The primary reasons people don’t reach their potential has little to do with their circumstances and much to do with their personal psychology, the voices in their head that tell them what’s possible for them and what isn’t.
Seemingly well-equipped, well-put-together people sometimes struggle to manifest success. And you probably know or have heard of people who start with ‘nothing’ in life who rise to the highest levels of accomplishment.
What’s the difference between them? Their psychology.
Psychology manifests itself as thought patterns and habits repeated often enough to become automatic. They’re often formed by default in childhood and beyond as we observe and mimic authority figures.
Many of our thought patterns are deigned to safeguard our habits to help us be more efficient and save us time and energy. (Think about the way you habitually shower, brush your teeth and start and operate your car.) If we had to think about each of the individual actions involved at every juncture, we’d exhaust ourselves.
The problem arises when the thought patterns and habits outlive their usefulness or when they are created based on mis-information, solving a problem that doesn’t exist. If you’ve ever made a bad, inaccurate assumption and then acted on it (perhaps for years), that’s a good example of this dynamic at work.
So what’s a body (or mind) to do?
1. Identify the beliefs you have that make you fearful, hesitant and reluctant to take action.
This might take some work since we’re not aware of some of our beliefs and may not have articulated them before. Start listening to the conversations you have about yourself, to yourself as well as the conversations you have about the world.
When you start hearing refrains, things you say over and over, that’s a belief.
2. Challenge what you think
Beliefs are like cow paths. The more you go down them, the more they seem like the only way to go. Don’t assume everything you think is the truth. Practice thinking new thoughts.
3. Recognize that your mind is designed to protect ‘the way it is’
Your thoughts will tend to dissuade you from trying new things. Know that this is a signal that you’re on the right track. Your brain wants to keep things simple and new thoughts and behaviors appear as a threat.
4. Surround yourself with optimistic, supportive people
We rise to the level of the company we keep. If you’re surrounded with pessimistic people who are victimized by the world they inhabit (and have unknowingly created), it will be hard to do the things you need to do to make progress.
When you hang out with successful people, you’re encouraged to be your best (rather than blame the world for your problems). You’ll have access to more and better resources. You’ll be inspired instead of depressed. You will experience a greater sense of possibility and be more likely to try new things. You’ll set goals and actually believe you can accomplish them.
5. Run when you can and tread water when ‘life’ kicks you in the butt.
Optimistic attitude or not, sometimes bad, annoying and troublesome things happen. During those times, you’ll need to apply your full attention to solving the issues at hand. When you’re not encumbered by those emergencies though, work diligently toward your goal. Invest your time on the most productive activities you can muster, especially those that frighten you. Do at least one thing every day that will get you closer to your goal that you’re afraid of doing.
Miracles happen just outside your comfort zone. So make it a habit to consistently step outside yours.