Why do people fall short of their potential?

August 6, 2017

Everyone has greatness within them. God has put potential in everybody, but are you playing your part to achieve that potential?


To Joe, potential is the maximum level of success or fulfillment you could possibility reach. If you squeezed out every ounce of that special something in you, to do what you were created to do, and you overcame every obstacle and you shed off all the negatives that come at you, what you will achieve then would be your full potential.


Another great definition of potential is “the best version of yourself.” If you take all the skills, experiences, qualities that you’ve got and you distill it down to the best you can possibly be, that’s achieving your potential.


Every one should strive to achieve their potential but too many people don’t work hard to achieve it. It’s also really easy to get caught up in things that get you off track, and cause you to lose focus. As a result, very few people achieve their full potential.


There are three things that have a direct impact on whether your potential is maximized or falling backwards: aptitude, environment and desires.



Everybody has some natural abilities. That goes back to your purpose, your areas of greatest strength and what some people call your ‘super powers’. Additionally, what determines your aptitude, is the level of schooling or education you get. It’s your character and your integrity, your core values and what you believe.


If you believe things that are negative or destructive, you’re not going to move towards your potential. If you believe in things like integrity, honesty, and serving other people, those types of things will move you towards your potential. So your core values play an important role with your aptitude.



The easiest definition of environment is your physical location. If you have two people and one is born in poverty and lives in a mud hut in the third world, their potential is limited compared to someone born in a Western society who has access to school, access to the internet, access to food. Those aspects of environment play a huge role in whether or not you’re going to have the opportunity to achieve your potential.


Another area of your environment is your culture. Culture is the environment of a group of people, which Joe covered in a previous episode. It can be the culture of a nation, the culture of a church, the culture of an organization, the culture of a company and/or the culture of you and your friends. The culture is going to play a huge role in whether you’re going to achieve your potential or whether you’ll allow yourself to be pulled away from it. The culture of the groups you spend the most time with, and your personal culture, plays a huge role in the achievement of your potential.


Another part of your environment is your mentors or your role models, the people you learned from, the people who showed you the way and went before you.



Desire to Joe, is directly related to your purpose in life. Why did God create you? If you have a purpose and a vision of what you want to be that is so strong it propels you toward it, that desire is going to carry you toward your potential. If you are not protecting your confidence, will-power, or energy and they are being depleted before your day even gets going, that will pull you backwards. So desire is going to play a huge role in whether you are moving forward with the potential God put in you or whether you are being pulled away from it.


Attitude, environment and desire; take a look at those things. Which of them are working in your favor? Which of them are working against you? Which of them can you change so they’re working you in favor?


In America, there is an epidemic of lost potential. When you look at sports, it’s easy to tell whether someone is achieving their potential, because it’s all about performance on the field. You’re either winning or you’re not. You’re breaking records or you’re not.  When you’re dealing with life or business, there are gray areas. You can’t quite tell whether someone is achieving their potential in the way you can with sports.


Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry had both the aptitude and the desire to be among the best baseball players in history and help the Mets achieve a 10-15 year dynasty after they won the World Series in 1986. However, they didn’t have the right environment. They were surrounded by a party culture. Drugs, women, drinking and they got caught up in the addictions. And because of that, although they were great for a couple of years, their true potential was squandered.


In your life, when you look at your potential and the areas where you want to be great, what areas are cheating you out of your greatness? Where are you lying to yourself or engaging in an activity or behavior that doesn’t line up with where your potential should be taking you? What are you doing to correct those things? There are really five different areas that stop people from achieving their potential.



The first thing that holds people back from achieving their potential is laziness. They’re complacent, self-satisfied, and don’t have any goals or vision. They’ve just settled into a comfort zone and basically given up the desire to be anything more.


If you’re in that lazy zone but you have a glimmer of desire to be more, what can you do to break the cycle?


It comes down to your WHY. Why do you not want to be lazy anymore? What is your purpose? You such a powerful WHY that you will do it even when you don’t feel like doing it. Lazy is hard to overcome without goals or vision or values.


By the way, quiet time is not lazy time because quiet time is the time that gives your brain a little oxygen and that oxygen allows the fire to light that gets things going. Quiet time is a great way for someone who is complacent and satisfied with mediocrity to start. Think about what you’d like to be great at and what your purpose is. Spend time imagining what life would be like if you really got good at that and honed your skills there. If you’re lazy, you need to find a WHY that’s going to stop you from being lazy.



