Do you have trouble focusing and getting sh*t done? Do you then beat yourself up and catastrophize by deciding that means you’re wasting your potential and will never succeed in life?

If so you’re not alone. One of the things I hear my clients say a lot is they feel they’re not “living up to their potential.” They usually feel a lot of shame about this and believe it to be a true statement about themselves.

But it’s not of course. It’s just a thought. And we can choose to think differently about potential.

The other day I was at a mastermind gathering, and my teacher said, kind of off-hand, “Well, you can never live up to your potential, because it’s always in the future.”

That blew my mind, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. My clients suffer from so much SHAME about not living up to their potential or not being “where they should be.” It doesn’t matter which area of life—career, body, love, family—they always feel they’re behind.

I think this is a brilliant reframing of what potential is, because when you think about it, potential can only exist in the future. Your potential must always be in your future because that’s what potential is. You can never actually be living up to your potential, because, by definition, it’s something you could be but aren’t yet.

So you’re always supposed to have more potential to grow into, otherwise life would be so sad and depressing. If you had nothing left to learn, develop, or explore, your life would basically be over.

I find this concept so freeing!

And I think it links up beautifully to the difference between past-focused living and future-focused living.

Most of us live focused on the past. We have a long litany of ways we’ve been hurt, failed, traumatized, and abandoned. We tell ourselves long stories about our past—either our past was terrible, and so our present is terrible, or our past was better, but we lost it.

The most insidious problem with focusing on the past is you let it determine your future. We all do this unconsciously—we even have a saying, right? “Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.” We hear that and nod, because it makes sense to us. We think that the past is “doomed to repeat itself.”

But that’s only one way of looking at the world. Sure, often the past has repeated—but you know why? Because people kept thinking the same thoughts. The way you act and what happens from those actions is all based on your thoughts. So if you think the same thoughts as you did in the past, of course, you’ll feel and act the same – and your life will look the same.

But you could also look around the world and see how many new things are being done every day. Before electricity or the internet was invented, it had never been done. Before the power of flight was harnessed, it seemed impossible. Even you have done many things you couldn’t do before. You learned to walk, when before that you only knew how to crawl. You have changed throughout your life in ways you could never have expected.

So how does this link up with potential?

Our potential is so vast compared to what we think it is. If you’d asked me 5 years ago what my potential to run a million-dollar business was, I’d have said zero. I could not have imagined how that could possibly happen.

If you’d asked me 5 years ago if I could ever love my body without losing weight, I would have laughed in your face.

All these things seemed impossible because I believed my stories about my past. I believed my stories were true, and that my past would continue into my future. I had no idea what my potential was.

I was not living up to my potential, and thank god, because my potential turned out to be so incredibly stranger and more exciting than I could have predicted.

I’m STILL not living up to my potential now, and I’m thrilled about it, because that means there’s so much potential still left for me. I’m going to grow and expand, and I know now that my past does not determine my future. I know that if I think new thoughts, I will get new results.

There is no limit on your potential, except for the limits you create with your own minds.
So the next time your brain yells “you’re not living up to your potential,” I want you to laugh and say, “No kidding, and isn’t that great! I can’t wait to find out what potential I have ahead of me that I don’t even know about right now.”

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