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“And in the end, it is not the years in your life that count; it is the life in your years.”  – Abraham Lincoln

What prevents most people from reaching their full potential?  The most common factor that is a constant companion and the toughest competition is FEAR.  We all have passions, dreams, hopes, and desires but a lot of us give in to the fear instead of pursuing them.  It seems that fear gets louder the closer we get to things that matter in life.  Fear does not bother those who are average, but the second you become more than ordinary, fear awakens.  Fear overtakes us.

Fear takes many forms in the process of reaching our potential and result in we do not accomplish the work God made us to complete.  Fear brings doubt which leads to quitting, driving our very decisions – which are usually the wrong ones.  There are many types of fear: the fear of failure, fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of critique, fear of rejection, and the fear of being known.

  • Fear of Failure – When we are not confident in our ability to succeed, we choose the wrong direction. Erwin McManus believes that our fear of failure prevents us from reaching our full potential.  McManus says, “We live in fear of failure, convinced that fear of failure will prove us to be frauds.”  The fear of failure turns dreams and potential into people who are non-doers.  Without failure, we will never understand what we are intended to do, how to make better decisions that line up with reaching our potential, and we will never succeed.  Failure makes us stronger and is a way in which we learn.  We “fail often and fail fast because we know that even through failures we gain wisdom and get closer to our calling.”
  • Fear of the Future – Decision making times of our lives heighten our awareness and fear of the uncertainty of the future – the fear of losing money and our safety net. We regularly conjure up a false sense of security in things, like where we live, what we drive, where we work, and how much money we have in the bank.  Month after month, we pay insurance industries for life, health, and property insurance.  However, none of these safety measures guarantees our future; they are simply managing the risks.  Nonetheless, we still remain uncertain of what will happen throughout the course of the day, let alone what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even ten years from now.  Charles Lee says this, “We can’t let insecurity become justification for not doing something… the alternative to not moving forward is living the life you never wanted.” The fear of the uncertain is something most of us struggle with; the short-term certainties preceding the long-term purpose.  People who reach their potential know and understand that our future is out of our control and we must pursue our purpose in life in spite of the risks.
  • Fear of the Unknown – No one person is good at everything or “has it all together.” The goal is not to have it all together, but to know where we are going and the confidence to move towards it.  You will continually run into things you do not understand, which presents us with the opportunity to admit our ignorance and weaknesses thus having to look to others for assistance.  Fact is – we need help to make our dreams come true, which is a terrifying concept to have to admit; but this is the dividing line between those who succeed and those who fail.  Our greatest limitations in meeting our potential lies within us; therefore, the quicker we accept and admit we cannot know everything, the quicker we can rely on others’ gifts to help us succeed.  People who reach their potential choose to focus on what we do know and find others to fill in the unknown spaces in order to keep moving forward.
  • Fear of Change – Admit it, we all want change at some point in our lives but at the same time, none of us want to make the effort TO change. Admit it, we all know we need change, but none of us is willing to put in the work to make that change happen.  Change happens when people choose a different way of thinking, acting, behaving, doing…  Change is attractive if it benefits us while guaranteeing that we will not suffer.  However, this fear of suffering in the midst of change causes many people to retreat from reaching their full potential.  Good news – change brings new hope and life to broken situations.  Those who want to reach their potential require change, choosing to tackle the fears.  People who reach their potential believe that if change is going to happen, it starts with us choosing a new way one day and continuing to choose it day after day. 
  • Fear of Critique – Critique can take the form of personal regret or dissatisfying others professionally and personally. In everything we do, there will be critics; in every community, there will be doubters.  Personally, I believe that those who try to bring us down do so because they have personally been held back.  People who reach their potential will not be held back by the potential criticism of others.  They fight through criticism to create something in this world. 
  • Fear of Rejection – No one likes to hear “no.” However, the sooner we can realize that behind every yes is a series of nos, the sooner we can move past the no to get to the yes.  We will all hear the word no at some point in our journey of reaching our potential, but that is no reason to be held back.  If we allow the fear of rejection to drive us, we are letting the negative potential overtake the possibilities of our future and our ability to reach our potential.   People who reach their potential do not fear rejection; they look past the no in search of the yes!
  • Fear of Being Known – What happens when it all works out? People could actually know you and that can be a scary concept for some.  Success brings spotlights and many people fear what that would do to them personally, their families, and other relationships.  People who reach their potential know there are no perfect people and choose to focus on their giftedness rather than brining others down.  They support and encourage others, knowing each of us needs grace in one area of another. 

