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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

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 August 4, 2020

17 Ways for Building Resilience and Staying Tough

17 Ways for Building Resilience and Staying Tough

Have you ever failed at something or gone through a rough patch? Have you made a mistake or suffered a setback and found yourself eating way too much ice cream afterward?

Take heart! You’re in good company.

Even Beyoncé and Albert Einstein have faced hard times. But the difference between people who rebound from difficult situations and folks who stay curled up in a fetal position is the way they CHOOSE to respond to these events.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “resiliency” as the “ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” The good news is, you can learn how to become more resilient. Yes, you can make the CHOICE to bounce back from bottom.

So, put down that ice-cream carton and get ready for a pep talk. Here are 17 strategies for building resilience that will help you overcome obstacles and rock your life.

1. Failing is Normal—Just Keep Going

According to Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens, the first of the “7 C’s of Resilience” is “COMPETENCE.” For young people to succeed, they must develop skills to deal with difficult situations. This goes for adults, too!

To bolster your competence, take a look at a learning curve. It shows you that you can improve after you fail simply by persevering. But your performance won’t improve steadily. Knowing this fun fact can prevent you from giving up too soon.

If you take a closer look at the “curve” below, you’ll discover that it’s actually jagged. Those peaks and valleys mean that you’ll get better on some days, as promised, but you’ll also have days in which you hit a plateau or your performance plummets.

    So, give yourself some slack and hang in there. If you persist, you will succeed.

    2. Adopt a “Growth Mindset” to Build Confidence

    Ginsburg’s second “C” for building resilience is “CONFIDENCE,” the belief in one’s own abilities. Here’s an interesting fact. It turns out that the way you view your abilities is more important than your actual abilities. Let me give you an example

    According to psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, praising yourself for being intelligent or telling your children they are smart encourages a “fixed mindset,” the belief that your ability is static.[1] When you fail a test, you feel defeated because you believe your set amount of intelligence wasn’t enough to succeed.

    On the other hand, praising effort and hard work cultivates a “growth mindset,” the belief that intelligence can be developed. When you do badly on an exam and believe you can get smarter, you view it as a challenge. You put in extra time and effort and do better the next time.

    Whether it be sports, parenting, business, or pretty much anything else, your capacity to get back up after being knocked down depends on your mindset. To learn how to shift toward a more growthful mindset, take a look at this article: 5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Self Improvement

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    When you understand that you can strengthen your abilities through effort, you will do better in work, school, and life over time.

    3. Use Failure as Feedback

    Did you know that Oprah Winfrey was demoted early in her career as a news anchor because she did not have the “it factor” for TV? She went on to reinvent her career and rule daytime talk shows for 25 years. She told Harvard’s 2013 graduating class,

    “There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”

    Perhaps your talk didn’t go over as well as you’d hoped because you gave it to the wrong audience. Maybe your last relationship didn’t work out because your ex was not a good match for you. A square peg won’t fit into a round hole no matter how hard you try to force it and you’ll wear yourself out in the process. What’s the point? Find a square hole!

    As Zig Ziglar says,

    “The most successful people are the ones who learn from their mistakes and turn their failures into opportunities.”

    4. Come Up with Alternate Pathways to Your Goals

    When you suffer a setback, don’t throw in the towel. Come up with a different plan to get where you want to go.

    For example, I decided to become a rock star when I was 30 years old. Even though my music was well-received, an A&R agent in LA told me I was too old to make it in the music business. So, I shifted my attention to launching a CD overseas and got signed to PolyGram in South Africa.

    Research by Dave Feldman and Diane Dreher on “hope interventions”[2] found that when people set a goal, visualized three steps to get there, imagined three obstacles that could get in the way, and then developed three strategies to overcome them, they were successfully able to solve problems in their lives and reach their goals.

    Set up a meaningful goal and come up with alternate routes to reach it in case you hit a roadblock. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    5. Develop Your Superpowers

    You were born with unique set of gifts that no one else in the world has. Making a commitment to develop your natural superpowers through study, discipline, and practice can boost your competence and confidence. It may seem like it would be hard work but it’s actually fun. Nothing feels better than getting better at something you love to do.

