“There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can.” – Henry Ford
I’ll agree with ol’ Henry on that.
When it comes to getting things accomplished, I’ve found that sometimes, through a variety of means, I sell myself short and convince myself of a level of achievement that is safe but is beneath what I am actually capable of doing. As I observe others, I find that I am not alone in this.
Why is it that we so often allow ourselves to underachieve? I’ve identified three common reasons. I’ll briefly share those, then go into three scenarios through which we can realize greater potential in ourselves.
Three reasons we underachieve:
This one is pretty straightforward. Doing more than what we’ve always done can be terrifying because we don’t know what will happen when we try something new.
When I was fresh out of college, stepping into my career field (at the time was radio broadcasting) was absolutely terrifying. I was afraid of failing, of being a terrible DJ, of getting laughed at, getting fired, etc.
You know what happened? I was a terrible DJ at first. People did laugh at me. I survived and got better. Then I went on to a different job in the radio industry, and the terror resumed, this time with more intensity because the stakes were higher at this job in a larger market.
The trend continued at each subsequent job, even after I started working in marketing following my stint as a radio personality. Which each new career move, more responsibility and higher expectations, and more acute fear. I didn’t stay in the fear zone, however. More on that shortly.
Sometimes we don’t achieve much because we like doing less even better. It’s comfortable to do what we know. Laziness will stunt growth every time. Often we recognize it, but are unwilling to change, even when we see that our lazy ways are holding us back.
This is more difficult to pinpoint, but it is just as real as the first two. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” We may survive for years, perhaps even a whole lifetime, doing less than our full capability. It takes the trials of life to stretch the boundaries and make us aware of our higher potential.
Those are the three most common traps for performing at less than our most capable levels.
Now let’s look at three ways in which we are most likely to learn our potential.
Through fire – the trials of life
In my experience, this is the most common method. Whether it is the pressure of finishing those college term papers that are due in the morning, navigating the demands of a boss that works 24/7 and expects employees to do the same, training for a race, getting in shape for your wedding or dealing with family drama, they all come at us fast and take more than we are prepared to give.
Those scenarios are “where the rubber meets the road” as the saying goes. This is where we see what we are made of.
Looking back on some of the fires I’ve walked through, I recall a whole lot of sleepless nights, crying out to God for help, tearful phone conversations with my folks, hyperventilating, wrestling soul-shaking doubts that I feared would do me in.
It was in these times that I found my grit. I determined that I refused to quit, to fail, or to do less than my best at any of the challenges – no matter what it took. Looking back, I am amazed what I was able to accomplish. By the grace of God, and with the help of trusted confidantes, to be sure.
I would dare say most of us have goals we long to achieve that seem out of reach. We know what we want, we just don’t know how to get there. That is where mentors and coaches come in. Mentors can show us the way; often they have already done that what we want to master and have invaluable guidance they can offer.
A more direct but often more costly route is to hire a coach. Stats indicate that life coaching a $2 billion industry annually. If you don’t have someone who can mentor you but are willing to spend some cash on a professional, you can have a path to success customized for you. I’ve seen several friends make dramatic life improvements in areas of business and health through the effect of working with a coach.
The truly rare among us become high-achieving, goal-smashing geniuses through sheer will and self-disciple. Note: I am not 100% sure such a person actually exists, but I am throwing it out there just in case. The “self-made man” feels like a fallacy to me, because everyone had help from someone along the way.
Nevertheless, I suppose it is possible for someone to be so motivated to improve that they take the steps necessary to get where they are going without much outside help.
By way of a summary, we can be stunted from accomplishing our maximum potential through fear, laziness or not knowing our limits. We most often improve ourselves when life gets hectic, when we call upon others for help, or when we buckle down and determine to create better habits for ourselves.
As for me, I’ve walked through plenty of stressful situations thus far in life. I suspect most of us have. Though they were ultra miserable to wade through, they made me aware of where I was falling short and pushed my limits so I could see what I was capable of.
Have you been holding back on rocking some goals? What is causing you to do so? What will it take to push you out of your comfort zone into high achieving mode?
Whatever it is, I am confident that you can do it.