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Last Updated on September 12, 2019

How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

Have you ever heard the phrase “He had so much potential, it’s a shame he wasted it.” In our culture, not living up to your full potential is frowned upon, but why?

In this article, we will look into the factors that influence a person’s potential and the ways to help you live up to your full potential for a successful life.

What Determines a Person’s Potential?

A person’s potential is determined by several factors: Physical Security, Emotional Security, Environment and Mindset.

Physical Security

Before we can even strive to fulfill our potential, our basic physical needs must be met. Without adequate food, water and shelter, our days must be spent acquiring these basic needs in order to survive.

You can think of it this way, the person with the potential to become the most brilliant computer programmer ever could be living right now with a nomadic tribe in sub-Saharan Africa. But because they must spend their days meeting these basic physical needs, that potential will remain untapped.

Emotional Security

Humans are social animals, we don’t do well in isolation. Studies have shown that forming intimate bonds with others is incredibly important for our mental health. These bonds start to develop in infancy, babies rely on this bond with a parent or caretaker to fulfill their needs, and if the bond is missing for some reason it can have lifelong psychological consequences.

Environment

Your environment is another important factor that shapes how you achieve your full potential.

Just like the computer programmer in the previous example. You could have the potential to be the greatest composer since Beethoven, but if you had no access to music or you came from a family that didn’t value that skill set, it’s unlikely that you would fulfill your potential in that area.

Mindset

For most of us, we don’t have to worry about getting enough food, water or shelter. Both our physical and emotional needs have been met (to a large extent anyway). And any limits that our environment has imposed are minimal (especially with the availability of the internet).

So for most of us, the main thing that is limiting us from reaching our full potential is our mindset. Our mindset is the story we carry around with us in our head. It starts to develop in childhood and can be with us our entire life.

The Key to Reaching Your Full Potential: Your Mindset

The problem with most people’s mindset is that it’s negative and limiting. The good news is that you can change your mindset. Author Carol Dweck in her best selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success points out that there are two types of mindsets: fixed and growth.

A Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is one where you have concrete beliefs about yourself. Someone with a fixed mindset came up with “their story” in childhood and it hasn’t changes much over the years. They may believe that they aren’t good at public speaking, math or writing just because they struggled with those subjects in school.

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So when something goes wrong, a common thought for someone with a fixed mindset is “What an idiot, I knew I wasn’t any good at that.” Or “Well that just confirmed what I already knew, I won’t be doing that again”. Having a fixed mindset just reinforces negative thoughts and attitudes, making it harder to reach your full potential.

A Growth Mindset

A growth mindset, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. With a growth mindset, you believe anything is possible (but don’t confuse this with being delusional! As a 5’10” 54 year old I’m not going to play in the NBA!). It’s more of the way you think about and approach problems.

Let’s go back 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 never will be. A person with a growth mindset will analyze what went wrong and come up with solutions to make it better next time.

For instance, they may take a class on public speaking at their local community college, or join the Toastmaster’s organization. Whatever it is, they don’t look at failure as an insurmountable roadblock, rather a minor detour on the road to their destination.

You can learn more about how to develop a growth mindset in this article: 5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

How to Live up to Your Full Potential and Succeed in Life

1. Develop a Goal

When setting goals, it’s important to keep in mind three things:

First, they should be specific and not vague. So instead of saying “I want to live up to my full potential in life”, a more specific goal would be “I want to become the best (salesman, artist, internet marketer) that I can be.” This is a much more specific goal.

Second, your goal should be measurable. In other words, you should be able to measure your progress towards the goal. Again, it’s much easier to measure your progress to becoming the best artist you can be than it is trying to measure your progress at living up to your “full potential”.

Finally, a goal must be written down. This takes the goal out of the realm of wishful thinking and makes it more real. It also can serve as motivation if you post your goal where you will see it. Put it on your desk, or next to your computer just to remind yourself to keep moving forward. In short, a goal that isn’t written down is just a wish.