    Jimi Hendrix practiced his guitar ALL the time. He wore it when he boarded planes and made scrambled eggs. He became a master guitarist because he constantly sought to boost his intrinsic talent. I’ve recorded hundreds of songs but I still take songwriting lessons to hone my skills as a singer-songwriter.

    Find some YouTube videos, buy a book, or take classes to improve your skills. Even if you only do it as a hobby or a side project, developing your innate skills gives you the energy and expertise you need to overcome challenges in your life.

    6. Find a Supportive Tribe

    Ginsburg’s third “C” for building resilience is “CONNECTION.” He encourages parents to offer children and teens the security they need to stand on their own and come up with creative solutions to problems. Adults need positive encouragement and community, too.

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    It’s not a sign of weakness to seek support. Even the mighty Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, etc.) join forces when threats grow too large for any one of them to handle alone. Dorothy Gale achieved greatness in The Wizard of Oz because of a little help from her friends The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion.

    Surround yourself with like-minded friends and acquaintances who can keep you on track with your goals. Find an accountability partner and check in with each other once a week. Be sure to form connections with “power-with” people, those who find their power from within themselves and enjoy aiding each other’s journeys.

    The next time life knocks you down, put out the bat signal for your tribe to come help you. They’ll help you rebound faster and own your power.

    7. Remove Kryptonite From Your Life

    As important as it is to surround yourself with a positive tribe, it’s also essential that you distance yourself from people who rain on your parade.

    If you have naysayers in your life, realize that this “power-over” mentality is a sign of inadequacy, not a show of real strength. There’s no need for people to aggravate, torment, or control you if their sense of self is intact. When people try to kryptonite you, it’s a sign of their weakness, not yours.

    To protect yourself from people who try to belittle or manipulate you, learn how to discriminate between helpful information and controlling criticism. The former fills you with energy and gives you a sense of direction; the latter leaves you feeling defeated and drained. Consider the source.

    8. Set Good Intentions

    Ginsburg’s fourth “C” for building resilience is “CHARACTER,” it’s about learning right from wrong.

    Superheroes use their power to save the planet. Super-villains often possess superhuman strengths, too, but they wield them for personal gain. Which camp do you fall in? Does it depend on what you’re doing?

    Create a list of your values and stand by them no matter what. Being true to yourself and living with integrity will help you get through hard times.

    9. Practice Kindness

    The fifth “C” for building resilience is “CONTRIBUTING” to the welfare of others. The tiniest act of kindness can make a positive difference.

    According to Talya Steinberg, Psy.D,[3]

    “Studies show that receiving, giving, or even witnessing acts of kindness increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain.”

    Being kind makes you feel happier and more at peace, which helps you stay grounded in difficult situations.

    What little act of kindness can you do today? Give your loved ones an extra hug? Call or email a long-lost friend? Here’re more ideas for you: 29 Ways to Carry Out Random Acts of Kindness Every Day

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    And be sure to high-five yourself the next time you see your reflection in the mirror. Being kind to yourself counts.

    10. Listen to Music You Like

    The fifth “C” for building resilience is using COPING strategies to deal with stress. One easy shortcut for buoying yourself up when you feel down is listening to music you like.

    Research shows that hearing your favorite music releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. When you’re happy, you organize information better, think more creatively, and become a better problem solver.

    I like to sing “Roar” to give me moxie. What about you? All you need is 15 minutes of your favorite tunes. So listen up!

    11. Give Yourself a Hug

    Another quick way to build resilience when you feel badly is to give yourself a hug. Sounds silly? It’s not.

    According to Dr. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion, hugging yourself releases oxytocin (the love hormone that makes you feel safe and loved) which decreases stress.[4]

    The next time you’re challenged, give it a try. Even if you’re in public, you can discreetly fold your arms around yourself. You’ll be surprised by how much better you feel.

    12. Say Positive Affirmations

    When you mess something up, your inner critic often makes it worse by telling you that you’re not good enough or you’re an imposter. Just because these digs stress you out doesn’t mean the limiting thoughts are true.

