Do you ever feel like all you ever do is work? It’s frustrating. You roll out of bed in the morning, your alarm screeching aggressively. You muddle through the morning as you shower, get dressed, and rush out the door.
You drudge through the workday, arrive home with barely enough time to eat dinner and catch a couple of shows before it’s time for bed again. It’s exhausting. Sadly, it’s what you’re used to, even though it feels wrong. Your family is used to it too, it’s the life you’ve built, the habit you’ve created. It almost feels as though you’re just a visitor in your own life.
This isn’t unique to you. A lot of people today don’t have a clear-cut idea about where their time is disappearing to or where they’re going. It feels a lot like you’re squandering your potential, but that can’t be possible because you’re working hard. A lot of people are working hard — in fact, most people are — but that doesn’t mean they’re living up to their potential.
On average, a human has just under 30,000 days to live on this earth. If you subtract the early years which you can’t remember and had no control over and then subtract the estimated 9,000, we spend sleeping, we aren’t left with a whole lot of time. By being reminded of how short life is, it should spur you into living your life as authentically as you can. Life is fleeting — you should value it.
We waste a lot of our lives. If we truly understood how precious life is, we wouldn’t waste so much time in the way that we do. Life will pass you by if you let it.
Signs You Are Squandering Your Potential
Are you squandering your potential? Below is a list of things we indulge that are contributing to that problem. Do any of these sound familiar?
The Wrong People
Have you heard someone say that you become the average of the people you spend your time with? It’s a little clichéd, but it’s not far off the mark. It’s an overused saying, but the reality is the people you spend your time with heavily influence who you are as a person.
Who do you spend your time with? Are they happy, productive, decisive, successful people? Or do you keep company with narcissists, manipulators, and negative thinkers? Even if it isn’t quite as dramatic as that, it’s easy to fall into their habits and mindsets when you spend all of your time with them.
While it’s important to maintain strong social ties, it’s just as important that you choose your friends wisely. You want friends who uplift you, not people who drag you down. You can’t stick with them hoping they change, even if you’ve been friends for decades. It might sound harsh, but it’s a recipe for wasting time.
While every relationship will require maintenance, it’s important that you recognize the difference between forcing yourself to make a bad relationship work and maintaining a positive one. Sometimes there are fundamental incompatibilities. Don’t force yourself to spend time with the people who hold you back from reaching your potential.
The Wrong Direction
Sometimes we set off in the wrong direction. Despite the fact that we recognize this, we forge ahead, unable to admit the initial mistake. This is one of the most obvious and common ways we squander our potential. It’s a bit like dating someone everyone you know dislikes.
They all try to warn you and deep down you know they’re right, but you’re too stubborn to walk away because you want to prove them all wrong. Then, a few years later it all comes crumbling down and you hide from the chorus of “I told you so.” It would have been easier to listen at the time, but you couldn’t bring yourself to do it.
Setting off in the wrong direction is the same — you lie to yourself, hoping that you’ll convince yourself everything is okay. It’s not. You’re just squandering your potential by wasting your time doing something that makes you miserable.
The Giant Whine
Do you spend a lot of time whining about your problems? This is something everyone does. It might seem innocent, you’re just blowing off steam, right? The problem is when you dwell in the negative, you’re training your brain to always look for the negative in a situation. By constantly complaining you’re making it easier for yourself to be a pessimist. Congratulations, you played yourself, because it isn’t just wasting your time — it’s stealing your ability to be happy and productive. Complaining is helping you squander your potential.
Fail to Request Help
It might make you feel foolish, but the reality is everyone needs help sometimes. If you’re one of those people who just can’t bring yourself to ask for help because you feel like it signifies failure — you’re wrong.
It wastes a lot of your time and ultimately, you’re not challenging yourself. You might be too proud, you might be too scared, it doesn’t matter. What you do when you fail to ask for help is waste your potential by failing to challenge yourself appropriately.
How You Live
How do you live? Imagine yourself on your deathbed. What do you think you’ll regret? What you’ll regret is not living authentically.
You’ll feel sad that you marched to the beat of everyone else’s drum. You want to look back on your life and see a series of fulfilled dreams. The reality is that a lot of people look back and see a field littered with the opposite. Their dreams have gone unfulfilled because they got caught up living their lives how other people wanted them to. You only get one life to live so why would you waste it listening to everyone else?
No Room for Delayed Gratification
When we talk about happiness, it’s important to note that there are two types. The true sense of happiness is eudemonia, the type of happiness associated with purpose or meaning. The other happiness is hedonic, which is the glow of happiness that comes from instant gratification.
The latter is associated with the feeling that comes from say, buying a new car. Consumerism feels good instantly. But when you pursue a purpose, like training for a marathon, there isn’t instant happiness. It’s a slow burn, but it comes with genuine, lasting happiness.
If you constantly chase the instant gratification, you’re fueling anxiety rather than true happiness. You’re not sowing real satisfaction or joy — you’re chasing empty pleasures and squandering your potential in the process.
