You want to reach your potential in life. I know because you’re reading this blog. You wouldn’t be if you didn’t want to.
So we’re both alike in that we want to be more and do more in life.
That outcome doesn’t appear from thin air. Just hoping you’ll achieve it one day isn’t going to work. It’s an ongoing process of taking deliberate action and being aware of what you need to do and do it.
I was reading my monthly issue of Success magazine, which is one of my favorites, and there was a story about John C. Maxwell. You may or may not know him, but if you don’t, he’s a author, speaker, entrepreneur and leadership consultant. He’s sold 19 million copies of his books.
So the man know something about his area of expertise.
He mentioned these eight growth gaps that prevent people from reaching their potential. I related to all of them because I faced each one at one point in my life. I knew many of you could benefit from being aware of them.
If you’re not living up to your potential, see how many of these are holding you back.
If you’re feeling stuck and lost in life, it might be because of these reasons.
The Assumption Gap – “I assume that I will automatically grow.”
I nodded my head when I read that one because that’s what I used to believe.
I figured I could just keep on living my life the way I was, which was doing nothing, watching television, playing video games, eating anything I wanted, wasting hours on the internet, and wishing my life would change.
I thought growth would come automatically. Older and wiser right? With each year, I’d be closer to being the type of person I wanted to be. I just needed to be patient.
I’m sure that’s why it took till I was 32 to finally start to grow! I wish someone would have knocked some sense into me at an earlier age.
My wife tells me I’m such a different person than when I met her four years ago. (I’m not just talking about a little big heavier either.)
After we started dating, she got to really know me and understood a lot of the frustrations I had in life.
My wife has noticed I’ve grown up a lot and in a good way.
That growth finally came from being deliberate about wanting to make changes. I looked at the areas in my life I wanted to change and made the decision to take action.
Growth didn’t happen overnight. It’s been small changes consistently over time.
Have I slipped up along the way? Of course, I’m not perfect. Some bad habits went away, but now have come back. Overall, I’m still much better off than I was just two years ago.
So don’t assume change will automatically happen. You don’t grow by simply living. No one improves by accident.
If your life isn’t the way you want it to be, don’t believe for a second that by thinking the same thoughts and doing the same things will bring change in the future.
You must be 100% responsible for everything in your life. All your thoughts, choices, behaviors and actions. No pointing fingers or placing blame.
When you have that attitude, growth is in your control. You are not living life on auto-pilot like some people people do.
The Knowledge Gap – “I don’t know how to grow.”
What paralyzes a lot of people from growing is being overwhelmed. So many things to do, but no road map for how to do it.
It’s like looking at your messy garage and wondering how in the world you’re going to ever clean it out. If you look at the piles of stuff five feet high, you will feel like not even wanting to start.
The better approach is to take it one small area at a time.
After October 2010, I wanted to change my life. I didn’t have a plan. I just took the same approach with the messy garage and looked at what areas I wanted to focus on first.
First thing I wanted to do was lose weight and start exercising.
I cleaned up my diet and started eating smaller meals throughout the day. Then I began training for my first half marathon by running three miles the first week and just adding one mile a week.
Once I had that going and was in the habit of doing it daily, I next focused on creating more free time outside of my job. I realized consuming too much news wasn’t just unhealthy for me, but also a big waste of time. So I stopped reading and watching the local news.
Another big time waster was playing video games so I sold my Xbox 360, though I didn’t want to.
Once I felt comfortable with that, I began to focus on the next thing, and then the next thing.
I didn’t try and change my whole life in 30 days. That would have been too drastic of a change. 32 years of habits can’t all be changed in 30 days.
If you don’t know how to change, start small. Maybe it’s as simple as watching less television, starting a gratitude journal, or walking 10 minutes a day.
If you truly need to know how to do something, don’t let lack of knowledge keep you from growth. Resources are out there if you take the time to look for them. (Hint: G-o-o-g-l-e)
The Timing Gap – “It’s not the right time to begin.”
If it’s not the right time now to begin, then when? I bet the right time to begin was last year, but a year later, you still think it’s not the right time to begin.
There never is a right time to begin. If you’re waiting for that perfect moment when your busy schedule clears, your motivation is sky high, and you’re ready to start, then you’re going be waiting for a long time.
Life doesn’t stop and wait for you to get on the train. It’s always moving and you need to jump on.
I think the worst time to begin is January 1st because that’s a time when people make weak attempts at growth.
They feel like January 1st is a fresh start so they’ll delay it until that day.
Let me ask you this. How does January 1st feel compared to any other day of the year? Any different? Does it smell different outside? Do fireworks shoot off for 24 hours straight outside to signify a new year?
If you didn’t look at a calendar for a whole day and you did your normal routine, would you even know what day it was January 1st?
Of course not. It feels the same. The sun goes up and comes down the same. So why wait until January 1st to make positive changes in your life?
Every day that you wake up and put your feet on the floor is a new beginning. It’s January 1st 365 days a year.
Stop doing what the other 99% are doing and decide now is the right time to begin.
When I wake up every morning to me it feels like a fresh new start. No matter if I had a bad day the day before. I wake up and focus on making that day great no matter how crappy I felt the day before.
If you have been waiting for the right time to begin, realize that right now isn’t a bad time.
You don’t have to make huge changes either. A small change in your life could get that momentum going and yield huge results in the future.
The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will never actually do it.
The Mistake Gap – “I’m afraid of making mistakes.”
