There is always room for development in all of us. As we prepare ourselves to enter into new year with enthusiasm, it is also important to analyse and become clear on exactly where we are at in our journey of personal growth. Though many of us spend substantial about of time and effort towards striving for something more, in terms of career, relationships, yet many people despite their efforts fall short of reaching their true potential.
Personal growth means different to different people. In general, it refers to working and developing new skills, habits or seeking different ways to better yourself, be it your effectiveness, competence or knowledge. Self-improvement pushes you to reach your highest potential in whatever that you do.
However, reaching your potential is not same as rising to the top, or how to become more successful. Rather it is about how to overcome your mediocre self, or your default tendencies that undermine your actual worth. We as human beings often undermine our abilities and irrespective of what aspects we choose to grow in, we always succumb to our brain’s habitual unproductive patterns of thinking. As a result, we always underestimate our capacity to grow and improve.
Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t—- Rikki RogersTweet
How does our default self gets in our way
At times, it is our warped way of thinking that makes us resist, or undermine our growth efforts. And at other times, it is the way we view challenges and problems as obstacles rather than seeing them as scope for growth. Many of us go through life setting goals that we are very passionate about, but yet get stuck in our unhelpful beliefs and self-imposed limitations.
Most of the times, our biggest limitation in realising our full potential is our thoughts that we fail to manage. The truth is that our brain’s default tendencies actually stand in the way of our ability to grow and improve. According to neurological studies, the majority of our brain is in use even during very simplest of tasks. Since it is hardwired to safety, continuity, and peace, we avoid situations that are compelling us to perform.
When we are pushed to our perceived limits, we retreat into unhelpful thoughts and mindset’s. As a result, we remain close-minded about who we are, and what our potential really is. We give into the idea that we will always be the way we are and believe that our attitudes, habits, emotional responses or personality traits are something that cannot be changed. Such a mindset trips us into engaging into a cycle of disempowered thinking.
Some disempowered states of being that undermine your ability to improve
State of learned helplessness—‘I cannot learn and improve’. Some people go through this state of life because of their fixed perspectives. It is a perspective that they learned in the past. So, they remain fixed, become limited in their ways. They see themselves as someone who is not in control of their abilities.
State of comparison—‘I am either better than or worse than’. Some are in a state of constant comparison where they see themselves as flawed and imperfect. When you enter into the comparison trap of thinking that you are either better than or worse than so and so, you fail to see your own potential to grow and change.
State of unawareness—‘I cannot see the limitations of my actions’. When you cannot see beyond your own thoughts, emotions and perceptions, you remain closed to new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities. Unawareness leads to making an effort in limited aspects of life.
State of insecurity—‘I am not good enough’. When you listen to your insecurities and tell yourself you are inherently incapable of achieving or doing certain things in life, you allow your mind to work against you. Because you aren’t free being and secure enough within yourself, you tend to undermine your actual worth.
State of negativity bias—‘I am a failure, I am inadequate’. When you are mentally wired to have a negativity bias, you magnify or tend to generalise your negatives. This results in flawed thinking or thinking in extremes. For instance, all-or-nothing, catastrophizing, and generalisation.
State of victimhood-‘I am not responsible for my outcomes’. Some people assume that they really have no say or control in the outcomes of their life situations. When you are in a state of victimhood, you believe in fate, luck or external validation rather than making a complete effort in realising your true potential.
State of avoidance—‘I don’t want to change’. Some people hate change, they hate changing their beliefs, jobs, relationships, habits or behaviours. Since there’s discomfort in something unfamiliar, they experience internal conflict that undermines their effort to improve and grow.
Some ways to unleash your true potential
If you relate to any of these ideas, your disempowered thought patterns get in the way of getting things done. When your daily tasks require you to innovate, strategise, or motivate your teams to solve problems, you become limited in your ability to function optimally.
Rather than allowing your mind to work against you with your mental barriers, you can learn to minimise them to harness its full potential. Here are some ways to free up your mental resources needed, to empower you.
Challenge your habitual thought patterns.
Identify and challenge your mental filtering or thought traps that sometimes are part of our default settings.