This article can help you about setting personal goals to become a great achiever: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

2. Understand That Achieving Your Goal Is Often Times a By-Product of What You Are Doing

Let’s say that your goal is to become the best writer you can be. You may want to measure your success by your ability to get published or in the case of blogging, how widely read your articles are.

Instead of constantly worrying about reaching your goal to be the best, your time is much better spent just writing. As with anything, the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

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It’s the same with any goal, it’s important to set them, but achieving your goal of becoming the best salesperson is really just the by-product of you getting out there and selling!

3. Don’t Let Popular Opinion Dissuade You

Have you ever heard of the Bannister Effect? For years, it was considered a law of nature that the human body was incapable of running a mile in less than 4 minutes. That was until May 6, 1954 when Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. He did what was long considered impossible, but it turned out that it was only impossible because people believed it was impossible.

Roger Bannister didn’t let popular opinion stand in his way, and after he proved that the 4 minute mile was only a psychological barrier, others have continued to break records. Today the current record holder is Hicham El Guerrouj with a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds!

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Envelope

Almost by definition, living up to your full potential requires you to step outside your comfort zone and expand your boundaries.

Average people do average things, get average results and live average lives. Extraordinary people do extraordinary things, get extraordinary results and live extraordinary lives.

You’ll only live your best life once you step out. Here’s how.

5. Practice Discipline

Admittedly, this comes easier for some people than others, but it’s a skill that you can develop and will serve you well in all aspects of your life.

Another way of thinking about discipline is just delayed gratification. How many times have you been on a diet, but there’s a piece of cheese cake in the refrigerator calling out your name!

Having discipline is not a matter of not wanting the cheese cake, discipline is acknowledging your desire for the cheese cake but realizing that this craving is only temporary, and once it passes, you will be much happier that we didn’t succumb to a temporary urge.

The bottom line here is that while you may want to stop working at 5pm sharp, or watch the game on Saturday, but by developing the discipline to delay satisfaction you will be pushing your boundaries and reaping the rewards that come from that extra effort.

6. Be Confident

Have you ever dealt with someone who was new at their job and lacked confidence? Maybe it was a salesperson who couldn’t answer basic questions about a product or just gave you flat out wrong information. Did you end up buying from that salesperson?

My guess is no, I sure wouldn’t.

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Confidence comes with knowledge, discipline and experience. But how do you develop confidence if you are just starting out like our intrepid salesperson? While experience comes with time, knowledge can be acquired fairly quickly, especially if you have already mastered the art of self discipline!

A good rule of thumb is to always start with knowledge. Learn as much as you can, take classes, get a mentor or just do research. If you are disciplined enough to develop the knowledge it will make getting the experience much easier.

Want more tips on boosting confidence? Take a look at this guide: How to Be More Confident: 10 Powerful Ways to Boost Confidence

7. Accept That You Will Fail

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Failure is a part of life and it happens to everyone. In fact, there is a whole body of thinking that failure is actually better than success: 6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail

While most of us would agree that success is better than failure, when it does happen, here are some thing to keep in mind:

Don’t take it personally. A failure in a job, career, business or marriage is just that. It is not reflection on you as a person. I had a friend who lost his entire fortune (over 20 million dollars) in a business deal. I called him shortly after and as expected he was very depressed. My only advice to him was to:

“Never confuse your self worth with your net worth”.

Move on, failures can be heartbreaking, embarrassing and demoralizing. Take the time needed to go through those feelings and process the emotions. Then, let it go, holding on to negative emotions keeps you stuck in a fixed mindset. Remember that your goal here is to live up to your full potential and succeed in life. Dwelling on past mistakes and failures is the surest way to derail your progress.

Let failure be a learning opportunity. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason, it’s true! When I first started internet marketing, I started using Facebook ads for practically everything I did. Pretty soon I found that I was spending about $1,000 on ads that were generating about $200 in income, not a very good business model! I took that failure and redesigned my marketing efforts. I was able to both reduced my costs and increased my sales so that now for every $1,000 in advertising I am generating around $5,000 in income.

