Michael Sterling

The Surprising Reason You’re Squashing Your Potential


You may know the adage – “What Consumes Your Mind Controls Your Life.” For many, life is consumed by work, family, and ‘life’s chores’ – the house maintenance, car maintenance, and even our personal maintenance. Much of our day-to-day life is made up of mindless activities. Sure they are necessary, but are they squashing your potential?


We come to embrace the routine of our lives. We find our groove. Or is it a rut?


Animals are instinctively designed to react to immediate fears with fight or flight. Only humans are able to contemplate what might happen – the what-ifs and maybes. The human brain’s unique ability is exactly what trips us up.


Our brain is our own worst enemy. It’s our mindset that pre-determines our outcomes. To change the outcome, we must change our thinking.


Battling Our Brain


As a career coach, I counsel professionals that in order to alter their course and achieve career goals, it’s necessary to remove mental limits. Our brain holds us back in five key ways.


  1. Inability/Inadequacy – This is the ‘Can’t vs. Won’t syndrome. We convince ourselves we can’t do something when in reality we just won’t. We won’t take the necessary actions to achieve our goals.


  1. Laziness – If we don’t challenge our brain to learn, do and grow, it becomes sluggish. The brain accepts busy work as productive progress. The status-quo becomes comfortable and motivation goes missing-in-action.


  1. Rejection/Criticism – Rejection is painful and the brain is hard-wired with protection mechanisms to keep us safe and pain-free. But to cocoon ourselves to protect against rejection and criticism means we miss out on life. Instead, we must train our brain to cope with rejection and move beyond it.


  1. Fear – Fear of failing and the fear of the unknown are typically deeply rooted beliefs based on past experiences. If you were told you can’t do something – most likely you then have a fear of trying. Or if you did try and failed – you may fear trying again. Fear is fought with positive thoughts. You must believe in yourself and you must believe that even if you fail you will learn from the experience and be better because of it.


  1. Negativity – A negative mindset embraces all that can go wrong rather than focusing on all that can go right. Negativity makes it all about the risks rather than the rewards.


Banish Mental Barriers Squashing Your Potential


To untether our potential, we must win the battle with our brain. Here’s how:


Self-Assessment –  Explore what’s holding you back. Look inward and be honest with yourself. There are a variety of tools available to assist with self-assessment. Make use of them. One good resource is the book,“Break Through: 12 Powerful Steps to Destroy Your Mental Barriers and Achieve Success. Or simply search a site like Amazon for a resource right for you. 


Release Limitations – Set aside the belief you can’t and embrace that you can and will.


Adjust Expectations/Standards – Raise your expectations and your standards. Don’t accept mediocre. Strive to reach your goals and create actionable steps to get there.


Train the Brain – Learn new skills. Be open to new ways of doing and viewing things. Focus on professional and personal development. Challenge the brain to grow, cope and adapt in new and different ways.


Accept Risk – Trust your instincts. Push beyond uncertainty and step out of your safe space. Risks are inherent aspects of life – acknowledge them, respect them and move on.


Ignore Nay-Sayers – Shut out negativity from others and let go of your own negative thoughts.


Assume Responsibility – You can’t control everything, but you can control how you respond. Take responsibility for where you are and where you are headed.


Forget Perfectionism – Pursuing perfection entangles us in a web of wasted time. It prevents us from moving forward. Dare yourself to do your best and accept that perfection is unachievable.


Change the Plan – If you’re plan is to simply make it through the day, the week, the year – you’re doing it wrong! Create a manageable plan of bite-sized to-dos all which support your end goal(s).


Take Action – Are you waiting for the right time to put your plan in play? Stop. There isn’t one. Today is the day! Take small actions steps each day in the direction of success.


Science shows our brain is a formidable foe. It’s also our greatest asset. We must strengthen, develop and learn to flex our mental muscle to achieve success. If you choose to let your mind rule you, only you are to blame for squashing your potential.


As a career coach and recruiter exclusive to public accounting, I help professionals reach their full potential and attain success. Connect with me on LinkedIn.


Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.  


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