Contemplating the phrase “reaching your potential” often conjures up conflicting feelings of wasting that very same potential. You may be unclear as to how to reach your full potential, which only causes additional self-conflict.
Don’t fret if this describes you. Why? Because such feelings are common among the ambitious – the folks who want to fulfill their potential, but perhaps are at a bit of a loss as to how.
Here’s another reason you needn’t fret: human beings are full of untapped power. Consider the human brain. Some of the smartest people in the world are at a complete loss as to the inner workings of thought. So marvelously complex is the brain that many scientists have labeled it as the most extraordinary thing in the known universe!
To some, we are burdened with the limitation of time. While it is true that we don’t know just how much time we have left on this Earth, history (and psychology) shows us that lifespan is in no way indicative of the quality of life. Acknowledging this fact means making the most out of your days. And one way we do this is by fulfilling our limitless potential.
This article focuses on six habits of people who fulfill their potential. We’ll also discuss the real meaning of potential and how you can best align potential with purpose. Let’s do this!
“Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, ‘I am of no value,’ is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself.” – The Dalai Lama
Forget “Stuff” and Find Purpose
“A lot of research has been conducted on the relationship between wellbeing and materialism, with a consistent theme emerging in the results: More materialistic people are not as happy as less materialistic people.” – Ian Zimmerman, Ph.D. (source)
Part of the journey (and it is a journey!) that is reaching your potential involves realizing that doing so for the sake of money or possessions is fruitless. These things come and go, as do the satisfaction that comes with them. What matters is your person, your soul, your calling. Things that can never be taken from you. And, quite possibly, things that survive the death of the physical body.
If you study the names of those forever etched in the books of history – Leonardo Di Vinci, Mother Teresa, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohammad Ali – you realize that they all lived for a purpose. In the case of Franklin, this purpose was becoming a statesman. For Ali, a larger-than-life sportsman and peace activist.
While their livelihoods, personality, education, and background were all different, their impact on those who knew them was subjectively similar. All of these people were bigger than such things.
You needn’t be an inventor, statesman, scientist, or sportsman to fulfill your potential. There are millions of “normal” folks out there who are proving themselves every day. How?
Living each day with purpose
Surprise, surprise! Number one is so for a reason – and cannot be emphasized enough! Purpose gives life meaning. Purpose gets you out of bed every morning. Without purpose, life remains meaningless.
A clearly-defined purpose awakens the dormant powers within you to achieve that purpose. If you can create a vision in your mind’s eye, you can live the life you desire.
If you don’t yet know your life’s purpose, that’s okay! Here are a few questions to ask yourself that may help uncover it:
- What were you passionate about as a kid?
- If you didn’t need to work for money, what would you do?
- What activity causes you to lose track of time?
- Who or what do you hold near and dear to your heart?
- What issues do you bring up with your family and closest friends?
- What do you dream about?
Meditation and/or mindfulness practice
According to Tim Ferris, around 80 percent of the people he interviews have a daily mindfulness practice. Ferris, upon understanding the numerous benefits of meditation, took up a regular practice himself. “Meditation, or mindfulness practice, it’s really about, to me, decreasing emotional reactivity so you can proactively create your day and create your life; versus, just being a walking reflex that sometimes screws up,” says Ferris.
Numerous research studies verify the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, including:
- Less anxiety and stress
- Improved self-image
- More positive life outlook
- Reduction of depressive symptoms
- Enhanced self-awareness
- Longer attention span
- Better quality sleep
- Pain control
- Lower blood pressure
A solid morning routine
The reason behind a good morning routine is simple: by expending less energy in the morning, you are able to conserve it for more demanding, purpose-driven tasks later. Of course, what you do in the morning – and how you do it – sets you up for the rest of the day.
Of course, a solid morning routine is more than just going through the motions. You must implement the right habits, including exercise, meditation, planning, reading, and accomplishing your most important task. Successful people also spend quality time with their family or by themselves (quiet time).
Commitment to excellence
Fulfillment of potential and striving for excellent are two peas in a pod. You can’t separate one from the other. Excellence in this sense means to put forth the needed effort, concentration, and skill to do the best work possible. Only by fully committing your capabilities to the work at hand can you create excellence. Only by creating excellence can you fulfill your potential.
People often make things harder than they have to be by not giving their full attention to the task at hand. Allowing your attention and focus to disperse isn’t conducive to excellent work. On the contrary, gently and directly redirecting your concentration – as needed – to the task at hand will ensure excellence every time.
Doing the right thing
People who truly fulfill their potential are benefactors of society. They are committed to doing the right thing, every time, whether “profitable” or not. Perhaps this habit is the best one to illustrate the gulf between success and fulfillment.
Someone who isn’t particularly keen on acting ethically can achieve success from an outsider’s perspective – but they’ll probably never be happy in the long term. Fulfilled people, on the other hand, are both successful and happy – in no small part because they commit to acting for the benefit of everyone, including society as a whole.
There is no way to reach your full potential without a great deal of focus. Things happen in life that will test your commitment to your purpose. Whether or not you can keep on depends a great deal on where you place your attention. If you maintain laser-like focus despite the obstacles, you have a much greater chance of fulfilling your potential.
When something bad happens, such as a setback, allow it to take its natural course. Be upset if you want. Get angry. Resent the situation. But then redirect your focus and “keep on keeping on!” Those who fulfill their potential do this as a habit. They may get miffed beyond belief, but they have an uncanny ability to keep their eye on the ball.
Final thought: Fulfillment isn’t struggle
By now you should have a solid understanding as to the sacrifices required to reach your potential. So now seems like a good time to understand that a fulfilling life doesn’t mean perpetual struggle. For if it did, life wouldn’t be too satisfying, would it?
Indeed, the idea that the path to realizing one’s potential as being rife with struggle needs to vanish. It is perhaps because of this misperception that most don’t end up reaching their potential.
The truth is that while setbacks are inevitable, they are much easier overcome through a commitment to purpose. Purpose trumps worry, doubt, and struggle every time. Be passionate about what you want, learn as much as you can, stay focused, and you will realize your potential!