Are you living up to your true potential? That’s a question that is frequently asked but seldom answered in the affirmative. Potential is difficult to measure but easy to squander.
The truth is that most people don’t ever reach their full potential. They miss out because they get sidetracked by unhealthy habits or they fail to take the simple actions that could mean the difference between embracing their potential and letting it fall by the wayside.
It doesn’t have to be that way. By making just a few changes in your life – both in terms of your daily routine and the way you approach challenges – you can remove the roadblocks that keep you from doing your best.
Don’t let Your Brain Stagnate
Let’s face it. Human beings are creatures of habit. We have a tendency to figure out the path of least resistance and then stay on it for the rest of our lives. We do that with our work, and we also do it with our thoughts.
The human brain has a remarkable ability to reshape itself based on what we do, see, and learn. Instead of letting your brain get stuck, do what you can to challenge it. Every time you seek out a new experience or make an effort to learn something you didn’t know before, you encourage your brain to stretch to accommodate this new knowledge.
It’s a phenomenon that neurologists call neuroplasticity, and it can make a huge difference in terms of your personal growth. Whether you enroll in a class, learn a new hobby, or simply vary your routine to keep things interesting, you should be giving your brain the opportunity to grow every day.
Let Go of Stress
You probably already know that stress can kill you – but did you know that it can also put the kibosh on your potential? It’s true. Stress is one of those things that can affect every aspect of your life: your physical health, your mental health, and your success.
If you’re constantly experiencing stress, it can hijack your brain, making it impossible for you to think logically or accomplish difficult tasks. There are several ways to minimize stress. The first is to eat a healthy diet. Eating lots of processed food puts your body in a state of physical stress. The specific culprit? Stress-induced inflammation. On the other hand, eating nutritious food boosts your immune system, improves your mental acuity, and helps foster a sense of balance and serenity.
The second key is to get plenty of rest. A lack of sleep can have a significant negative impact on your ability to accomplish the things that are important to you. Finally, you can keep stress in check by practicing mindfulness and meditating, both of which can help you let go of anxiety and stay focused on the present moment.
Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes
It’s perfectly natural to view life through the prism of your personal situation and experiences. However, this is also a good way to ensure that your perspective is limited along with your potential. The truly great thinkers out there—the people who soar to the height of their potential—are those who have the ability to take in the big picture and incorporate that into their goals.
The next time you’re facing a difficult problem, make the deliberate choice to take a step back and look at the issue in a new way. You might try adopting a particular persona or simply doing some research to educate yourself about how someone else might view the matter at hand. Either way, you’ll open yourself up to new ways of thinking – and the possibility of a creative solution that you might not have conceptualized without a new perspective.
Be Grateful for What You Have
There are very few of us who don’t want more than we have – and there’s an argument to be made that if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have the drive necessary to achieve our goals. It’s important to acknowledge, though, that there is a downside to focusing all of your attention on wanting and getting more.
It boils down to this: if you never take time to feel and express gratitude for the good things in your life, you’ll be approaching everything with an air of dissatisfaction. That’s not a great way to maximize your potential because it keeps you in a negative mindset. If you take a few minutes every day to be grateful for what is already good in your life, you’ll banish negative thoughts and focus on achieving your goals.
Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Actions
When something goes wrong in your life, do you look for ways to cast blame on someone else? If you do, you’re throttling your potential by refusing to stand up and accept accountability for what you do. The truth is that we’d all like to think we’re perfect, but none of us are. If you fail to acknowledge your imperfections, you’ll never have a chance to improve.
The next time something doesn’t go your way, take a mental step back and examine the ways your decisions and behavior led to a negative outcome. Think about how you can hold yourself accountable going forward and then do it. Not only will you give your self-esteem a boost, but you’ll also increase your standing as a team member and a leader.
Only a very strong and capable person is able to resist laying the blame for a failure at someone else’s feet.
Seek Feedback—and Accept It with Grace
Nobody likes to be criticized, and yet the ability to accept criticism is essential if you want to reach your potential. No matter how much we might want to be able to go it alone, we all need outside help at some point. Constructive criticism is essential to growth regardless of what field you’re in.
One of the keys to learning how to accept feedback gracefully is to keep quiet immediately after receiving it. It’s completely normal to feel defensive when somebody tells you your work needs improvement, but it’s counterproductive to swat away criticism before you’ve had a chance to think about it. Instead, limit yourself to thanking the person who provided the feedback. Give yourself as much time as you need to process it, then go back with questions or comments if you need to.
This method gives you the time you need to move past any initial hurt you may have felt and think about how you can use the feedback you received to your advantage.
Let Go of Perfectionism
Sometimes, ambitious people put a great deal of pressure on themselves to achieve perfection. If that sounds familiar, it’s time to let go of the idea that perfection is attainable and embrace the idea of doing the best you can no matter how difficult it is.
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, you can end up getting stuck in a rut if you insist on—as the saying goes—making the perfect the enemy of the good. You have the potential to achieve great things in your life, but if you get caught up in trying to achieve the unachievable, you’ll never get anywhere.
The only thing you can control in life is what you do. If you push yourself to do your personal best, you can be sure at the end of the day that you’ve done everything you can. The feeling of accomplishment this engenders can, in turn, help you unlock your potential as you gain new confidence in your abilities – even if you do fall short of perfection.
Learn From Your Mistakes
In many ways, this last point is the summation of everything that preceded it. We are all human and fallible, and we all make mistakes. No mistake is made in vain if we use it as an opportunity to learn something – and grow from the experience. That might sound like a cliché, but most clichés have some truth in them. This one certainly does.
We are all the sum of our mistakes. We make bad choices, trust the wrong people, miss deadlines, and let ourselves down. There’s simply no way to avoid it. What you can control – the only thing you can control – is what you do with those mistakes after they occur.
If you dismiss them as anomalies and don’t take the time to look at everything that led to the errors you made, you’ll be putting yourself at risk of repeating them in the future. Only by embracing your mistakes as teaching tools to help you unlock your potential can you then turn them into the skills you use to make yourself into a success.
Your potential is enormous, so why limit it by putting up roadblocks? You can control your ability to unlock the potential inside of you, but only if you make a real effort to stop the behavior that prevents you from achieving your highest goals—and give yourself permission to soar.