When fear succeeds, it proves you do not believe in your own person strength.  We start comparing ourselves to others, believing others would be better at solving the problem or accomplishing the task.  We begin to think that our abilities fall short.  The comparison game fills our thinking process, which does not solve anything.  If we let fear win, we retreat from resolution and move in the opposite direction of our potential and God’s plan for our lives.  When fear overtakes us, we miss out on the potential to reach God’s unique design.

People who reach their potential overcome their fears and beat the odds to create progress in this broken world.  Fears will be prevalent, but we need to be persistent in beating them.  Fear tends to creep in and dominate our potential, but the decisions we make can help us understand our fears and allow hopeful possibilities to overcome the voice of doubt.  We must beat fear with courage even when we do not know where it will take us.

Another reason many people have not yet reached their potential is responsibility.  I have noticed many people actually run away from the burdens of making the necessary decisions that are required to reach your potential and are unwilling to take on the weight of the responsibility and ownership of the results.  I believe, when we make the right choices, those choices lead us closer to making things more right than they are today thus leading us closer to being the person God is calling us to be – ultimately accomplishing the Master’s plan while acquiring maximum potential.  Becoming responsible, and making even a small dent towards progress in reaching your potential will give you a connection to why you exist and your purpose in life.  Responsibility + who and what you love + your past story + your wisdom = the path you need to take to solve problems on your way to reaching your dreams and your potential.  We have the responsibility to determine our unique calling to the specific giftedness God is calling us to use for His purpose.

We often flee from problems instead of embracing them.  Truth is we will be known for the way we solve problems.  Additionally, you are known for the problems you are solving.  Problems create a distraction from accomplishing our potential.  Henry Ford says this, “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”  Problems take time, energy, and hard work.  If you want to be a problem solver, you have to position yourself to seek out and engage the problem where you have the unique ability to create a solution.  To solve problems, you have to peel back the layers and change the infrastructure of the way things work.  It is never an easy task, but it is an important one.  You have to train your mind and passions to focus on things that most of society chooses to neglect and attack what is broken, beginning the restorative process of fixing things.  Truth is there are unforeseen opportunities lurking behind every problem.  You have to focus on how things could be and not become paralyzed by the way things currently are.

I am the kind of person who has a hard time telling people no, always taking on more than I can handle – even though I always seem to get it all accomplished.  Right now, I am a full time grad student, a single mom of two kids, attempting to sell Mary Kay, trying to get a blog to take off and reach thousands of people, am room mom in BOTH of my kids’ classrooms – and that’s all on top of the everyday duties of laundry, dishes, taking care of a house, running errands, etc.  Then, a friend needs my help moving or needs to talk or needs a babysitter – and I have a hard time saying no even when I know I cannot take on another task.  This is one of my pros and cons.  It is both a strength and a weakness.  Nevertheless, one thing I have learned throughout pursuing God’s calling for my life is this – you must say no to things that take away from you reaching your potential so that you can say yes to the things that bring you closer to your calling and responsibilities.

So, why do most people decide to stay average instead of reaching their fullest potential?  Truth is, they do not exactly make this decision, and they simply do not know how to be more than average.  In addition, the average path is much easier and less dangerous and stays comfortable.  The path to reaching your potential is a dangerous one – but a good kind of dangerous, the kind of dangerous that leads to great accomplishments.  There may be tall mountains with rocky vertical walls and the occasional dangerous dragon lurking behind the next corner that may require you to get a little dirty, bloody, become disciplined, and be tested.  However, the good news is, your dreams will be reached and it will be awesome!

Then there are the people who just feel stuck.  They are drained and low on energy and are certain there is no way to change the life they live with all the daily responsibilities of being a parent, employee, wife/husband, friend, and child etc.  It is not productive to beat ourselves up about not living to our full potential.  When we spend our energy telling ourselves we are not going enough or do not have enough time or energy, we are actually wasting that time and energy doing things that will lead us to reaching our potential.  Become busy searching for your potential and not telling yourself that you will never get there.  Living up to our full potential is not accomplished by attempting to avoid problems or making mistakes, it is giving it our all, wholeheartedly, with everything we have!