- Generalisation happens when you focus or draw conclusions based on single negative experience and apply it to everything else. For instance, you did not fare well at something doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to make it next time around. Reframing such experiences as learning lessons can keep you motivated.
- All-or-nothing is where you see everything as either black or white, good or bad and don’t consider a middle ground. For instance, your perfectionist tendencies lead to self-doubt, and self-criticism. Changing how you perceive negative experiences and failures helps you move past your default tendencies. Remind yourself that inspite of few flips, you would still be able to find a way out to tap into your real potential.
- Catastrophizing is where we assume a particular situation as considerably worst than it actually is. When you believe that you are in a worse situation, you allow thoughts spiral out of control. You tend to exaggerate difficulties you face. When you realise a particular thought is irrational, ask yourself, what is the evidence that proves your thought to be true? Or is there anything that disproves? and replace them with more rational ones.
Challenge your limiting beliefs
Beliefs are the shortcuts we often take when making decisions and other lifestyle choices. We develop negative beliefs through our sensory perceptions of the world around us—from people around, friends, subordinates, news, events, teachers, and parents. Instead of questioning, analysing, or challenging certain things, we unconsciously adopt some negative beliefs as our own.
When you structure yourself around such negative core beliefs, you cannot define yourself in an empowered manner. So, in order to unlearn and unsubscribe from unhelpful and negative beliefs you have, you need to reframe them into positive. Reflecting on your beliefs and on what you know, you gain a deeper perspective into you’ve unconsciously built up around your sense of self. Here are few ways to do so.
Identify your core values.
We all are motivated by different values and ideals that determine our beliefs. For instance, most people value honesty, empathy, trust, peace and truthfulness, and things similar to those. However, not aligning your beliefs with your priority values keeps you limited in the way you pursue everything.
Establish your value hierarchy by asking yourself, Which values represent who you truly are and align with your priority goals? Once you narrow down to your top five to ten core values, make note of how you demonstrate and live up to those aspects in your actions, decisions and live in accordance with them, and amend as you see fit.
Do away with unhelpful self-talk.
The value that we place upon ourselves will determine our confidence in realising our true potential. Negative self-talk is when you listen to your insecurities, or might be because you don’t believe you are good enough due to comparisons. Your inner-critic brings your past failures, mistakes and insecurities to surface. This increases what-if’s and worst-case scenarios keeping you from your true purpose.
Reflect on your self-talk. How it is disempowering your actions and beliefs in creating more of what you want in life. Writing down your self- ritual statements heightens your awareness and allows you to take a closer look at their usefulness. Try and come up with constructive statements by testing their accuracy. Don’t resign to the fact that you will never be able to do something just because your inner-critic is telling you so. Reframe ‘can’t’ with a ‘can-do’ attitude.
Shift your mindset
Believing your abilities are fixed or that your intelligence or personality is something that cannot be changed makes you undermine the value of effort. It makes you think effort is for those who don’t have the ability and so you become intolerant to mistakes, criticism or setbacks. Operating from fixed mindset, you give into your negative beliefs and hinder your capabilities. And we quickly resort to excuses instead of making a complete effort.
On the contrary, by shifting to growth mindset, you can come to believe that your abilities or knowledge is not something carved in stone. You begin to admire the effort, for no matter what your ability is. This results in making an effort to improve yourself. The key is to commit to continuous learning and to make a conscious effort to learn new skills, insights and perspectives.
Questions for self-reflection
Which areas of your life can you improve by not giving into your negativity bias?
Are you holding on to any negative core beliefs rather than working through with?
What is it that, up until now, has held you back from giving your hundred percent in doing what you would love to do?
Are your values and thoughts in congruence with your effort to reach your potential?
What evidence do you have which supports your negative inner monologue?
How often do you challenge your limiting beliefs or thoughts that stand in the way of realising your potential?
Each one of us possess talents and potential to achieve what we want to. However, some of us give into our own limited self. As everything around us is constantly evolving and changing, the most difficult challenge however will be overcoming negative beliefs and asking difficult questions to uncover the unhelpful factors or internal biases that have been holding you back.
Committing yourself to conscious learning and striving for self-improvement is key to unlocking your true potential. So commit yourself in the future to make a continuous effort to build on your strengths and look for new perspectives and possibilities to grow, improve, and learn.