We often build a wall around our feelings in order to protect ourselves from hurt. Life is wild, and the highs and lows can be difficult to navigate. We don’t want to experience hurt, feel too much or too deeply, so there’s only one way to handle it. You wall yourself off. While this impulse is understandable, it’s contributing to squandering your potential.
There’s something beautiful in vulnerability — when you strip everything back to share yourself in honesty with others. Telling someone they inspire you, showing someone how much you love them, and opening yourself up to people you love. You might get hurt, sure, but part of pursuing and fulfilling your potential is dealing with humanity as it is.
You Must Face the Reality of Unsatisfactory Living
We all must face the reality of unsatisfactory living at some point. We all reach a point where we recognize the fact that we’ve been squandering our potential. The moment in which we realize this differs for everyone.
To be clear, it’s not as though you’ve frittered your life away. It’s just that you haven’t accomplished something of lasting value, for you. You feel as though you’ve been blown onto someone else’s path and just kept traversing it.
You didn’t take the time to correct the navigational error — you just went with the flow. That’s not a fulfilling way to live. It takes time to correct the course and find the right way. But, you have to make that decision. If you make that decision today, I guarantee you’ll feel better about your life, even if it takes you five years to get to where you want to be.
It doesn’t matter how old you are — it’s never too late to correct the course and start living up to your full potential. Listed below are several tactics to get you started. If you ever drift off course again, you can quickly correct yourself and continue moving forward. It isn’t too late to find your happiness.
Begin the Process of Reaching Your Potential – 4 Practical Beginner Steps
Let’s start with four practical steps before we think outside the box.
1. Write Your Goals Down
It’s up to you to set your goals, don’t allow others to influence this process. If you compare goals to breathing, every breath is important, but none more than the next. By setting goals you’re staying focused on what comes next and writing them down will keep you on track and honest.
2. Stretch for Something Just Out Of Reach
While it’s important to have realistic goals, it’s just as important to reach. Don’t set goals that are possible — choose goals that are just out of reach. You want to stretch yourself. Otherwise, what’s the point?
3. Take Action
Take action so consistently that you reach a point where it’s just the norm. If you want to achieve your potential, then you’ll need to set big goals and take massive action. That’s what it takes and if you want to make it that’s what you need to do.
4. Be Persistent
Think about goal-chasing the way you do DIY. Think about it. The only way to hammer a nail is to do so repeatedly. Similarly, you’ll only achieve your goals if you chase them repeatedly. You have to keep at it and be persistent. You might run into a setback, but you have to keep going. The only way to move forward is to persist. Don’t place limits on what you can achieve — chase it until you get what you want.
Steps That Take You Further
Dream Big, Fight Hard
If you feel a little down because you’ve lost your way, then it’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t deserve big dreams. Perhaps you were discouraged from dreaming big as you grew up. So many adults let go of their dreams and sense of magic as they get older.
What’s your big dream?
What’s stopping you from going out and getting it?
Dreaming big is part and parcel of being a person, and for a lot of people those dreams come true. But the only way to ensure your dreams come true is to dream big and then take action. Go for it! Otherwise, you’re squandering your potential.
The Locus of Control
You’ve likely heard of external versus internal locus of control. The external locus feels as though things just happen to you. Whereas internal locus provides you with power and control over your own life.
You don’t need to feel embarrassed if you feel powerless. There will be times in your life where it feels as though the world is against you. It will feel like things just happen to you. When you live with an external locus of control, you squander your potential. The good news is you can switch gears and change it to the internal locus of control.
How? It starts with dreaming big and then chasing those dreams. When you change your view and look at the world as being full of possibilities, then it becomes addictive. You see more opportunities than before because suddenly your eyes are open. You realize you possess the power to seize on any of these opportunities.
It’s easy to blame everyone and everything else for the situation you find yourself in. The reality of the matter is that you have far more control over your circumstances than you have led yourself to believe. You can sit by idly and tell yourself the universe is against you or you can take control and stop squandering your potential.
You’re in a place where you’re questioning your decisions, wondering how you got here. You don’t want to look back on the last decade and rue the time you’ve squandered. You don’t have to. Today, you can make a decision to change everything going forward.
When you reach a point where you recognize that you’ve been squandering your potential, there’s only one choice you can make — that you’re going to stop squandering and start fulfilling your potential. Hope isn’t lost, you’re in the perfect position to change your life.
Take the advice offered above and apply it to your life to help heal the wounds you’ve self-inflicted and prevent more of them. You can’t let anyone else stand between you and fulfilling your potential. You can’t allow yourself to self-sabotage. You’re ready to take on this battle now, you’re armed with the information you need to fulfill your potential.
George J. Ziogas is an HR Consultant with 15+ years of experience across a number of industries with a specialization in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). He is a qualified vocational instructor/teacher and personal trainer. George is also a blogger and top writer in numerous categories/tags on Medium. He speaks several languages (English, Greek, Macedonian), and enjoys working out/keeping fit, music, reading, and traveling. He is married and lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
Image courtesy of Pam Sharpe.