7 habits that show you’re wasting your potential

There are plenty of people in history who could have done amazing things, but their potential was put to waste. 

Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna Mozart, for example, was a musical genius in her own right. In fact, she was said to have received top billing over her brother whenever they toured as children. 

But once Maria Anna became of marriageable age, her parents forced her to stop performing and settle down and become a housewife. 

Then there’s Antoine Lavoisier who was considered the “father of modern chemistry”. Lavoisier was responsible for the conversion of alchemy into chemistry but he was executed during the French Revolution by a political enemy. 

The judge who sentenced him said that the revolution didn’t need any scientists. 

Imagine the example Maria Anna could have been for women. Imagine what more Lavoisier could have done for science and the world. 

There are so many sad stories like this. 

Society was responsible for Maria Anna and Lavoisier’s wasted potential. We are fortunate that we don’t live in a time that limits our talents and possibilities based on who we are or what someone else thinks is right for us. 

For most of us—unless you’re a girl living in Afghanistan, for example—the only thing getting in the way of living our best lives is…well, us. 

We might have habits that are taking the time that should be spent cultivating and living out our potential. 

Here are seven habits to discard if you want to realize your potential and live the life of your dreams. 

1) You’re hanging out with people you’ve outgrown 

If you’re spending your time with friends whose main motivation in life is to live for the weekend, then you’re most likely wasting your time and potential with them.

“Time is the most valuable thing you can give to someone,” says lifestyle writer Jill Zwarensteyn

“It’s fleeting, and we are only allotted a certain amount of it here on earth. Because of this we need to stop reaching out to people who waste our time.”

The friends we choose reflect who we are as a person and they have a huge influence on how we go about our life. It’s natural to outgrow people because we want to do more with our life. 

So if you’re putting off taking that night course you’re interested in because it interferes with the gang’s pub ritual, then you aren’t doing yourself any favors. 

Just as with a partner, we all need to have friends that we can grow with—and who uplift and support us on our journey

2) You’re going through the motions at work 

There is nothing more soul-crushing than being in a job solely to pay the bills.

Not only are you wasting your life and potential on something that doesn’t excite you, but in accepting the status quo you’re letting others and outside circumstances rule your life, says Jack Kelly at Forbes. 

The idea that we could be where we are until we retire—without leaving our mark on the world—should scare us.  

Break the habit of accepting mediocrity by deciding what you want to accomplish in your career, says Kelly. 

“[Then] set a game plan to execute this goal. Work your butt off to make it happen.”

Kelly says the main thing is to fight against the complacency that will always conspire against you. 

3) You’re spending too much time scrolling 

In our digital age, nothing wastes our time and talent as much aimlessly scrolling through news feed after news feed on social media. 

Social media might give us an escape from reality and a way to avoid the stress and responsibilities of everyday life, but the stimulation is sucking the energy we should be pouring into our true purpose and passions. 

Time spent on social media could be time spent on working on yourself and life,” says Anita Bokepalli who makes YouTube content on self-discovery and conscious living. 

“Spending a reasonable amount of time on social media—such as five minutes here and there—is understandable in our times,” she says. “But the problem arises when social media is actively affecting other areas of your life.”

Don’t be swayed by the notifications, likes, and comments: put a daily cap on your social media time and commit to pursuing your calling instead. 

4) You don’t care what you look like 

habits that show youre wasting your potential 1 7 habits that show you're wasting your potential

I believe that when we look good, we feel good, and it makes us feel like we can conquer the world. 

When we don’t care about what we look like—because we work from home, for instance—this attitude can spill over to other parts of life. 

Spending everyday in sweatpants just because you can isn’t going to motivate you to step out of your comfort zone and explore your potential. 

“There is a connection between feeling good and looking good, as the latter makes you feel more confident, brave, powerful, and healthier,” says the team at Kentucky Counseling Center

“The truth of the matter is that you will feel better if you’re confident about your overall appearance. Yes, beauty is skin-deep, but self love is imperative for your mental health.”

When you put care into what you look like, others will take you more seriously. 

Taking care of our skin, diet, and overall health is a good start to living out our best life. 

5) You’re playing the waiting game…

If you have a habit of waiting around for things to happen, you’ll be waiting a long, long time. 

“How much of your life have you already been waiting?” asks Jonas Ressem from Medium. 

“More importantly, what exactly have you been waiting for? The right opportunity? The moment when it feels right? A signal from the universe?”

Ressem says those things aren’t coming. And that it’s a good thing. 

“It means you can actively start to pursue whatever it is that you desire.”

As a teenager, Ressem says that he was constantly waiting for things to happen to him. He was waiting for a better future, but he was afraid of taking action in his own hands. 

“So, I ended up wasting a lot of time frozen in fear. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that life is too precious to waste, and that it’s up to each and every one of us to start living it.”

Ressem broke his habit of waiting around to figure out his potential and decided to take control of it instead. He aimed for growth, was curious, and formulated a clear vision of what he wanted. 

Then he started to align himself with what he wanted by taking steps—many times course-correcting—to achieve it. 

6) ..but not the long game

To realize your potential you have to stop the habit of living day to day and not thinking about the future. 

“Successful people have a purpose,” says Success writer Cynthia Bazin. “[They have] a laser-focused plan of things they want to achieve on a particular day.”

Bazin believes in writing things down, but only the top two or three priorities she needs to accomplish on that particular day. 

I wholeheartedly agree. A long list of things can be discouraging and you’ll feel defeated before you even start. And then you’ll just feel like you’re playing catch up all the time. 

For example, when I decided I was going to become a freelance journalist full-time, I committed to sending one well fleshed-out pitch (along with researching possible sources) a day to the media outlets I wanted to be published in. 

Once I did those, I felt energized and motivated to do more. 

Think about the big picture of what you want and then take small—or big—consistent steps each and every day. No excuses. 

7) You’re taking advice about your own life from everyone but yourself 

Do you have a habit of asking for your friends’ advice every time you need to make an important decision?

These could be things like:

Do you think I should quit my job?

Do you think I should date that guy?

Do you think I should take that course?

You might feel inspired to go back to school, for example, but when you run it by your best friend—or maybe a family member—they might talk you out of it based on what they think is right or logical. 

You don’t want your potential and what could be by someone else’s perspective or agenda. 

Your life is your own and the decision is ultimately yours. Of course, discussing it with your partner is one thing, but even then you have to think about what is right for you personally. 

Trust yourself; you have the answer within you. 

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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