If you feel like you’re not working at your full potential, ask these two simple questions

Like most people, I’ve spent a sizeable portion of my life not living up to my full potential.

Whether from self doubt, not prioritizing the right work, feeling bored, or being “lazy,” I have found countless ways to avoid spending time working on what truly matters to me.

This probably isn’t too surprising. Most of us do this every day. We ignore our full potential and work on what’s in front of us. But if we want to really grow, improve, and enjoy our lives, we can’t keep ignoring the voice inside our heads.

The bad news is it takes time. The good news is you can start today.

This is a guest post by author and illustrator Alex Mathers. Find more of his writing on Medium or on his personal blog, the Red Lemon Club

Ok, wise guy, what is this airy “full potential” phrase, anyway?

You can think of your “potential” as the amount of value you could possess in the future relative to how much you have today. This means your value to others, the environment, and yourself.

The tricky part is that we don’t need to use our “full” potential every day. Nor can we. Instead, our full potential is a marker—one that we need to be moving towards every single day.

Thinking about potential as simply something I’m working towards is what keeps me driven, fulfilled, and happy. It means you don’t have to wait years to do the things you want. You can “live” your full potential today just by taking tiny, incremental steps towards it.

I’ll say that once more because it is key to this whole thing:

“We can live our full potential today by incrementally increasing our value in the work that matters the most to us personally.

That’s all we need to focus on.

Your “full” potential only works when you know what is most important to you

Don’t waste your time on work that is not personal to you.

Forget purpose and mission for now. And stop worrying about wasted time. If you want to find your full potential, you only need to focus on improving your value a little bit in what means the most to you, every day.

What does this mean? Let’s talk about work for a second.

All of us can do good work. But more importantly, we need to strive for exceptional work. This is what will set us apart, make the most impact, and give the best results in our lives.

But this isn’t easy.

Most people go through their entire life without getting past the things that keep them from doing their best work. The alternatives are just too juicy, shiny, distracting, and fun to stay on track with what matters the most.

So we stick with mediocrity.

When I feel like I’m stagnating; when I’m on that hamster wheel; when I’m frustrated and stuck and bored and angry, I go back to basics and ask myself two questions.

Question 1: What will it take for me to do my best work?

As best-selling author, Gary Keller said:

“Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work.”

I chose writing as my area of focus. It’s what fascinates me. And your best work should come out of what fascinates you too.

When I think what it will take for me to do this work, it means sitting down for a stretch of a few, distraction-free hours at a time to write, even if I don’t feel like it. Dealing with that void. Those feelings of boredom. The itch to want to read emails. The despair I have when I’m frustrated with how bad I’m writing…

…and continuing on regardless.

For me, it’s only after pushing through all that, that the sparks start to fly and I come alive from the work.

If the rest of my day feels wasted, at least I spent two hours on the work that matters to me. If I can keep this up consistently, I am already living my full potential.

Question 2: What gets in the way of doing my best work?

By understanding what I need to do my best work, I can then start to understand what’s getting in the way of it.

I know that time blocks of distraction-free writing for at least a couple of hours are vital. So, I need to organize my day to ensure these blocks happen when I’m most energized.

That means always improving the conditions I work in and the efficiency of my work.

In the past, the culprits for distracting me from work have included reading emails, working too late and feeling tired, flipping over to look at cryptocurrency prices, hangovers, texting, planning too much, watching YouTube videos, and playing video games.

These things should not interfere with my writing blocks. But too often they do.

As such, I am constantly working to blast the things that interfere with my writing blocks to smithereens.

That means asking honest questions, like:

  • What is the biggest drain on your best work?
  • What are you wasting your time with that is not bringing you to life?
  • What are you not doing that could bring you more energy and motivation too?

What I realized from a lifetime of overcomplicating things, is that we don’t need to go through years of therapy or soul-searching to overcome our blocks.

You aren’t stupid or incapable or “not like the others who made it.”

You just need to find the thing you want to be outstanding in, and commit to it. Not only will you be able to push yourself to be better, little by little, but success will come much quicker once you start to focus and block out the noise.

We need to do the work (even if we don’t feel like it)

You can start making it easier to focus and work on the things that matter by cutting out those distractions and allowing yourself to improve incrementally. Bit by bit.

I’m not saying this will be easy. But I am saying you can start today.

When I made these small improvements to my own life, I started to see the results of better work. Even those tiny improvements made my motivation go up, and I had even more of a reason to streamline my daily process.

Extraordinary work is the catalyst for a life of full potential

Always aim towards doing extraordinary work. This is the priority.

It will bleed into the other pieces of your life and motivate you more than anything else.

When you allow yourself to focus simply on getting better at what counts every single day, little else matters.

Your best work is a sculpture to be chipped away at. It may seem overly simple, but all we need to do is to:

“Figure out the work that is worth spending time on. And commit to it.”

It need only take a fraction of your day, but if you do it and commit to excellence daily, even if you fall short, you are on the right path.

Become an expert at committing time and energy to your best work in the best way you can.

Step by step, starting right now.

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