Learning to Live Up to Your Potential

Avatar by Amy Steinberg Published May 5, 2020 Last updated May 5, 2020

Living up to your potential: it’s a phrase heard often enough in high school and even college. Maybe you heard it in negative terms: a teacher, for example, insisting that you weren’t “living up to your potential” in class, or a manager who insisted that you weren’t accomplishing as much as they thought you should.

What does it really mean to live up to your potential–and how can you transform your life to meet that so-called potential? 

Defining Your Potential

The hard truth about potential is that it is something that has not yet been realized. Your potential is what you have the ability to accomplish. Most people start off with a reasonable amount of potential. They have the ability to reach great accomplishments in their personal and professional arenas. As you age, you may become more set in your ways or struggle harder to meet your goals. As a result, it may seem that your potential has decreased–but has it?

If you aren’t living up to your potential, are you really even living? 

When you consider your potential, consider what you have the ability to accomplish, if you have the right resources and tools at your disposal and the right support behind you. In your professional life, your potential could include increased experience or expanding your skill set and accomplishing your goals. In some ways, you have unlimited potential: you could turn to any profession or change your specialty at any time. In others, however, you may find your potential limited: if you don’t have a strong mathematical ability, for example, you might struggle to become an accountant.

Living Up to Your Potential

If you’re ready to start living up to your potential at work, it’s time to set the distractions aside and learn what you can really accomplish. Try some of these key strategies:

Decide what you want to accomplish. Take a hard look at where you are right now. Consider how it compares to where you want to be.

Get serious about your daydreams. Who do you really want to be? How do you really want to see your life change? By answering those key questions, you can start living up to your potential.

Look at what you can accomplish. What do you have the ability to do? What are you good at? While you can certainly pursue a career in an industry where you do not excel, if you really want to live up to your potential, it’s important to start by considering what you’re good at and what you are inspired by. Do you have fantastic people skills? Are you driven by numerical organization? If there’s something that you’re truly good at, you may want to focus on refining that skill so that you can adapt it into something even better.

Consider what you’re not good at. Most people have weaknesses–some of them glaring, others less so. Where do you struggle and, all too often, fail? What’s preventing you from achieving your goals? Take the time to consider your weaknesses. If you struggle to see them for yourself, ask a trusted mentor or colleague to help you assess your flaws. Then, once you understand your flaws, consider how you can make changes to reduce or even eliminate them. If you struggle with time management, for example, you might need to learn how to create a more effective schedule. If people skills are a challenge for you, consider taking classes in leadership or taking other steps that will help you learn how to interact with people more effectively. 

Create a plan. You know where you are and where you’d like to be. Now, create a plan for how you’d like to get there. You don’t have to plan out every aspect of your future now, though that can help you get a better idea of how to reach your goals. Instead, create a vague outline that will help you more effectively reach the future. 

Make continuing education a priority. Technology is constantly changing–and many industries continue to grow with it. If you genuinely want to reach your potential, you need to keep learning. There are many, many new aspects of your industry out there. Getting to know as many of them as possible can help you continue to grow. Attend classes, seminars, and industry events. Get to know more people. Ask questions regularly. By seeking knowledge, you may transform what you can accomplish. 

Seek out a mentor. If you want to accomplish your full potential, it can be incredibly helpful to seek out advice along the way–ideally from someone who knows both you and your industry. Seek out a mentor: someone who will sit down and talk with you, provide valuable advice, and offer gentle correction when you start to go astray. Your mentor can be the most powerful tool in your arsenal. 

Your potential is unique, and the journey to reaching it will remain unique, too. With these strategies, however, you can get a better idea of exactly how to go about reaching your full potential. Start by knowing what you can or would like to accomplish, then go after it. Your full potential may be closer than you thought.