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reasons you're not reaching your full potential

The Main Reasons You’re NOT Reaching Your Full Potential

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It’s a weird new world: Despite the radical advancement in the technological sector and low cost of living, for some mysterious reason, we’re still not as rich and as successful as we would like to be – at least most of us aren’t. Even though the net is flooded with articles about developing your full potential and making money while you sleep, the majority of the human race is still lagging behind and hardly making ends meet. That’s why, in this article, we’re going to talk about why you don’t achieve much in life.

Since there are already a ton of articles about achieving your full potential and reaching an extraordinary level of success. I decided to write a copy about, “Why the hell you’re not reaching anything and you’re still living with your parents.” Regardless of the avalanche of information about fortune and ultimate happiness, it seems strange that there are thousands of people who can’t afford a place to live. So, there must be something crazy happening here, right? On the one hand, we have the tools we need to do what we want, but on the other, we fail to use them properly. At least that how it looks at a first glance.

Salaries are going up. The cost of living is going down, but we’re getting poorer. And that’s just part of the problem.

You now, literally, can make a living doing what you desire. Love to paint? Thanks to Instagram and the products by Adobe you can draw objects and sell your stuff to fellows all around the world. Yet, things are not that simple for whatever reason. People are generally more depressed than our ancestor’s living 100 years ago.1

But enough messing around. Let’s see why you’re NOT reaching your full potential and what you can do to change that.

Before We Start…

Think about the following for a moment: How a typical day in your life looks like?

Probably working till 05:00 and sweating in the traffic till 06:00 pm. Later, a couple of movies while playing video games on your smartphone. And around the new year, a few trips to the GYM for your annual commitment to get into shape, which lasts only a few months tops. In addition to all of the above, we tend to fill all possible gaps and every breathing minute with social media and fanatic shopping.

At first glance, shopping, Netflix, and social media addiction seem “normal.”2 We all do it, right? We do it despite the unusefulness of all these activities. But before we blame the developers of the evil apps that interfere with our lives and drain our time with online things to click on, we should look in another direction.

Yes, social media apps and modern entertainment are created to keep us engaged – the longer the better. But the reason we’re constantly occupied behind the screen – don’t achieve much in life – is different than the vague, “To stay in touch with what friends are doing.” We favor the online world and don’t reach our true potential for different reasons. Reasons not so obvious.

To explain why you’re in debt, lazy, and not even close to the word potential, I’ll add into the mix a famous psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow. It’s called – as you already guessed it – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Helping Us Understand Why We’re Still NOT Operating At Full Speed

The core idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs goes something like this: Individuals’ most basic needs must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher level needs.3 He portrays his theory using a pyramid where the more basic needs are at the bottom and the higher ones are at the top, i.e. to grow as individuals, we must start at the bottom and slowly climb up.

He classifies the following 5 (+1) core needs that we as a species strive to obtain during our live spawn:

  1. Physiological needs: Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep.
  2. Safety needs: Security of body, of employment, of resources, or morality, family, health.
  3. Social belonging: Friendship, family, sexual intimacy.
  4. Self-esteem: Self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others.
  5. Self-actualization: Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, reaching your full potential.
  6. Transcendence: This 6th need was later added by the author itself while criticizing his original vision of self-actualization. Here he means reaching a higher level of enlightenment. Or as in the movie Transcendence with Johnny Depp, reaching an infinite state where you live forever – probably without the desire to control people’s minds in your favor.

Or in other words, to reach your full potential (step 5), you first need to gather a couple of things in your life. You can think of it as forming Voltron: Only when all 5 robot lions are in place you can form the kick-ass giant robot called Voltron so you can beat the alien monsters sent by King Zarkon (from planet Doom) and save the galaxy. In case you are born after 1995 or you don’t remember how the giant friendly robot was formed by a couple of gender neutral prospects, let me remind you:

Of course, as in the animated television series, there’s always some drama around one of the characters and the formation of the robot happened at the last minute. In life it’s a bit different: There is drama around several of the needs. Therefore, we hardly reach a phase where we have everything in place to become the best one can be, i.e. pilot a giant Super Robot.

To understand why that is. I mean, why it’s not so easy to reach the self-actualization phase and make everyone jealous when attending your next class reunion. We need to observe the needs presented by Abraham Maslow one by one so we can spot where we mainly fail, hence make the needed corrections.

Of course, we’re going to start at the bottom of the pyramid:

Physiological Needs

The main needs:

  • Food
  • Air
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Shelter
  • Sex

This is the basic foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for a reason: You can’t do much if you don’t have regular access to food, water, sleep, and breathable air. These needs are universal and all of them are absolutely necessary in order for a human to survive another day. Yet, there is one psychological need mentioned in Maslow’s list you can go without: sex. You can surely survive without sex. No matter what other people tell you, you won’t die without having sex.

Well, it will be lonely and a lot of times depressing, but since most of the teenagers – especially the ones who are into video games – can survive without regular (or absolute lack) of sex, then we can all do it.

Putting aside sex for a moment, we can’t even mention the word potential without gaining access to the basic human needs, i.e. food and water. Fortunately, these days is relatively easy to get a job and provide food on the table. The funny thing is that the one thing we can live without is often the thing stopping us to make progress. Our desire to have intercourses with the opposite sex is often the reason we don’t make any advancement in life.

Until you settle the sex need you’ll circle around fights, meaningless night outs, awkward chats with people you don’t know, lawyers and divorce papers. So, you either keep it in your pants and devote yourself towards one person, or you’ll allow sex to control (ruin) your life.