8. Learn to Embrace Uncomfortable Situations

Succeeding in life by living up to your full potential means embracing uncomfortable situations. Chris and Heidi Powell, well known personal trainers and hosts of the show Extreme Weight Loss use this technique with their clients. It works like this:

They set a goal for their client that the client thinks is just out of reach. Then through encouragement and motivation, they help the client work though the uncomfortableness and pain to achieve the goal.

This technique works for both physical and psychological challenges. Both our bodies and minds are capable of much more that we think they are.

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9. Set Small Goals to Achieve Big Results

When you are first setting goals, don’t be afraid to make them big! “I want to be the #1 salesperson in the company” or “I want to be a successful artist”. But once you have those goals set, you then need an action plan to get there. It’s in this action plan that you should set many small, easily attainable goals.

For the salesperson, it might be to increase the number of sales they make by one a week in the next quarter, two a week for the 2nd quarter etc… For the artist, it might be to master a technique before the next art show, or produce X number of works to sell at the art show.

Whatever the goals are, they need to get you closer to your ultimate goal while at the same time be attainable. Success builds on success, so achieving these small goals helps to motivate you to continue on to your bigger goals.

10. Take Time to Recharge

Everyone needs “down time”, trying to do everything yourself, all at once is a recipe for disaster.

We talked a lot about being motivated and disciplined in this article; while they are essential to living up to your full potential and succeeding in life, having adequate down time is just as important.

Any personal trainer will tell you that to get the most out of your workouts, you need to take 1 to 2 days off a week. This gives your body a chance to recover and actually get stronger.

The same is true when we are trying to expand our boundaries and fulfill our potential. Making sure we have adequate down time prevents fatigue anxiety and poor decision making.

Final Thoughts

The success you’ll find from living life to your full potential is its own reward. One day, we all will look back on our lives and and think “I wish I would have done …”, “I had a chance to to be a … but I was to scared”, “I could have been a great … if I had put the time in.”

I hope that in this article, we have given you both the motivation and tools to push yourself to your full potential in life, so that when you look back one day your regrets will be few.

More About Reaching Your Full Potential

Featured photo credit: Robson Hatsukami Morgan via unsplash.com

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David Carpenter

Lifelong entrepreneur and business owner helping others to realize the American Dream of business ownership

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Last Updated on October 23, 2019

How to Change a Negative Attitude That Is Destroying You

How to Change a Negative Attitude That Is Destroying You

A negative attitude carries with it a lack of awareness. You’re not necessarily aware of a negative attitude permeating your outlook on life, and because of this lack of awareness, your attitude affects your interactions with other people and your interactions with yourself.

What if you were to become aware? What if, suddenly, you were able to step outside of the thought pattern that creates your attitude, choose a new pattern, and thus, a new attitude?

Think about your thoughts. Many sources of advice aren’t going to tell you this crucial point:

Changing your attitude is not about stifling or eliminating negative thoughts. It’s about changing your thought patterns through action.

Negative thoughts will arise, but when you brood on them it’s like feeding and rewarding them so that they will come back again and form a pattern.

When you alter repetitive thought patterns, you alter your attitude — it’s a physical process, and with it comes the ability to change the world in which you live. You’ll achieve things you didn’t think were possible before.

To undertake this change, understand what to do with negative or unhelpful thoughts when they arise. This understanding will help you take action towards changing your attitude.

Read on for some quick and easy suggestions on how to change a negative attitude.

1. Harness the Incredible Power of Redirection

Oftentimes, we think in a black-and-white, limiting way. It’s called binary thinking. Even thinking of thoughts as only negative or positive is a binary way of thinking.

You develop a negative attitude because you are convinced this binary way of thinking is an accurate reflection of reality. When this way of thinking doesn’t achieve good results, you assign blame. Blame doesn’t help solve the problem of binary thinking — it perpetuates it.

