I'll spare us both from cliches about reaching for the stars or bursting from a cocoon. We're adults. Most of us know that we're responsible for our own success. We know that some days, we hold ourselves back, maybe self-sabotage or waste opportunities, but not many are sure why.
I've heard countless people question how they get into the same problems, relationships, breakups, jobs, and why they can't change. They tell me they want something else; they know what to do...
So what's happening? Surely humans aren't incapable of change. Our history proves otherwise. It also suggests we're masters at changing just enough to get us what we think we want, and then ignoring the rest. This is what it means to limit potential.
Here are 3 major ways people limit their potential:
1. Believing and telling negative stories.
Between childhood and adulthood, we create stories to help us make sense of the world and ourselves. These stories are based on a fixed mindset and the belief that people are a certain way, thus, no amount of work, study, or development will change them.
Common stories that hold people back include "I'm not good at relationships," "I'm not smart," and "I'm not management material."
Our internalized list of negatives is based on situational observations, not truths. You may have royally ruined a few relationships, failed a few classes, or are uncomfortable in leadership positions. There is power in acknowledging our faults and weaknesses, but believing that those are static entities closes us off from new opportunities to improve.
Let's be clear: None of us are inherently awesome at anything. We learn as we go and we learn the most as we fail, but if we hold onto stories as if they are concrete truths, progress pauses. That's the exact moment the stories start to become true.
It's your responsibility to notice the stories that are holding you back and change the narrative.
2. Forgetting to focus inward.
Maximizing potential means understanding our individual complexities. We will never achieve anything above mediocracy if we have goals that do not align with who we are. This requires developing self-awareness, which is a learned skill.
The quickest and arguably most-challenging method of gaining insight is by leaving our comfort zones: adventuring, taking on a project we're not sure we can accomplish, dating a different type of person, switching careers, moving away from home.
It's in the moments where we're the least sure about ourselves that we learn the most.
Healthy competition is empowering. Comparisons are a distraction. Looking to others for validation is a waste of time. We know this. And yet, we find ourselves sucked into a social media vortex and wasting energy wondering why we're not succeeding the same as others.
Stop. Put on blinders. Delete the apps. Seriously. If you're spending more time looking outwards than in, you're not only limiting your potential, you're destroying it. You're signalling that success only happens in specific ways, ways that you need to conform to. This limits what you're capable of if you ditch the stories, focus inward, and cut out the comparisons.