If you haven’t reached your full potential, these 8 habits could be why

Habits are the ingrained go-to behaviors that happen without us even thinking about it anymore.

The problem is, that means many of them silently hold you back because they go unchecked.

So if you haven’t reached your full potential, some of these 8 habits could be to blame.

1) Finding excuses and living in denial

Many people don’t reach their full potential because they haven’t yet taken full responsibility for themselves.

They are busy telling themselves:

  • There’s not a lot they can do to change their circumstance
  • Life’s not fair
  • Their parents never supported or encouraged them
  • X, Y, Z is holding them back

Let me be clear:

Inequality is real. Some people do have it easier than others. That sucks.

Some people are dealt a far worse hand, and it’s understandable that negative events can go on to hold them back.

But that is also the harsh reality of life.

Only through the acceptance that nobody will shape your future but you can you get your ass into gear and become the best version of yourself.

That means we must ditch our excuses, stop looking for scapegoats, and stop hiding in denial.

2) Fear of screwing up

If you could boil it all down to one thing, the biggest enemy to reaching your potential is fear.

That comes in many forms and prompts us to stay in our comfort zone.

Largely, we’re scared of messing up, of not getting what we want, of not measuring up.

We’re never going to wave goodbye to fear. All we can seek to do is reduce it and act in spite of it.

And the good news is the more we do, the greater our confidence grows.

What can help is:

  • Reminding yourself that everyone fails, it’s an unavoidable part of finding success
  • Try to recognize when it is your fear that is talking
  • Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” Is it really so bad?
  • Ask yourself “What do I stand to gain?“
  • Adopt a growth mindset — anything is possible with enough time and effort applied
  • Suck it up and do it anyway. It’s the only way to build tenacity.

3) Talking yourself out of things

Have you ever talked yourself out of something before you’ve even tried?

It’s pretty common.

Because most of us live with a non-stop voice in our head that talks to us throughout the day. We’re so used to it, that we often don’t even realize it anymore.

But this inner critic has a habit of spelling out all the pitfalls and problems —whether real or totally imagined.

It often tells us very unkind things about ourselves, our abilities, and our potential. In fact, if anyone else spoke to us like that, we’d call them toxic and ditch them ASAP.

Yet we are often worryingly quick to believe this negative voice that strips away at us.

It’s time to consciously counteract it with kinder thoughts and positive self-talk.

Because unfortunately, without the backing of self-belief, you’ll never blossom into your full potential.

We must address those false stories we buy into about ourselves because they are insidious to our success.

4) Waiting for “the right time”

Goals and plans are great. But they don’t mean a thing without action to back them up.

I’m not saying that timing isn’t sometimes important.

There are occasions when we need to lay foundations. Or perhaps have other commitments that require us to hold-off for a while.

But 9 times out of 10 there is never going to feel like the perfect time to make a change.

If you wait around until you feel ready to take the next step, you’ll be most likely waiting forever.

Because we never feel ready.

Usually, we’re just scared. That’s why we fall back on delay tactics.

5) Procrastination and overwhelm

Whenever the thought of something feels like a hefty task, we have a habit of hiding from it.

If your brain tries to compute the distance from where you are now to where you want to be it can quickly become fried.

That’s when overwhelm kicks in.

“Yikes! There is so much to do. How will I make it happen?”

In this state of mind, we then become flooded with stress hormones and pressure. And that leads us to procrastinate.

Suddenly the very thought of taking any small step feels insurmountable.

So we try to find anything that will help us to avoid it.

  • We create to-do lists, but only ever tick off the unimportant tasks
  • We plan to make a start…but another day
  • We get lost in more pleasant distractions, hoping to find some comfort and relief

There isn’t a quick magic fix. It’s just about finding the best ways that work for you to reduce these perfectly natural (albeit destructive) habits.

For me, what helps is:

  • Breaking up bigger goals into really small defined and actionable tasks that I can complete.
  • When I don’t feel like doing something, I commit to a really short period of time (like 15 minutes). That usually feels doable, and the truth is, once you start you usually get over your block and are happy to continue.
  • Do the most important things first, don’t delay or get lost in other tasks. Start the day off with them right away to set the tone.
  • Reframe things so that I stop seeing something as such a big deal, and try to see it as an experiment — so the outcome matters less (which in turn reduces the pressure). Basically, just give it a go without worrying so much how it will turn out.

6) Time wasting

Never underestimate what a drain displaced energy can be.

The truth is that reaching your full potential isn’t going to happen with half-assed effort. It’s obviously going to take hard work.

It’s also safe to say that there are plenty of things that aren’t quite so important and zap our time and energy.

Maybe that’s:

  • Social media
  • Internet shopping
  • Watching TV
  • Alcohol

It’s not a judgment on any of these things.

A bit of light relief is needed. But only you can identify what time wasters you may be guilty of overindulging in.

It’s important for us to keep them in check and redirect some of our time, energy, and resources into things that will ultimately help us grow.

7) Not taking care of yourself

I hold my hands up and admit, I fall way more into the category above than this one. I’m more inclined to waste time rather than end up overworking.

Some on the other hand neglect their well-being in the pursuit of greatness — not realizing that this could be holding them back.

Burnout and stress are real.

That means going full throttle is not the quickest route to your full potential. Remember the story about the hare and the tortoise?

Reaching your potential is a marathon, not a sprint.

We can’t neglect the things that support a healthy body and mind along the way. Because that’s what is going to help us get to where we want to go.

  • Enough sleep
  • A nutritious diet
  • Ample exercise
  • Rest
  • Fun and recreation

These are important. So they shouldn’t come last on your list.

It’s misguided to skip them as downtime has been shown to make you even more productive — boosting mood, performance, and concentration.

8) Getting hung up on the outcome

Sometimes life delivers us what we need, not what we want.

I’m sure there are times you can think of when you desperately wanted something. But now you feel genuinely grateful that it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped.

Because you since learned that it wasn’t the right fit for you after all, or something even better came along.

Drive and vision can be wonderful things.

But when we hold on too rigidly to them, we ourselves become rigid. And growth also demands we are flexible.

It’s okay to adapt and to change our plans and ideas— we need to do this because we change too.

We must try to let go of controlling the outcome, otherwise, we can quickly become disheartened whenever it feels like things aren’t working out.

Instead, we have to try our best to enjoy the ride. That way we can focus our effort and attention on the all-important actions we take in the present.

You are far less likely to give up when you don’t grasp onto idealized stories or timelines of how everything “should” work out.

Final thoughts: Your potential is ever-expanding

Here’s something to think about:

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that you have yet to reach your full potential.


Because potential is limitless. That’s how expansion works.

Much like life itself and the whole Universe, it is boundaryless and always extending.

That means, as you grow, so too does your full potential.

That is a marvelous thing, not something we should use to beat ourselves up over.

There is always going to be a new version of yourself waiting for you to step into.

Of course, we can always cultivate greater self-aware and take the steps to ensure we continue to expand, rather than get stuck.

Considering the “bad habits” you may have picked up along the way will help you to do that.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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