Binary thinking causes you to have tunnel vision when you’re working on your goals. You feel one approach is the right one — but research shows that redirection improves creativity.[1] Redirection requires you to think differently by changing tasks.

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Take a step back from what you’re doing. Is there a different approach you can take? Who can you reach out to for help? What haven’t you tried? Redirect your actions and you’ll find yourself thinking more creatively and positively when it comes to solving the original problem.

2. Amp up Your Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk is exactly what it sounds like: these are uplifting statements you make to yourself. Then, you act on them.

The thing about positive self-talk is it’s self-fulfilling. In other words, by concentrating on your strengths and making positive statements about yourself, you become what you tell yourself you are and your attitude changes.

Psychologist Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker identifies key statements that mentally healthy people make:[2]

  • “I am lovable”
  • “I am capable”
  • “Most other people are lovable and capable, too”
  • “Success comes from doing”
  • “Challenges are opportunities”
  • “It’s only human to make mistakes”
  • “I have what it takes to cope with change — and to make changes happen”

Tell yourself these things every day. Note statement number 4, “Success comes from doing.” You want to change your negative attitude. To successfully change your attitude, do things that help you feel good about yourself and others. Volunteer work and community sports leagues are great options.

Action creates change. Make positive statements to yourself, take action based on these statements, and your outlook on life will change.

3. Be a Change Agent, Not a Victim

An agent is someone who is actively engaged in making something happen. A victim is someone who suffers from circumstances beyond their control.

Victimization is valid and real, but if there’s no active pursuit of a solution, you remain a victim — you remain passive, and your attitude is one of bitterness, helplessness, or cynicism.

You’re an agent who can change your own attitude. Ultimately, your own actions are the only things you control.

You may not be able to control the rise of negative thoughts due to a tragedy that was beyond your control, but you can control how you respond to those thoughts.

Consider the following methods of coping with tragedies:[3]

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  • Talk with a counselor or someone who can give you an outside perspective.
  • Turn off the news, stop wallowing, and get active. Activities such as exercise, art, and games will help you process your feelings better by giving you a break from concentrating on repetitive negative thoughts.
  • Offer your support to others who have had a similar experience. If, for example, you’re recovering from addiction, find a peer support group.
  • Redirect painful emotions by finding an activity, such as volunteer work, writing, music, or sports, that is emotionally fulfilling and allows you to release pent-up emotions.

Sometimes tragedy is self-inflicted, meaning you have a bad experience that’s not necessarily a tragedy, but you treat it as such. You get down on yourself, turn to drugs and alcohol, and brood over your negative thoughts and feelings.

Be sure to recognize if this is happening, and become an agent of recovery instead of victimization.

4. Dream Huge — but Set Realistic Expectations

This is the truth about your dream: it’s real. What you really want out of life — call it your dream or fantasy or ambition — is a real idea you can and should hold onto no matter what happens.

To set realistic expectations, break your dream down into steps that are achievable in the short-term.

If you believe you’re entitled — you expect everything to fall into place — you will not realize your dream. Even if you’re lucky and successful, it won’t feel like success because entitlement is a bottomless pit.

A negative attitude stems from expectations that don’t line up with reality. Again, your actions are the only thing you control. Science shows you’re not even necessarily in control of your thoughts.[4]

But you are in control of the thoughts you choose to dwell on. Concentrate on your plans. You can expect to follow through when you concentrate on and check off the steps to completing a task. Concentrate on the tasks you need to complete in order to make your dream a reality.

5. Transform Negative Thoughts into Ultimate Questions

Asking questions opens your mind to new ideas. It helps you begin to build confidence. Positive self-talk can be tough, because your mind is like a broken record. You tell yourself you’re lovable, but for every time you say that, the thought that no one loves you pops up 10 times.

Forbes’ Melody Wilding makes a great recommendation:[5]

“When you catch your inner critic flinging accusations, think: how can I turn this statement into a question?”

