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10 Reasons Why Most People Never Reach Their Full Potential
Digging deeper into modern mediocrity.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” — Henry David Thoreau
I don’t know if it’s “the mass of men”, but I know a lot of people who live lives of “quiet desperation”.
People who don’t live up to their potential.
They grow up and they realize that the world isn’t the way they thought it was going to be — it’s a bit tougher and meaner than the fairy tales suggest — and they make a compromise. They contort themselves so that they can be safe and fit in, and in that compromise, many people sacrifice the essence of what makes them them.
For a lot of people, it seems to be the most necessary sacrifice for survival.
Here are 10 reasons most people cannot live up to their potential.
Luckily, you can overcome most of them.
1. They lack physical resources.
It would be naive of me to write an article on reaching potential without addressing the reality of resources.
If you don’t have food, clean water, and shelter, it’s going to be tough to be your best self.
Material objects will not give you self-actualization, but if you are lacking the material objects you need to live, it’s really hard to “live your best life”.
2. They won’t grow up.
The “Peter Pan thing” is very real.
It’s not a new epidemic like some popular thinkers suggest, but it is something that all young people have to overcome.
At some point, you have to grow up and face real life. You have to make something of yourself in the world.
A lot of people seem to think that never growing up will allow them to never give up on their dreams, but this isn’t the case. Living in Neverland will just make your wake-up call hurt that much more.
If you don’t figure this out, your life will be dictated by the pursuit of dreams that have been created with an unrealistic worldview.
You won’t be sustainable.
3. Someone else owns their time.
Time is perhaps humanity’s second most valuable resource, after love.
I’m corny — I think love is the most important part of the human experience.
However, when your time is owned by someone else (a boss, an unforgiving spouse, etc) it becomes incredibly difficult to live a life that isn’t desperate for something more. How we use our time is one of our most cherished resources.
Anyone looking to be their best should seek more autonomy over their limited time.
4. They lack love and emotional support.
I said love is the most important thing in life, and I really believe that.
I have had dark and lonely days in my life, and the days that are not dark and lonely are way more pleasant. I’m way happier when I have love and support from other people.
This motivates me to strive.
You shouldn’t rely on other people to make you happy, but love gives you the strength to live your life to the fullest.
5. They can’t separate validation and emotional support.
Love and success are different things.
Being successful can make you more attractive, richer, and perhaps more desirable, but people stay with you for how you make them feel, not how much money you make or how many championships you have.
Learn the difference between validation and emotional support. This will change your life.
6. They carry drugs around in their pocket.
Your phone is a container for social media, porn, the internet, and online shopping.
These cheap dopamine hits that fuel your day become the driving force of your life. You start to live for the likes, the views, and that feel-good sensation of looking at your phone.
How do you expect to live a full life when you spend 5 hours a day on drugs?
Ever since I started making money online, I’ve had to be more careful about this myself. My phone is my business, and if I’m not careful, I find myself working all day long.
You must exercise self-control.
7. They don’t sleep enough.
This is simple, but I’ll die on this hill.
Not sleeping enough will ruin your life.
I get that you have goals, I get that you want to get stuff done, and I get that you’re ambitious, but if you don’t sleep, you’ll burn yourself into the ground long before you make any progress toward your goals.
As an athlete and creative person, learning to prioritize my sleep was the single best decision I made for my physical and mental health.
8. Their diet sucks.
I’ve been working with a nutrition coach for about a month now, and so far, my new diet has drastically improved my productivity and mental health.
I think better, I feel better, and best of all, I’m not constantly thinking about where my next meal is coming from. I meal prep on the weekend, and then I have food all set for the whole week.
Removing the guesswork from my dieting has been huge for me.
I used to do a lot of fasting followed by purging, but all this really did was make me a slave to the dopamine rush of eating a huge, carbohydrate-rich meal.
Food is nothing but fuel — most of the time.
Yes, you should treat yourself. However, if you want to be fit and healthy, your daily menu should be pretty “boring”.
9. They lack meaning in their lives.
Whether it’s raising a family, writing a novel, or volunteering, everyone needs to do something meaningful with their time.
I guess it’s not a requirement, but I can’t think of very many happy nihilists.
Meaning is out there.
If you can’t find it, create it.
10. They play stupid games.
“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” — Naval Ravikant
When you spend your time chasing vanity metrics (likes and follower counts) or trying to impress people who don’t really care about you, you may achieve those goals.
You might get a lot of followers on Instagram or Twitter or you might get some people to think you’re “cool”.
But what then?
Think about the “games” you’re playing. Think about what happens if you win them.
Is the prize worth the effort?
When I say potential, I’m not really talking about success.
I’m talking about the relationship that you have with yourself.
Your potential is limited by the view that you have of yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t act in a way that allows you to live up to your potential. You won’t live fully if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself.
Living up to your potential starts with self-esteem.
Self-esteem, however, is hard to build. You need good habits to have a good relationship with yourself.
Make yourself someone worth investing in.
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