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Updated: Feb 13, 2023

ID HOTELIER - Have you ever encountered someone who seemed to have the pieces and parts of what could be an incredible career - the drive, the ambition, the talent - but for some reason, they're not quite reaching their potential?

Credit to : Sabrianna I Image from Unsplash

Unfortunately, potential doesn't always equate to success. Potential is only potential until it's realized. This means that even if we are smart, knowledgeable, and experienced, there is still a difference between what we can do and what we normally do.

Even the most talented and intelligent people can fall short of reaching their potential.

It's easy to see this in other people but how about your own potential? Are you reaching it?

Have you thought to yourself, "I've stalled out in my career" or "I'm capable of so much more but I can't seem to get there"? Maybe you've been passed up for a promotion or you're not being challenged in your current role. These are all signs that you may not be reaching your potential at work.

The good news is that it's possible to overcome the obstacles that are holding you back and start reaching your potential.

In this article, we will look at nine reasons why talented employees don't reach their potential - and what you can do to change it.

Potential Unrealized in the Workplace

Many organizations have talented employees who never reach their potential. These individuals may have the skills and abilities to be high performers, but for various reasons, they never take the necessary steps to reach that level.

In some cases, people self-sabotage their own career development. They might make poor choices that damage their reputation or they might fail to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.

Other times, people just coast along, doing what they need to do to get by without ever challenging themselves or taking risks. As a result, they never reach their full potential.

While there can be many reasons why talented employees fail to perform at their best, it is always disappointing when someone with the possibility to be and do more doesn't live up to their potential.

But you don't have to follow in those footsteps.

There is an unlimited opportunity waiting for you to rise above this norm, stand out, and reach your potential.

Here are some of the potential roadblocks you might encounter on your journey to reach your potential - and what you can do to change it.

Nine Reasons Why Talented Employees Don't Reach Their Full Potential

Credit to : Rob Wicks I Image from Unsplash

The following are nine reasons why talented employees don't always reach their potential in the workplace. These are not the most obvious potential obstacles - such as a lack of skills or experience - but rather some of the more hidden potential traps that can hold you back. By understanding these reasons, you can take steps to avoid them in your own career and reach your potential.

1) Understand Your Emotional Triggers

The first step in overcoming underperformance is to understand the emotional triggers that hinder your focus and motivation.

What makes you feel stressed? What makes you procrastinate? Why do you sometimes give up too easily? Why do you avoid taking risks?

Once you understand your emotional triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid them or start to put systems in place to mitigate their impact.

For example, if you know that you tend to procrastinate when you’re feeling overwhelmed, set aside sometime each day to plan out your tasks so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Or, if you know that you get stressed when you’re working on a tight deadline, start working on tasks earlier so that you don’t feel the pressure of a looming deadline.

By identifying your triggers and being intentional about avoiding them or mitigating their impact, you can make credible moves to improve your focus and motivation and achieve better outcomes.

2) Address Your Limiting Beliefs

We all have limiting beliefs that hold us back from reaching our potential. Some common examples of limiting beliefs include “I’m not good enough”, “I don’t deserve success” or "That's just not my personality".

Limiting beliefs are often based on our past experiences or the experiences of people we know. They can also be based on what we see in the media or what we’re told by others. Whatever their origin, these beliefs can prevent you from taking risks, trying new things or putting yourself in situations where you might fail.

To reach your potential, it’s important to become aware of your own personal limiting beliefs and start to challenge and address them head-on.

One way to do this is by looking at the evidence. For example, if you have the belief that “I’m not good enough”, ask yourself “what evidence do I have to support this belief?”. You might find that the evidence is not as strong as you thought. Or, you might find that the evidence is based on old experiences that are no longer relevant.

By challenging your limiting beliefs and looking at the evidence, you can start to create new, more empowering beliefs about yourself and what you’re capable of achieving.

Sometimes it is hard for us to completely uncover the limiting beliefs that are holding us back. To fully discover your limiting beliefs, it can be helpful to work with a life coach, career coach, or therapist who can help you identify and address the root cause of these negative thoughts.

3) Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

In order to reach your potential, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This means being okay with taking risks, making mistakes, and feeling unsure of yourself at times. Many people stay in their comfort zone because it feels safe. But comfort zones are often associated with boredom, stagnation, and low levels of satisfaction.

In the other hand, when you step outside of your comfort zone, you open yourself up to new opportunities and experiences. This can lead to personal and professional growth. You don't have to try this without a life vest. You can look for a safety net that will support you as you venture into new territory.

For example, if you’re considering moving into a new management role, you might reach out to a trusted colleague who’s already made the change to a management role for advice and mentorship. Or, if you’re considering changing careers, you might do some research to learn about different job options or shadow someone who works in a field that interests you.

Or, perhaps you are looking to step out and develop your soft skills. For example, if you’re uncomfortable with public speaking, you might challenge yourself to join Toastmasters to get practice giving a presentation to a large group. Or, if you’re uncomfortable with networking, you might challenge yourself to meet two new people at an industry event.

It’s important to remember that discomfort is temporary and it is okay to feel it. The more you practice stepping outside of your comfort zone, the easier it will become. And, as you become more comfortable with being uncomfortable, you will start to reach new levels of success.

4) Be Willing to Fail

Without the willingness to fail, you will never reach your potential. Failure is a necessary part of the process of learning and growing.

Of course, it’s important to learn from your failures and not repeat the same mistakes. But, in order to learn and grow, you need to be willing to take risks. And, sometimes, those risks will pay off in ways better than you imagined. Other times, the risk won't result in the outcome you wanted.

The most successful people are often the ones who have failed the most. They are the ones who have taken the most risks. And, they are the ones who have learned the most from their failures.