Here are some examples:

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  • Instead of, “Something must be wrong with me,” say, “What are the steps to success?”
  • Instead of, “I hate going to the grocery store,” say, “How can I save time at the grocery store?”
  • Instead of, “These people are annoying,” say, “How can I talk to these people so that this meeting is enjoyable?”
  • Instead of, “I was a complete idiot last night,” say, “What can I do differently in the future?”

This way, you’re opening possibilities for new, constructive thoughts. You’re also paying attention to your thoughts and doing something with them.

6. Laugh!

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” – Wayne Dyer

In almost all cases, you’ll develop a negative attitude if you choose to be angry and depressed instead of choosing to laugh. But how can you choose to laugh when something seems downright terrible?

This is where the imagination and mental exercise kick in. Choose to look at a disappointing or disheartening circumstance in a different way. What is it that’s ironic, absurd, or outrageous about the circumstance?

Is there an opposite circumstance you can imagine, one that’s so fantastically great it brings tears of laughter to your eyes just thinking about it? Are there any details that are just flat-out strange?

If you’re depressed, choose comedy — choose something that can bring a smile to your face. Train yourself to seek good opportunities for humour, and you’re training yourself to have a positive attitude.

7. Embrace Your Emotions and Release Them Confidently

The moment you experience an emotion, there’s a reason for it; and therefore it’s valid.

Here’s the challenge: you must control what you do with that emotion.

You could hold the emotion in and let it fester, but that leads to things like depression, pent-up rage, and low self-esteem.

You could release your emotion the moment you feel it without thinking, but that leads to relationship issues with other people. Or, you could release the emotion confidently in a way that asserts your self and your boundaries.

  • Practice observing your emotions when you feel them on a daily basis. Note what the emotion is and be there with it.
  • When you experience a strong emotion such as anger, take time to note your anger, take deep breaths, and calm down.
  • Figure out what or who caused your anger, and why.
  • Assert yourself. Don’t be mean about it, be confident. Say something like, “I would prefer for you to treat everyone as equals in the group, I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but it’s very important to me.”
  • Set your boundaries by repeating “I” statements, such as, “I don’t want you to yell at me, I feel uncomfortable. If there’s a problem, I would prefer to talk about it calmly.”

If you embrace your emotions by processing them — by asking who, what, why, and how — and then you deal with them by expressing yourself confidently, your attitude will remain one of confidence, calmness, and positivity.

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8. Create, Move, Believe, Contemplate Great Things

Once you know you are in control of how you react to thoughts and emotions, and in turn your actions create a pattern that reinforces itself, a huge world of greatness is there for you.

Greatness is there because at all times you can choose it. You can choose to listen to your deepest emotions, which are a thing of beauty because of their intense purity, and you can translate them into new things. New songs, poems, sayings, artworks, running routes, exercise routines, meals, friendships, jobs — it’s all there for you.

Each negative thought is a positive response waiting to happen. Feel how your positive responses and your positive attitude are so enjoyable you wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Believe that you are amazing and your actions will have amazing results — even if you are not around to see the results bloom and flower.

Contemplate great things because they’re the greatest things to contemplate. What if your decision to appreciate other people’s little quirks someday becomes love? What if your decision to write in your diary everyday someday becomes a memoir? You’re capable of all these things, and life can be great.

9. Leave with the Four Agreements — but Agree to Come Back Again and Again

A man named Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements. With these agreements, Ruiz distills pearls of ancient Toltec wisdom. To transform your attitude, agree to do the following:

  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Do your best

That’s it. Think about how these agreements inform your actions.

If you are doing your best, you are in the moment.

If you are impeccable with your word, you say things that reflect on the world you want to create.

If you don’t take anything personally, you don’t get offended by other people’s words and actions, so you don’t lash out at them.

If you don’t make assumptions, you have realistic expectations.

Furthermore, check out these other tips on how to change your attitude. Return to advice that helps you again and again. With an attitude that says, “I’m always learning,” you’ll do just that, and your life will keep improving.

Featured photo credit: Carolina Heza via unsplash.com

Reference

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