong, instead of telling yourself that you have never been good at public speaking and will never be, tell yourself that you have never been good at public speaking and will never be. A person with a growth mindset will examine what went wrong and devise solutions to make things better the next time.
For example, they could take a public speaking class at their local community college or join the Toastmasters organization. Whatever it is, they do not regard failure as an insurmountable obstacle, but rather as a minor detour on the path to their destination.
More information on how to cultivate a growth mindset can be found in this article: 5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement.
How to Reach Your Full Potential and Achieve Success in Life
1. Create a Goal
When setting goals, three things should be kept in mind:
First and foremost, they must be specific and not ambiguous. So, rather than saying, “I want to live up to my full potential in life,” a more specific goal might be, “I want to become the best (salesman, artist, internet marketer) that I can be.” This is a much more specific objective.
Second, your objective should be measurable. To put it another way, you should be able to track your progress toward the goal. Again, it is far easier to track your progress toward becoming the best artist you can be than it is to track your progress toward living up to your “full potential.”
Finally, a goal must be documented. This elevates the goal from the realm of wishful thinking to the realm of reality. It can also serve as motivation if you post your goal somewhere where you will see it. Put it on your desk or near your computer to remind yourself to keep going. In other words, if a goal isn't written down, it's just a wish.
This article will assist you in setting personal goals in order to become a great achiever: How to Use SMART Goals to Achieve Life Success
2. Recognize that achieving your goal is frequently a byproduct of what you are doing
Assume your ambition is to become the best writer you can be. You might want to gauge your success based on your ability to get published or, in the case of blogging, the number of people who read your articles.
Instead of constantly worrying about reaching your goal of being the best, spend your time simply writing. As with anything, the more you practice, the better you will become.
It's the same with any goal; it's important to set them, but becoming the best salesperson is really just a byproduct of you getting out there and selling!
3. Don't Be Dissuaded by Popular Opinion
Do you know what the Bannister Effect is? For many years, it was thought that the human body was incapable of running a mile in less than four minutes. That was until Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds on May 6, 1954. He accomplished what had long been thought to be impossible, but it turned out that it was only impossible because people thought it was impossible.
Roger Bannister did not let popular opinion stop him, and after proving that the 4 minute mile was only a psychological barrier, others have continued to break records. Hicham El Guerrouj currently holds the record with a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds!
4. Don't Be Afraid to Push the Boundaries
Living up to your full potential almost always necessitates stepping outside of your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries.
Average people do average things, achieve average outcomes, and lead average lives. Extraordinary people accomplish extraordinary feats, achieve extraordinary results, and lead extraordinary lives.
You can only live your best life if you take the first step. This is how it is done.
5. Exercise Discipline
This comes naturally to some people more than others, but it is a skill that you can develop and will benefit you in all aspects of your life.
Another way to look at discipline is as delayed gratification. How many times have you been on a diet only to find a piece of cheesecake calling your name in the refrigerator?
Discipline does not mean not wanting the cheese cake; rather, it means acknowledging your desire for the cheese cake but understanding that this craving is only temporary, and that once it passes, you will be much happier that we did not succumb to a passing whim.
The bottom line is that, while you may want to leave work at 5 p.m. or watch the game on Saturday, developing the discipline to delay satisfaction will push your boundaries and reap the benefits of that extra effort.
6. Have Self-assurance
Have you ever dealt with a new employee who lacked confidence in their abilities? Perhaps it was a salesperson who couldn't answer basic questions about a product or simply gave you incorrect information. Did you end up making a purchase from that salesperson?
My guess is no, and I certainly wouldn't.
Knowledge, discipline, and experience all contribute to confidence. But how do you build confidence when you're just starting out, as our intrepid salesperson was? While experience takes time to gain, knowledge can be gained relatively quickly, especially if you have already mastered the art of self-discipline!
Always begin with knowledge, is a good rule of thumb. Learn as much as you can by taking classes, finding a mentor, or simply conducting research. It will be much easier to gain experience if you are disciplined enough to develop the knowledge.
Do you want more confidence-boosting advice? Take a look at this resource: How to Boost Your Confidence: 10 Effective Ways to Boost Confidence
7. Recognize that you will fail
There is no such thing as a “quick success.” Failure is a natural part of life, and it affects everyone. In fact, there is a school of thought that believes failure is preferable to success: Six Reasons Why It's Okay to Fail
While most of us would agree that success is preferable to failure, here are some things to remember if it does occur:
Please don't take it personally. A job, career, business, or marriage failure is just that. It has nothing to do with you as a person. My friend lost his entire fortune (over $20 million) in a business deal. I called him shortly after, and he was, predictably, depressed. My only piece of advice to him was to:
“Never mistake your self-worth for your net worth.”
Failures can be heartbreaking, humiliating, and demoralizing. Take the time you need to process your emotions and go through your feelings. Then let it go, because holding on to negative emotions keeps you in a fixed mindset. Remember that your ultimate goal here is to reach your full potential and achieve success in life. Dwelling on past failures and mistakes is the surest way to stymie your progress.
Allow failure to be a learning experience. It's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason: it's true! When I first started internet marketing, I used Facebook ads for almost everything. I soon discovered that I was spending around $1,000 on ads that only generated about $200 in revenue; not a very good business model! I used that failure to rethink my marketing strategy. I was able to reduce my costs while also increasing my sales, so that for every $1,000 spent on advertising, I now earn around $5,000.
8. Recognize and Accept Uncomfortable Situations
Living up to your full potential means embracing uncomfortable situations if you want to succeed in life. This technique is used by Chris and Heidi Powell, well-known personal trainers and hosts of the show Extreme Weight Loss, with their clients. It works as follows:
They set a goal for their client that the client believes is just beyond their grasp. Then, through encouragement and motivation, they assist the client in working through the discomfort and pain in order to achieve the goal.
This technique is effective for both physical and psychological difficulties. Our bodies and minds are capable of far more than we believe.
9. Set Small Goals for Big Results
When you first start setting goals, don't be afraid to set big ones! “I want to be the number one salesperson in the company” or “I want to be a successful artist.” However, once you've determined your objectives, you'll need a plan of action to get there. In this action plan, you should set a number of small, easily attainable goals.
For the salesperson, it could be to increase their sales by one per week in the next quarter, two per week in the second quarter, and so on. It could be mastering a technique before the next art show, or producing X number of works to sell at the art show.
Whatever your goals are, they must bring you closer to your ultimate goal while remaining attainable. Because success breeds success, achieving these small goals will motivate you to pursue your larger goals.
10. Set aside some time to recharge your batteries
Everyone requires “down time,” and attempting to do everything yourself at the same time is a recipe for disaster.
In this article, we talked a lot about being motivated and disciplined; while both are important for living up to your full potential and succeeding in life, having enough down time is just as important.
Any personal trainer will tell you that in order to get the most out of your workouts, you should take one or two days off per week. This allows your body to recover and actually grow stronger.
The same is true when we are attempting to push our limits and realize our full potential. Making sure we get enough rest prevents fatigue, anxiety, and poor decision making.
The success you will find by living life to the fullest is its own reward. One day, we will all look back on our lives and say, “I wish I would have done…”, “I had a chance to be a… but I was too afraid,” or “I could have been a great… if I had put in the time.”
I hope that this article has provided you with both the motivation and tools to push yourself to your full potential in life, so that when you look back one day, you will have few regrets.
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