Next, we have safety needs.

Safety Needs

The main needs:

  • Financial security
  • Health and well-being
  • Safety against accidents, illness, and similar

Along with access to food and water, you’ll also look for ways to feel secure. Here, we’re mainly talking about personal, financial, emotional, and health security. Without steady income and relatively stable emotional well-being, you’ll surely won’t feel motivated to do something else. I mean, if you’re hardly making ends meet, you’ll most probably avoid thinking about saving the world from cancer or fighting for animal rights. You might want to make the world a better place, but the circumstances won’t be in your favor. You’ll bust your ass to provide for your family. You’ll work 3 jobs to cover the rent and you’ll definitely disregard the rising level of air pollution. Who cares about the trees and the rising ocean level if you don’t have enough money for food, right?

Actually, Kanye West said it best: “Having money isn’t everything, not having it is.”

The same applies if you’re ill. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be capable of taking care of our family, friends, and loved ones.

Basically, good reasons for not reaching your full potential is the lack of enough resources and health problems. That’s why it’s essential to give a shit about your health. If you’re all right, not feeling sick, we can move on to the next:

Social Belonging Needs

The main needs:

  • Friendships
  • Intimacy
  • Family
  • Social groups
  • Part of community

We are social animals. Social bonding helped us endure throughout the ages. Humans needed each other to survive in the hostile savannahs and in the cold mountains. Even though we’re past that stage where we needed an army to kill a mammoth in order to have food and fur, we all have a need to belong.

This need is especially strong during our childhood but it doesn’t decline much later in life. We all need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among other social groups.

Even if you’re a glass-wearing dork who sees sunlight only in the video games you play, you’ll still look for some sort of social acceptance. Whether this will be through online chats or forums, friendship and intimacy are a must for us, Homo Sapiens.

Humans need to love and be loved. Studies have shown that being among other people increases our health and our emotional state.

Many people suffer – have suicidal thoughts and stuff – if they do not have a close group of people which they can count on. If you’re such a person, you need to quickly find a community of people who fit your personality. Otherwise, you won’t feel motivated to do much in life.

Self-esteem Needs

The main needs:

  • Confidence
  • Ego
  • Respect by others

We love to feel important and appreciated by others. People engage in a profession or a hobby only to gain recognition. And a lot of them will actually harm you if you threaten their self-worth.

In the digital age, this is becoming even more troublesome. Since “importance” nowadays can be measured and compared by looking at the number of followers you have, people are even more sensitive on the subject.

Ego is the enemy,” says Ryan Holiday not because it’s bad to feel good about yourself. It’s harmful because a lot of people make it their primary objective. This usually happens if they don’t accept who they on the inside. Or, if they lack some of the above-mentioned needs. For example, the rapid rate of new statuses and posts on social media by a single person is something common. The aim of most unmarried online is to gain attention because they don’t have a partner who will otherwise give them the needed dose of intimacy.

So, if you don’t accept who you are as a person, you might be hungry for recognition and therefore spend all of your day sharing videos, selfies, and “important” updates around your life.

Self-actualization Needs

Here’s the part where you reach your full potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can. To become the most that one can be. To do the best of what you’re capable of doing. The only problem is figuring out what you want to do. That’s why so many people are looking for an answer to the question: “What’s the meaning of life?

My personal understanding of the self-actualization need is like leveling to 99 on Diablo II.4 Or catching all Pokemon. You’re basically becoming a complete person.

Quite normally, different people will choose different paths. Some will want to start a business. Others will have desires to express themselves through paintings, pictures, or inventions. Third, will pursue athletic achievements. The end goal is not of importance. The core idea and the essential takeaway is to be more interested in personal growth, improving your abilities, doing work that matters. And less concerned about what others think of you and what’s shared online in social media.


Bottom line, the main reason(s) you don’t achieve much in life, I hope at this point, is simple to spot: you waste your time pursuing needs that are not important. Of course, if you’re suffocating and you can’t catch a breath you won’t be thinking about eating a juicy burger. And if you’re about to be torn apart by hostile monkeys you’re not going to be worrying about potential salary increase. But the latter will hardly going to happen.

Of course, the hierarchy doesn’t mean that you should have everything from level one in order to unlock the things for level two and so forth. We tend to skip around on that pyramid all the time and the importance of these high-level needs mentioned by Maslow depends on our culture, finance, personality, stage in life. The only needs that are an absolute must are the low-level needs of the pyramid – the psychological needs. After we acquire them, we need to devote our time and energy towards becoming the most that one can be.

Some Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, the main reason you haven’t reached your full potential it’s because there is something holding you back. Something you secretly desire but yet still lack. A more basic need you haven’t fulfilled yet.

If you’re living in a small condo you might save all of your dollars and yearn to get a house. Or, if you’re single you might daily scourge the open bars looking for a mate. Or, if you have low self-esteem you might fanatically share pictures online hoping for a bit more attention from your online friends.

Whatever the need is, you need to find it, fight it, and move on to the next till you finally accept who you are and understand exactly what you need to do in your life.

So, what’s holding your back?


Footnotes:

  1. People these days are overly stressed out and busy. I believe we should blame technology. 50 years ago, people were not constantly connected to the net, therefore they had time to really rest. Now it’s super hard to disconnect even if you want to.
  2. Even though it shouldn’t be normal, since everybody is doing it, it should be, right?
  3. If you’re interested in knowing more about the concept, you can check my favorite place online, here.
  4. Your character at this point reaches his full potential.