One way to prepare yourself when attempting to take risks is to consider what could go wrong. Sometimes just considering the options and realizing they are more or less serious than you thought can help you take the plunge.

This doesn’t mean that you should dwell on potential failures or talk yourself out of taking risks. But, it does mean that you should be prepared for potential failures. This way, if you do fail, you will be able to pick yourself up and try again. And, if (or when) you succeed, you will be that much more proud of your accomplishment.

Failure can be scary. But, it’s important to remember that failure is not permanent. You can always pick yourself up and try again.

5) Develop a Growth Mindset

One way to reach your potential is to develop a “growth mindset”. This is the belief that your skills and abilities can be developed through effort, education, training, and learning from mistakes.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their skills and abilities are fixed. They believe that they are either good at something or they’re not. And, they believe that if they’re not good at something, there’s no point in trying to improve.

People with a growth mindset believe that their skills and abilities can be developed. They understand that intelligence is not fixed. They believe that they can improve and grow personally and professionally through working hard and smart, good instruction, and applying lessons learned from their mistakes.

The growth mindset has been shown to lead to greater success in life. People with a growth mindset are more likely to take risks and challenge themselves. They are more likely to persevere in the face of setbacks. And, they are more likely to achieve their goals.

If you'd like a deeper dive on this topic, read our article, 'How to Develop a Growth Mindset: The Key to Success in Life and Business."

Developing a growth mindset is not easy. It requires a shift in thinking which takes intentionality and time. But, it is possible. And, it’s worth it.

6) Get Rid of Distractions

In order to perform at your best, it’s important to eliminate distractions and create an environment where you can focus on your work. This might mean turning off your phone or social media notifications. It might mean working in a quiet place without any music or other noise.

It’s also important to eliminate distractions from your mind. This means learning to focus on one task at a time and not letting your thoughts wander. One way to do this is to practice “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.

When you remove distractions, it allows you to focus on what is most important and will allow you to perform at your best. The reason for this is a benefit called the flow state. The flow state is a mental state in which you are fully engaged and focused on the task at hand. This state of “flow” leads to peak performance.

If you'd like to learn more about The Flow State and how you can achieve it on a regular basis, I'm offering my newest eBook for free - The Flow State: How to Achieve Maximum Productivity, Happiness and Success.

You might be tempted to think that multi-tasking is a good way to get more things done. But, the truth is, and according to the Cleveland Clinic, multi-tasking is actually less efficient and leads to poorer quality work. So, it’s important to focus on one task at a time if you want to perform at your best.

7) Be Coachable

So many people have an aversion to corrective feedback. Even when they ask for feedback, what they are really asking for is to be told how good and wonderful they are. But, if you want to reach your potential, it’s important to be coachable.

This means that when someone gives you feedback, you should listen with an open mind. Try to see things from their perspective and understand their point of view. And, most importantly, be willing to make changes based on the feedback you receive.

Even better, seek out feedback from people you trust. Ask them how you can improve. What are some areas where you need to grow? And, be open to hearing things that you might not want to hear.

No one is perfect and there is always room for improvement. If you want to reach your potential, it’s important to be coachable and willing to grow.

8) Set Specific & Achievable Goals

Part of the reason why many people underperform is because they don’t have specific goals to strive for. When your goals are vague or nonexistent, it’s hard to stay motivated.

It’s important to set specific and achievable goals for yourself. These goals should challenge you but also be within the realm of possibility. They should also be specific enough that you can measure your progress.

For example, rather than setting a goal to “grow my career”, set a goal to “get my PMP certification within 1 year”. This is a specific and achievable goal that you can track and measure. When you set specific and achievable goals, it gives you something to strive for and helps to keep you motivated.

An even better approach is to take your specific & achievable goals and break them into smaller goals. According to Psychology Today, by setting smaller goals and achieving them, you will trigger your brain to release elevated levels of dopamine. This chemical is often known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it does just that—it makes us feel good. In doing so, you will increase your motivation to keep going and reach your larger goal.

Make sure that your goals are specific and achievable—and write them down so that you can refer back to them often.

9) Take Breaks & Recharge

Contrary to popular belief, working long hours doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be more productive. In fact, research has shown that taking regular breaks throughout the day can actually increase productivity levels by refreshing your mind and body — even if your breaks are just for a few minutes at a time.

It’s important to take breaks and give yourself time to recharge. This can be in the form of a mental break, such as taking a few minutes to clear your mind or meditating. Or, it can be a physical break, such as going for a walk or stretching.

The key is to find what works for you and to make sure that you take breaks throughout the day. When you do, you’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever challenges come your way.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why talented employees don’t reach their potential. But, by being aware of these potential roadblocks, you can put yourself in a better position to overcome them.

The key to reaching your full potential is to continuously work on self-improvement. This includes understanding your emotional triggers, addressing your limiting beliefs, and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It also means being willing to fail, developing a growth mindset, and getting rid of distractions. Lastly, it’s important to be coachable, set specific & achievable goals, and to take breaks & recharge.

If you can focus on these key areas, or even start with one or two to get you started, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your full potential.

Let's Hear From You!

What other tips do you have for reaching your potential? Share them in the comments below.

Becky Vinton - talent strategist with over 20 years' experience improving the effectiveness of organizations and enhancing employee experience as a global human resources leader and business consultant. She holds an MBA Degree and several certifications including Human Capital Strategist by the Human Capital Institute.

I created Your Inspired Career to help people like you find the answers they need for a successful career and enriched life. I'm on a mission to help you thrive at work, further your life goals, achieve your career dreams & reach your full potential.


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Great article in identifying important personal qualities. In seeking better career enhancement opportunities. Of course passion and a sense of humor also helps many a times.

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