8 clear-cut signs you’re not living up to your potential in life

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Some people say that life is meaningless. Others believe there is some divine purpose behind everything.

However, the truth is that we’re all just grasping at straws. We simply don’t know.

And if you don’t know what the meaning of life is…how are you to find your purpose?

Here’s a hint: everything you need is already within you. If the external world won’t give you answers, the best course of action is to try to find them on your own.

This is the part where we talk about your potential, or in other words, the heights that you can reach if only you find your path and work hard enough.

Are you living up to your potential in life? These are the 8 clear-cut signs that you still have a long journey ahead of you.

1) You feel like you’re just going through the motions

Over the years, I’ve found that the key to happiness is to always look for activities that awaken your inner child and spike that amazing feeling of excitement inside you.

Because that’s when you’re willing to put in all your effort and energy and still keep going. That’s when work doesn’t feel like work. That’s when your potential is shining through all the different future possibilities popping up in your mind’s eye.

As Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers, “Hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Once it does, it becomes the kind of thing that makes you grab your wife around the waist and dance a jig.”

I’ve always loved hobbies and projects precisely for this reason.

When I learned to crochet, I was fulfilling a part of me I hadn’t even known I’d had. When I read fiction books every evening, I submerge myself in worlds that bring me a sense of marvel and joy. Each time I start a new side hustle, I’m enthusiastic about all the different outcomes this project can bring.

What are the things you’re excited about? The things that give you energy instead of draining you?

If you haven’t found them yet or if you’re not investing enough time in them…it’s a sign you’re not living up to your potential in life.

2) You wonder if the ship has sailed

Remember what it was like to be a kid, your mind brimming with dreams, your eyes wide open?

Those were the days, right?

But what if I told you that dreaming big doesn’t only apply to children? What if I told you that the childlike ambitiousness you reminisce about so often is still inside you, waiting for you to let it run free?

“But I’m too old.”

“But I’m too unfit.”

“But I’m too set in my ways.”

No, you’re not. 

People in their eighties can still learn a great deal from the young generation. Plenty of writers, musicians, and CEOs have become famous in their forties. The majority of people I meet on hiking trails are decades older than me and walk at a much faster pace.

The ship hasn’t sailed. Because you are the ship. And you can travel anywhere you damn please – if only you untangle those chains.

3) You feel envious of other people’s success

This one isn’t easy to admit, but I guarantee you it’s more common than you’d think. Lots of my friends compare themselves to influencers on social media, boiling with envy at their fit bodies, luxurious lifestyles, designer clothes, and perfect partners.

These friends aren’t miserable or evil, mind you. They’re really lovely. The reason they’re envious is that they know they can attain all that and more; they know they have the potential to make all their dreams come true.

But they’re scared or stuck in a rut or confused. They don’t know where to begin, and that’s extremely overwhelming.

I mean, what do you do first? Get a fit body, revamp your whole wardrobe, become the CEO of a multimillionaire company, or finally find your prince charming?

4) You think about change a lot but don’t know where to start

Here’s where you start: You reconfigure your approach to success.

You can’t just get fit. It’s not a magic trick. Instead of setting up a goal of “getting fit”, start going to the gym three days a week and ask one of your friends to send you some workout recommendations.

You can’t change your whole fashion style in one go. That’d probably cost a fortune. Create a vision board and buy two pieces of clothing that really fit that vibe.

You get the gist.

One thing to remember is that you shouldn’t do too many things at once. Building a habit and making a change is hard. If you start five habits at once, there’s a high chance you’ll give up after four days.

Eight months ago, I started going to the gym. Two months ago, I began working on a new side hustle. Three days ago, I went shopping for new clothes.

One step at a time is all it takes.

5) You feel out of touch with your authentic self

Next comes the question, “What about my life feels inauthentic? And what would the ideal version of me do?”

I know, I know. It’s not exactly easy to figure this one out.

Here’s where a visualization exercise comes in handy. 

Play some relaxing music, close your eyes, and visualize the perfect day of your ideal self. Where do you wake up? What can you see? What can you hear? What’s the first thing you do?

As you go through the imaginary day, you’ll be able to slowly unveil what things feel truly right.

The first time I did this, I was seventeen and in high school. I’ve repeated it many times since then, and I usually end up with very similar results, which shows me that what I visualize is what my authentic self really wants.

And no, I’ve not reached that place yet – at least not fully. But I’m on my way. And that’s what counts.

6) You’re scared that your life has no significance

As we’ve already established, none of us know why we’re here. But when you’re living up to your potential in life and feeling excited to wake up every day, it doesn’t really matter.

Because what you do has meaning. It feels right. It feels like this is exactly where you’re meant to be.

When you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum, though – when you’re stuck in an empty routine doing a job you don’t much care about and feeling lost – fears of insignificance are quite common.

“What’s my legacy?” you might be asking yourself. “What impact am I making in the world?”

If your potential is starving to be fed, your answers are probably very unsatisfactory. But the moment you find your calling…you’ll rarely feel the need to ask.

7) You’re embarrassed to talk about your life with others

Here’s another exercise that’ll help clear some stuff up.

Think about the last few times when your parents, extended family, or friends asked you about your life. Did you feel a slight sense of embarrassment as you were telling them about it?

Someone who works a corporate office job and absolutely loves it won’t feel embarrassed. They’ll probably go on a passionate tangent about what they enjoy about their position and lifestyle.

A housekeeper who’s happy and proud of her job won’t feel like she’s failing in life. Don’t get me wrong, she might face some difficult conversations if she’s talking to people who look down on her, but that’s their problem, not hers.

In her heart, she is content. She is satisfied. And it’s beautiful to see.

Generally, it’s those who are on the wrong path in life that feel embarrassed. Because they know they’re meant for other things.

8) You feel constantly exhausted

If there’s one thing an unfulfilled potential does, it’s to make you exhausted all the damn time.

As you’re going through yet another day, you’re often seized by longing for a better life. And that longing, together with the feeling of helplessness and disappointment, weighs on your shoulders so heavily it can completely tire you out.

I know because I felt that way before.

Combine an unfulfilling job with a desire for something completely else, add in a lot of confusion and pessimism, sprinkle in a bit of drive that gets immediately squashed by all your other responsibilities, and you’ve got an exhaustion cocktail.

But do you know the one thing that helped me feel less tired in the past?

(You’re not going to like this.)

It was the decision to actually start working on my dreams even though I was almost out of fuel. And the moment I did this, a funny thing happened – the excitement itself gave me so much energy that my whole life turned around.

As it turns out, the best way to feel less exhausted is to start fulfilling your potential in life.

So, what are you waiting for?

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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