Underachievers come in all shapes and sizes.
They often have enormous potential but sadly fall far short of it.
The question is why?
Every case is different, of course, but all underachievers have something in common…
1) They procrastinate
Procrastination isn’t some rare tropical disease…
In fact, I often suffer from it myself.
It’s simply putting off work that needs to be done.
In moderate doses, procrastination hurts nobody and probably means you saw a few really good films while you should have been working.
In larger doses, procrastination derails success and leads to serious issues.
When you put off what needs to be done, you often end up sabotaging your own future.
2) They make excuses
There are always excuses.
Some of these excuses may even be quite legitimate or compelling.
But they’re still just excuses.
They won’t buy groceries or pay your heating bill.
People who underachieve make the fundamental and childish mistake of thinking that their suffering or excuses entitle them to achieve what they desire.
Life keeps moving on whether or not we do.
You could be the most mistreated person in history. Life will still leave you behind without a second thought.
3) They’re inconsistent
Having one or two days of great workouts at the gym is admirable, but apart from a temporary feeling of wellbeing and a good night’s sleep, you’re unlikely to see measurable progress.
Progress comes from consistency, and consistency comes from discipline.
Those who underachieve in life are often those who are unable or unwilling to practice self-discipline and be consistent.
They may be highly intelligent or even gifted, but without that consistency and that grit, they begin to fall through the cracks and end up falling short of professional and personal goals.
4) They play the victim
We’re all victimized at some times in life, some of us much more than others.
Being a victim is very much a real thing and is tragic and sad.
But playing the victim is something else:
This is when somebody intentionally inhabits and manipulates the role of a victim to get what they want, elicit sympathy or avoid action.
Those who underachieve are often stuck in a victim mindset.
They talk about why they can’t pursue their dreams because of what happened in the past…
They complain about being mistreated and disrespected to explain why a failure proves nobody will ever appreciate them for real and they shouldn’t try…
They take one business failure and say that all of society is corrupt and worthless so there’s no point in trying again…
The victim mentality is poison, because the more somebody falls into it the more convincing and true it becomes!
5) They look for external validation
When you’re sitting at a red light you wait until it turns green before you hit the gas:
Those are just the rules of the road.
But life doesn’t really work that way, in fact it doesn’t work that way at all.
Underachievers have a tendency to seek the approval or go-ahead of others before pursuing their dreams.
The result is simple:
Stagnancy and being stuck in place, as well as insecurity.
It’s important to never let outer approval determine your course of action or the next step you take.
6) They’re hesitant to try a new idea
Every new idea is a risk and sometimes caution is well advised.
But underachievers take it to an extreme, often refusing to do something until the path is so well-trodden that there’s no benefit.
New ideas and taking a chance is scary for any of us:
The underachiever tends to use this as an excuse to hold back and not take action.
The result is a lack of real forward progress in any area of your life.
7) They only focus on money
Money matters and anybody who says otherwise is glossing over an important fact of life.
But making money the main objective is also shortsighted.
Many of the most successful businesses start from very humble beginnings, and successful products and services often start at a very low price point before gaining success and having the cost put up.
Underachievers sometimes get tunnel vision about money: they focus on when their next paycheck will be or how they can make some extra money today or this week.
This short-term type of thinking leads to one thing: poverty.
8) They don’t focus on money enough
The flipside of thinking too much about money is not thinking about money enough.
Underachievers tend to either have a short-term fixation on money or don’t take it seriously enough.
The result is that they often end up in jobs that don’t pay them enough or get taken advantage of by unscrupulous people.
When somebody thinks money is dirty or not important, that’s very convenient for those who use money to control and influence others.
9) They get lost in daydreaming
Planning for the future is one thing and it’s crucial.
But underachievers are more prone to daydreaming.
They get lost in fantasies and wear rose-colored glasses about the future.
The result is that they often end up totally out of sync with reality and waste a lot of time sitting around.
Real change takes planning, absolutely, but it also takes action.
And daydreams and action are polar opposites.
10) They make promises they can’t keep
Nothing sinks respect and trust faster than a person who makes promises they either can’t or don’t intend to keep.
Sadly, many underachievers do this.
They enjoy the short term buzz of goodwill from making promises but not the long-term work of making them happen.
The result? Loss of trust and respect in all areas of their life.
11) They cling to labels and coteries
Underachievers often cling to labels and cliques.
They want to be in the coolest coterie or get the new phone everyone is talking about at the same time as everyone else.
The result can be very herd-like behavior, overspending and wasted time.
It can also be a lack of self-motivation and self-direction as they get caught up in trends instead of being forward-thinking about their own plans and priorities.
12) They aspire to pretentious goals
The biggest achievements and milestones in life are rarely linear.
The path to get ahead in career and many other areas often takes a number of twists and turns including through jobs and phases that aren’t glamorous.
Underachievers sometimes have overly pretentious goals such as being “CEO of a film studio” that they have no actual plan (or desire of a plan) for how to achieve.
The result? Nothing happens except people losing respect for them.
13) They try to satisfy others before themselves
Many very successful people are generous and caring to others.
But they also look after themselves and make sure their needs are taken care of first.
Underachievers often fall short of this, trying to please everyone else and be of service whenever possible to such an extent that they end up self-abandoning.
It’s truly sad to see.
This ties into the next point…
14) They placate the bad behavior of others
Underachievers have a habit of people-pleasing.
Not only do they tend to seek approval and validation before making a move, they also don’t like confrontation.
The result is often that bigger bullies and authoritarian jerks roll over them.
An individual may have stellar ethics, ideas and plans, but if he or she lets a more aggressive individual overrule and override them, those ideas and plans aren’t going to happen.
This is why underachievers often end up working under manipulative bosses and underpaid jobs:
They just don’t want to rock the boat.
15) They pretend to be happy with mediocrity
Nobody is truly happy with mediocrity and an unsatisfying life.
But many people have become accustomed to this kind of existence and will even cling to it because of familiarity.
Underachievers often have a lot of untapped potential, but if you suggest ways to break out of their comfort zone and do greater things they will push back.
They’d prefer to fake contentment and stay in a false sense of safety their whole lives than break out and take a real risk.
It’s sad, but it’s important to remember that nobody can be forced to break out of a prison they helped create!
The bottom line on underachieving
The bottom line on underachieving is that it’s all in the habits we have.
Those who rise to their full potential practice healthy and empowering habits.
We all have good days and bad days.
But it’s the habits we practice consistently that help us rise above or fall below.
Take a look at the list above and see if there’s anything you can work on or advice you can give to those you know.
None of us are going to be having a perfect record of success in life, but we can do our best to improve and practice healthy habits whenever possible.