You never want to screw up. You want everything to be perfect.
You know who screws up? Everyone.
So then why are you scared to screw up when you’re human like everyone else?
If you are afraid to make mistakes, you’re never going to fully live. You’ll never grow because you’re too afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You’d rather be safe and boring in this life. That’s a horrible way to live this one life we have.
Sometimes a gigantic mistake turns out to be a life changing one.
George Clooney is super famous and one of Hollywood’s leading men.
Who can forget that he was Batman? If anyone saw the movie, they know it was beyond horrible. The suit he wore was terrible!
But his career isn’t defined by it. He’s done pretty well despite it. He’s won Academy Awards and dates hot women.
Sure people can make fun of him about Batman and even he pokes fun at himself, but it’s just a misstep on a very successful career.
In an interview in 2011, he talks about it.
“With hindsight it’s easy to look back at this and go ‘Woah, that was really shit and I was really bad in it.’
I just thought the last one had been successful so I thought I was just going to be in a big successful franchise movie. In a weird way I was.”
He took a chance and thought it was going to be a hit. Who can blame him for wanting to play Batman?
It turned out to change his career, despite being in the worst Batman movie of all time.
“Batman is still the biggest break I ever had and it completely changed my career, even if it was weak and I was weak in it. It was a difficult film to be good in. I don’t know what I could have done differently.
If you make a mistake, every magazine, television station, and journalist won’t be talking about it. You’re not the laughing stock of Twitter. You’re lucky.
I’m willing to bet even the people around you won’t make a big deal about it.
However, the fear of making a mistake is still enough to hold people from taking risks and trying something different.
You can’t just keep making the same mistakes either. If a golfer keeps hitting the ball to the left, they can’t just keep swinging with the same motion and expect it to go straight.
George likely couldn’t have done another Batman with another director to fix the mess. He learned and moved on.
So a mistake doesn’t have to be all that bad. If you learn from it and adjust accordingly, it means you’re one step closer to where you want to go.
Or that mistake could open new opportunities you never imagined.
The Perfection Gap – “I have to find the best way before I start.”
Before I used to start anything, I would read as much as I could about it. I kept reading because I felt like I needed to understand every single step before I even began.
I didn’t want to make any mistakes (see above).
What ended up happening most of the time was I spent way more time reading than doing.
Now I realize that I can learn so much more by doing than by reading. All I need is just enough to get started.
You may have heard ready, aim, fire. Bad advice for growth. Instead of that it should be ready, fire, aim.
You don’t need to see the whole path when you start. Just see it a little bit at a time.
The Inspiration Gap – “I don’t feel like doing it.”
Of course you don’t feel like doing it. If you’re making a change you won’t FEEL like doing it. If you listen to your feelings, it’s always going to win.
Feel like sleeping in? Okay!
Feel like eating a bowl of ice cream? Okay!
Feel like not going for a run? Okay!
It’s so easy to be lazy when we listen to our feelings.
Sometimes you have to force yourself to do it. You just gotta do it instead of thinking about it. The longer you think about whether or not you should do it, the greater the chances of not doing it.
Did I really feel like writing this post? No, actually I felt like playing Clash of Clans on my iPad (don’t download it if you want to be productive). Then after that I felt like cleaning my messy desk. Then I felt like reading the newspaper.
Stop listening to your feelings and waiting for inspiration to hit you.
The Comparison Gap – “Others are better than I am.”
This is tough because we look at others ahead of us and get jealous or frustrated. We feel behind and keep trying to catch up.
Instead, surround yourself with those type of people to help propel your growth. Be friends with them. Learn from them. Find a mentor or someone you can model. Learn why they do well.
You have to learn to be comfortable out of your comfort zone. Associating yourself with people ahead of you will keep you moving forward.
John said, “It’s hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow.”
The Expectation Gap – “I thought it would be easier than this.”
I talked about this a bit in my post when I vented about people wasting my time (and others) when asking for advice.
I’ve gotten asked about “How can I….?” or “I need to _____ but don’t know how to begin. Please advise.”
Because I really want to help, I spend my time writing a really detailed response.
And the majority of the time, I never hear back from that person.
After thinking about why and reading comments about that post, I think most of the time is that they expect it to be easy.
Whatever I told them isn’t what they expected. What did they expect?
“Oh yeah if you want a blog with 1,000 hits a day all you need to do is watch five hours of mindless television a day.”
“Yep if you want to get unstuck in life like I did all you have to do is eat a bunch of chocolate.”
I suppose I’m better off writing that instead of a honest helpful answer.
Ask any successful person if it was easy to get to where they are now and I don’t think they’ll say yes.
The reason why it seems so easy is because people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. People just see the results.
People don’t see the sleepless nights, stress, sacrifices, self doubt, mistakes and failures.
We’re so used to have everything be quick. We want our food made quickly, and our gadgets to run fast. We want instantaneous results. We are impatient.
It’s the same with growth, but true lasting growth takes time and work. It’ll test your patience cause it takes a lot of it.
Those who thought it would be easier hoped luck would find them and change their life.
The real lucky ones make their own luck.
Change Doesn’t Happen Overnight
No matter if you have the perfect plan, tons of motivation, and everything else falls into place, you’re not going to change overnight.
Start with small changes so you’re not overwhelmed and be patient. It’s going to take time. So enjoy the journey.
Remember to be deliberate about growth every single day. It doesn’t happen automatically just because you’re alive. See how many of these roadblocks are holding you back and take action to overcome them.