    Research shows that saying positive things such as “keep going” and “you can do it” can replace negative self-talk and help you get on your feet again.[5]

    Need some ideas for positive affirmations? Here’re some: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

    13. Relabel “Fear” as “Excitement”

    When something scares you, your sympathetic nervous system gets you ready for fight or flight. Did you know that you experience the same physiological reactions when you’re excited?

    The next time you get sweaty palms, try reinterpreting that response as excitement and use that nervous energy to master whatever you’re trying to do, whether it be giving a talk, going on a job interview, or winning a race.

    The fact that your inner critic is messing with your mind could mean that you’re on the brink of a new growth opportunity. Take advantage of the adrenaline and go for it.

    14. Stand in the Wonder Woman / Superman Pose

    According to Amy Cuddy, best-selling author of Presence, adopting the Wonder Woman power pose — hands on hips, feet wide apart, shoulders back — for two minutes can make you feel powerful.

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    This postural feedback gives you the experience of being a laid-back alpha (i.e., a superhero). When you need a jolt of power, try it. It works! If you’re a guy, just pretend you’re Superman or Thor when you do it.

    You can learn more about the power of this pose in this TedTalk:

    15. Write about Tough Times

    The last thing you probably feel like doing after a painful experience is dwell on it, but research by Dr. James Pennebaker shows that writing about tough times can actually improve your psychological and physical well-being.[6]

    Jot down your thoughts and feelings about the emotionally charged event for 20 minutes per day for four consecutive days. Afterward, you will feel mentally and physically stronger.

    16. Stop Passing Judgment on Yourself

    The final “C” for building resilience is to learn how to feel a sense of CONTROL over your life. The Serenity Prayer wisely advises us to accept what we cannot change, change what we can, and learn to tell the difference. But let’s be honest. That last part can get tricky.

    Eating balanced meals, exercising, and getting enough sleep helps you bounce back from tough times. But what if you have a bad habit that prevents you from engaging in these healthy habits? Here’s a tip a wise woman gave me years ago that can help you break the pattern:

    Imagine for a moment that each time you eat that extra cookie, or drink that extra glass of wine, or stay up too late watching TV, a layer gets laid down in an imaginary bowl. Every time you repeat the pattern, another layer goes down and the layers stack up over time.

    To get unstuck, just observe yourself eating that extra cookie instead of judging yourself for it. At the same time, imagine that a layer gets removed from that make-believe bowl as a result. If you engage in the bad habit again, do not pass judgment. Watch yourself with compassion and see another layer come off in your mind’s eye.

    Over time, this metaphorical bowl grows emptier and you begin to catch yourself sooner in the process (e.g., when you first put your hand in the cookie jar). Eventually, you’ll be able to stop yourself before you even begin. This gentle mindfulness tool can help you change habits that seem beyond your control.

    17. Set Yourself Up for Success

    My friend Mike enjoys skiing really fast, to the point where he is about to break his neck, because it puts him in the moment and brings out his best performance. If he were to try a steeper slope, he would fall; the bunny slopes would bore him silly. Like Goldilocks, he found the hill that was “just right“ to put him in the zone.

    What does this last point have to do with building resilience? When you’re in the zone, you do your best work. If the activity is too simple, your mind wanders. If it’s too hard, you get knocked out of the moment, too. These are the critical moments when your inner critic sneaks in to fire zingers at you.

    To create a successful outcome, consciously choose to do things that are fairly challenging, but not too challenging. This Goldilocks approach will keep your inner critic at bay and bring out the best in you. When you succeed in one area of your life, you’re more likely to succeed in others.

    Final Thoughts

    We all experience defeat at some point; it’s part of being human. But you have a CHOICE about how to react to hardship. If you CHOOSE to learn from your mistakes and persevere with a growth mindset, you can succeed at pretty much anything, especially if you come up with alternative pathways to your goals and surround yourself with people who believe in you.

    When you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, write about it, listen to your favorite tunes, give yourself a hug, say positive affirmations to yourself, relabel fear as excitement, or stand in the Wonder Woman/Superman pose.

    Just a couple of these hacks can help you get your mojo back. Just remember to keep going. You’ve got this.

    More on Building Resilience

    Featured photo credit: Michael Descharles via unsplash.com

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