5 reasons you should stop trying to live up to your potential and start actually living instead

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If you’ve ever felt like you’re not living up to your potential, chances are you’re trying too hard. First off, you are the only one who can decide your own potential; if you’re focused on expectations set by others, just stop right now—that’s a totally useless fight. Second, striving to live up to even your own standards can be exhausting and can very quickly get in the way of some pretty important stuff. So, before you spend another second trying to climb the next rung on the ladder, first take some time to consider how far you've come.

1. You’ve probably achieved a lot already

There’s nothing wrong with working toward your next big promotion, but have you bothered to stop and consider all that you’ve already accomplished? It’s so easy to beat ourselves up when we’re not quite yet where we think we should be. But the fact of the matter is that there are probably some pretty positive things about what you've already done. Take some time to evaluate your current position, and reflect on what got you there.

2. It’s all-consuming

When you’re concerned with living up to some arbitrary potential it tends to become your main focus, taking up precious real estate in your mental space. Think about all of the other stuff you could be accomplishing if you weren’t so busy worrying about whether or not you’re measuring up to expectations set by the rest of the world. Make time to concentrate on the things you’re already doing and you’ll likely progress at a much quicker rate.

3. Your career is not a race

Yes, at times it certainly feels like you’re scrambling to finish first, but the simple truth is that you’re not a failure if you don’t beat everyone else to the punch. What's worse is that when you make everything a competition, you barely have time to breathe, let alone have a social life. And speaking of having a life...

4. You might miss the milestones

The crazed race to reach your potential doesn't often afford you much time for a life outside of work. Sure, you can save all that fun, emotional, wonderful life stuff for retirement, but by that point you'll have already missed so much of it.

5. You risk turning into a machine

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about your family friendly robot (cue Robin Williams in "Bicentennial Man"), but the kind of mindless cubicle drone that would make you the perfect recruit for the Cylon Empire.

Putting time and effort into your career is essential, it's putting all of your time and effort into your career that's the problem. When the end of the workday rolls around, walk away from your laptop. Eat dinner with your family. Grab a drink with your friends. Read a book for pleasure. Watch a show on Netflix. Take some time each day to simply exist and you might just find that your once stressful goals suddenly seem manageable.


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Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden is a contributing editor of the Pluralsight blog and has worked in publishing since the dawn of the iPhone. Currently, Stacy deals in tech and education--a combination that she finds absolutely fascinating. You can find her on Twitter @sterrsi.