8 Common Roadblocks Preventing You from Reaching Your Potential


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.

George Clooney Batman

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.

But this flowchart was speaking to me and I knew I needed to do this. 

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.

Stop that.

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.


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25 responses to 8 Common Roadblocks Preventing You from Reaching Your Potential

  1. I love the part of it’s not the right time. I was told by a older guy once that starting a business is like having a kid. If you wait for the right time you will never have a kid. Same for business. Loved the rest of the post as well. I currently don’t have a tv so I can get more done around the house that I want to sell. Have a great week

  2. As Always, it’s a great post Ben. I am going through SEVERAL of those gaps myself. it’s good to know I’m not alone and there’s a way out.


  3. Wow what a coincidence (or not?)! I saw John Maxwell speak about a month ago and just gave a Toastmasters speech this morning on this specific chapter from the book encouraging people to have a growth plan and the gaps you wrote about. A group of us also recently started a book club where we discuss a chapter from this book every week. Email me if you would like to join us. I also just added your blog to our group notes.

    Jason, (BTW Kyle Yamamoto pointed me to your blog)

    • Hey Jason! That must have been an awesome speech to sit through. I know he has a new book out and that’s why he was featured in the magazine. Definitely need to buy that book. Thanks for the invite to the book club. I’ll definitely email you if I’m interested. And thanks to Kyle for sending you over!

      • Oh I misunderstood. I thought you got the gaps from the book but now after reading more carefully I see that you got the gaps from Success Magazine (an AWESOME magazine BTW). The first chapter of the book is precisely about the gaps you talk about. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if the article was taken word for word from the book.

  4. This is such an awesome post. My biggest roadblock is realizing that this is not going to be easy!
    Nothing worth having should come overnight anyways… thanks for your post

    • Thanks for taking the time to read it. That is a hard one to overcome but it’s all going to be hard. Anything we really want is going to be hard. Just dig in and think about how badly you want it.

  5. I definitely suffer from roadblock #2, particularly when I see what other bloggers are doing–podcasts, eBooks, freelancing, creating YouTube channels. The list goes on. I feel tremendously overwhelmed at all of that and feel that I need to keep up yet I can’t. It’s only when I tell myself (and I do this a lot) that I have different goals and different reasons for blogging that I can get past being overwhelmed.

    • You’re not along feeling that way. I do too. I see other bloggers who have this online empire and I want all that. I have a bunch of ideas I want to do, but you just need to prioritize. That’s what I’ve had to realize. For me, income is important now so I needed to focus on generating more income. Other things are fun and would grow my audience, but not the income. So think about what your priorities are right now and choose one thing to work on. Also remember those people you’re comparing yourself too were beginners before. They didn’t have all that. They had to take it step by step.

  6. Great post! So true about the automatic growth myth. In reality, we don’t automatically grow, but rather automatically fall behind.

    When we are young in schools, we still have social education that makes us grow, however lacking it may be, but when we become adults and come out of schools, it’s all up to ourselves. That’s when personal development self improvement become vitally important for personal growth and life long prosperity.

    • That’s a great point Harry. If we don’t push ourselves to grow we fall behind for sure. A lot of people now want things handed to them. In school they were told what to do and if they did well they got a good grade. So after school they expect the same, but in the real world it’s not like that. It’s all up to use like you said.

  7. It’s interesting that we don’t have a personal development school just for adults. 🙂

    • Harry, there are all sorts of personal development schools for adults. Some examples include Toastmasters, Millionaire Mind, Landmark education, businesses with growth/leadership training, etc.

  8. you have very well exposed the reality that life explains to us. it is not a thin passage to get success, so these road blocks are sure to be overcome at the earliest. road blocks of life never stay alike so be aware and thanks for sharing these fine quotes.

  9. I loved that article too Benny! The two that I struggle with are the perfection-gap and the mistake-gap. It’s helped to surround myself with people who can say, “This is great, ship it!” to keep me moving!

  10. That’s a whole lot of gaps you have to watch out for. Like the assumption and expectation gaps the best. Assuming things with work out like you expect or having irrational expectations will and slow you down at least it did me. Anyone, unless you’re really luck or good, should perhaps double or triple the amount of setbacks they originally anticipate. That way is you have less it would be a blessing.

  11. I wish they would teach this stuff in schools from an early age. Seems like we need to figure out all this stuff as adults. Then there is this stigma about personal development and self help that makes it even worse. SIGH..

    I probably struggle the most with the mistake gap. so much so that i worry what other people will think. WIl they think i’m stupid or worse discount my ideas all together. I’m scared just thinking about it now. 3:)
    i only counted 12 sheep not 18.. 🙂

  12. Although many of us are well aware of the main gaps you described here we still have these problems. In order to overcome then we need to realize our gaps and do something about it. I agree with your conclusion: Change doesn’t happen overnight, but I feel it must begin overnight. Baby steps

  13. I try to make things “good enough” and just get started. Through feedback, criticism, etc, I evolve and make things better.

    I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of failing due to a lack of effort. It helps that I have saved for the past 13 years. Check out “How Does It Feel To Be Financially Independent?” It’s crazy the risks you are willing to take, once you are.


  14. i thank God for stumbling upon this page today, Really awesome site.promising to always check back

    • Kelvin Sialumba July 7, 2013 at 9:00 am

      This is good mate, Basically this is atouch to my life as i was lost in the Wilderness of life.

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