The second reason people fall short of their potential, is they’re scared. It’s not a terrified, trembling-in-your-boots scared, but having no confidence. You never want to leave your comfort zone because you don’t know what’s out there. Or maybe you failed in the past and you’re afraid you’re going to fail again. Maybe you didn’t quite measure up one time and you were humiliated or made fun of and you don’t want to experience that again.


Everybody is scared, at times. It all comes back to your comfort zone. Stepping out of your comfort zone is scary.


Figure out, what it is you’re scared about, and do it scared!. That’s the best way. Expand that comfort zone because if you are not stretching your comfort zone everyday, it is shrinking. Every day you can move forward, every day you can expand your comfort zone, and every day you can experience what it’s like to step out. If you try something new, you’re not going to be good at it the first time you try it. You need to take the attitude of a learner and not be afraid to look silly or goofy. Just do it and then laugh about it when it’s tough and try again to get better at it. That’s how you learn, so if you’re scared, expand your comfort zone and do it scared.


Lack of discipline

The third thing that stops people is they are undisciplined. They’re distracted. They don’t know how to prioritize. They don’t know how to grind. They’re not able to focus for a long period of time to move the ball forward on a project. Lack of discipline comes from a short attention span, or when people multitask five things at once but actually are doing five things badly. Undisciplined comes from stretching too thin and trying to do too much.


If you get to the end of a day, exhausted because you’ve been so busy, but haven’t actually accomplished anything important, then you may have a problem with discipline. You need to learn how to focus, and a great place to start is to read Gary Keller’s book The One Thing and set aside an hour to work on your purpose.


It’s important to understand, what got you to your current level of success, is not going get you to the next level of success. You have to change things.


Are you doing things now, just like you’ve always done them and expecting a different result? If you are, you may have something you need to deconstruct, take up a step back and reconstruct better before you move forward. A lot of times, getting disciplined and focused is one of those things.



The fourth reason people fall short of their potential is they’re deceived. They’re lying to themselves, saying they’re doing fine when they’re not. Or pretending that there’s not a problem when there is. They’ve convinced themselves everything will go great, when it really won’t. Most of all, they’re not willing to admit they have a problem they need to address or an issue they need to solve.


Another way people lie to themselves is they expect it to be easy. They expect the things worth having in life to be easy to achieve. And typically, the best things in life are very difficult to achieve.


Also, people make excuses. They act like the world is against them. They’re victims. Those people are deceived. The day you become an adult, your problems are on you. It’s not always fair but the truth is the world doesn’t care. The day you become an adult, it is your job to overcome whatever challenges are in front of you. Are you going to be an overcomer? Or are you going to wallow in self-pity and pretend the world owes you something?


It’s not to minimize problems, but it’s about making a decision to be an overcomer. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking the world owes you anything because you were dealt a bad hand. Face your problems and your issues head on, and figure out a way to overcome them.



The fifth reason why people fall short of their potential is arrogance. These are the people who won’t ask for help, who lack humility, or who have no commitment to personal growth because they think they know everything they need to know. They have no mentors, no examples, and no ongoing education.


Howard Brinton always said, “Get out of judgment and get into curiosity.”

We can learn something from anybody we meet. If you sit down and ask those people, everybody has wisdom they can share. And if you take the attitude of a student in life, you’re going to learn things from everybody.


If you walk through life with arrogance, like you know everything, you’re missing out on all kinds of stuff that can help you, make your life richer, and help you reach your potential. So get out of judgment, get into curiosity and be a student of life.


Out of those five reasons why people fall short of their potential—laziness, fear, lack of discipline, being deceived and arrogance—which of them is holding you back?


Are you really doing everything you can to achieve your potential?


Everybody has something getting in their way. Whatever it is, you need to address it. Spend the time to find solutions and get inspiration. Allow your brain the space to think about your potential and what’s keeping you from doing that.


What kind of person are you? What are you going to be? Are you going to go after your potential? Or are you going to let the world beat it out of you?


If you’ve enjoyed the podcast today, Joe would love to hear from you. Email him at joe@studentoflifepodcast.com


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