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6 reasons why you’re not reaching your full potential

How can you convert your potential into greatness, or, at the least, into skills and experience that are enjoyable to use and marketable in an employment or entrepreneurial sense?

In my experience, there are too few people who reach the end of their career and life and think they have squeezed almost everything they could from their allotted time. Instead, for most people, there is almost always a nagging feeling that their talents went underdeveloped and that they could have achieved much more.

So what is stopping you from fulfilling your potential and leaving a legacy? Here are six potential reasons why you are missing the mark and how to turn it around:

1. Failing to take total ownership for your own success 

“Time Waits for No One” poignantly sung by the Rolling Stones, who have definitely and brilliantly fulfilled their potential, and unfortunately the older you get, the faster time goes, rapidly dissolving your potential in the process.

Drifting is the danger sign, so you need to take total ownership of this process from adolescence – or from now – and be switched on to the fact that every second counts to make your mark.

It is your responsibility alone – don’t wait for luck or someone else to turn it around for you. And you can blame your adverse circumstances all you like, but you have to somehow turn them into positives as you turn your potential into gold.

2. Not understanding why having clarity around your life and career goals is so important 

Everyone has potential and you convert your potential into skills and experience, and potentially more potential, on the basis of setting the right goals and then making them happen.

Two people starting out together with the same potential could relatively quickly have very different potential profiles.

One is a drifter with no goals or the wrong goals and without the drive to make them happen anyway. Soon, they have converted their potential into zero marketable skills or experience.

In contrast, their companion has used their drive and ambition to set and achieve the right goals and, in so doing, has converted their potential not only into valuable and marketable skills and experience, but even more potential because “the market” perceives they can be even more successful in their future conversion. That’s very much like a price earnings ratio on the stock market – the employment market factors in your future greatness!

Being very clear about what your goals are and how you can achieve them builds your self-efficacy – a steely self-belief that you can determine the outcome you want. In this case, setting the right goals and achieving them.

Similarly, while there are some big moments, there are no shortcuts to success. For the most part, successful conversion of your potential comes from having the right habits in place to make a small but conscious contribution every day.

Think of it like putting a grain of sand in a jam jar each day. You don’t notice the contribution today or tomorrow but you will in three months’ time when your jam jar is half full of sand.

3. You doubt your own ability to fulfill the goals you have set 

Setting the right goals isn’t enough. If you don’t have enough self-belief in your ability to make them happen, then you will likely fail to complete your goals or convert your potential.

There are many and varied reasons for doubting your own ability that quickly become mental obstacles in your own mind that limit your current success and potential for future success.

Timothy Gallwey, in his book “The Inner Game of Work”, describes the equation P=p-i , or Performance = potential – interference.

In other words, your performance is equal to what you are capable of when you remove interference, which can be real obstacles or, just as likely, mental obstacles of your own making.

You need to work on removing these obstacles and building up your confidence, quite possibly initially through completing small goals and then over time as you increase your competence, working and completing larger, more complex goals and situations.

4. You have too many excuses for not getting started 

When you don’t take conscious and total ownership for your own success, it is easy to find an excuse for not getting started or for quitting or believing that failure is acceptable.

“I’ll start tomorrow”, the flag bearer for procrastination, can be the biggest obstacle to overcome. Sometimes you may be waiting for the perfect time to start because you don’t feel completely ready now or you believe the circumstances or conditions aren’t conducive (which they never will be).

The best way to fight this procrastination is to create a plan and the resolve to start creating some momentum today by successfully completing some small goals. Then move on tomorrow to tackling some slightly harder goals.

Alternatively, you can just be too comfortable where you are and nicely settled in a rut. Why take a chance when everything feels risk-free and in your control? There is potentially nothing wrong with this strategy in the short term, but in the longer term you will inevitably feel that you haven’t pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone.

5. You put your energy into achieving the wrong goals 

Sometimes you will become passionate and intensely focused on a cause, which may not be a strategic goal, or you become absorbed with being busy and completing the day-to-day stuff. This consumes time but may not be converting your potential into marketable or desirable skills and experience.

Your focus here should be to always prioritise being productive on high-value goals, not just busy on low-value activities.

6. You don’t mix with enough high achievers 

If you spend time with people who routinely convert their potential profitably because they have qualities such as drive, ambition, desire and ability to adapt and learn as well as being talented and hardworking, then this will inevitably impact on you in a positive way. You will automatically raise your game as you are motivated by other people to help you build your self-belief, set higher goals, create a stronger work ethos and positive outlook and take on bigger risks.

Of course, the reverse is true also. If no one around you is striving to reach their potential, why should you?

Mix with high achievers to convert your potential and achieve a worthwhile life and career.

In summary, the above reasons for not converting your ability make perfect sense, but it comes down to you and how much you want to make your mark. You need to be mentally tough enough to have the resolve to develop routines and habits that enable you to achieve something worthwhile every day.

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“Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain