Very few people can claim that they have achieved all that they are capable of. In the Western world most of us do moderately well. We get an education and a succession of jobs; we have some relationships that work; we are well fed; we avoid penury and destitution. We can take comfort in modest achievements. But for many people there is a nagging feeling that they could have done much, much more with their lives and careers. They know that their talents went undeveloped. So what is that is stopping you right now from making a much greater contribution to society? What is it that is preventing you from fulfilling your potential?
1. You do not have enough belief in yourself. All successful people have enormous self-belief. They know that they have something special to contribute and they are determined to make their mark. This does not mean that they are arrogant, narcissistic or complacent. On the contrary, they are self critical and push themselves hard because they know that they can achieve more. What is it that is special about you? What is the talent that you have not developed? What do you know you are capable of?
2. You do not measure yourself against written goals. It is hard to make progress if you have no clear goals for your life. Most of us muddle along from one thing to the next. Successful people define their objectives and measure progress against them. You should set yourself targets in the areas that are important to you e.g. career, wealth, health, relationships and social life. There are many books giving detailed advice on goal setting and they reinforce the point that the most important thing is to write your goals down and track progress. If you do not achieve some of the goals then reset them. You can be flexible and adjust how you move forward but you must keep moving. Do you have written objectives that you track regularly?
3. You are too comfortable where you are. It is easy and natural to settle into a rut. Why try something new when you are already doing what you are good at? High achievers go further. They take risks. They move out of their comfort zones. They take on difficult challenges. They push themselves to acquire new skills and to face new examinations of their abilities. This means that they run the risk of failure. Where are you right now – inside your comfort zone or taking risks?
4. You are lazy. Thinking and planning are great but it is action that leads to success. It is only by doing things that you change the world. If you have clear goals but are not making progress towards them then look at your activity level. If you are a writer are you writing enough? If you are a salesman are you selling enough? If you are a leader are you leading enough? Great sportsmen and musicians practice for hours each day. Picasso painted over 20,000 pictures. Persistence pays dividends. How high is your work rate?
5. You work on low value activities. To succeed you need to focus on the important and strategic goals – not just the urgent day-to-day stuff that consumes so much of your time. How much of what you are doing is advancing you towards your key objectives? Try to eliminate the low value activities that absorb your energies and release time for the really important things.
6. You are not mixing with enough high achievers. Let’s face it – your friends and family are really nice people but they are not challenging you to achieve more. Spend more time with high flyers and positive thinkers who understand ambition and achievement. Share some of your thoughts, dreams and challenges with them. They will encourage you and give you the direct advice you need. How much time are you spending with really successful people?
The person who can motivate you, change you and get the most out of you is in the mirror. Build your self-belief. Set yourself clear goals and measure progress against them. Push yourself outside your comfort zone. Take on some difficult challenges even though you risk failure. Significantly increase your work rate. Focus on high value actions. Mix with top achievers. Ask yourself this – do you want a safe, comfortable existence or do you want a life where you achieve something really worthwhile?
Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.