Mindset

How to Feel Proud of Yourself

proud

No matter what you do, it never quite feels good enough, does it?

You may be growing a career, plodding your way through a difficult university course, or rearing a brood of children…it doesn’t matter what forum of life we’re talking about. In everything you do, you’re nagged by the sense that your efforts aren’t quite good enough.

Today, I am writing specifically for a few of my clients who struggle with this lack of self-belief, knowing that at least a handful of my readers (if not more), will know exactly what I’m talking about.

You see, so many people, and none more than those with ADHD, struggle with the notion that they should be doing better than they are. They should have gotten a better grade. They should have a better paid job. They should be a more patient parent, with exemplary kids, who excel in all they do.

I have felt this sense of “less-than” on many occasions. For example, I worked my butt off on my Post-Graduate dissertation and was rewarded with merit – only a few points short of a distinction mark.

A few of my classmates did get distinctions. I should have been celebrating my achievement but instead I was disgruntled with myself. I was just as smart as them, wasn’t I? Why wasn’t my best effort good enough to raise my work to the status my colleagues achieved? My topic was original and poignant, I nailed the arguments, used all the right language and references….

But somebody didn’t think it was good enough.

But actually – a merit is pretty good. In fact, just passing the course was quite an achievement. And heck – even being enrolled and showing up for the classes was quite a feat. When I come to think of it, my essay writing involved a grotesque process, with coffee-stained papers littering my living room for days, garbage piling up in the corners of the room, maintaining the upkeep of the resident mice in my South London flat. It was utter chaos. I should have been proud that I even handed that 10,000-word whopper in. Yet I was dismayed that I didn’t get the best mark. Not by a long shot.

It’s because, secretly, I never felt like I was good enough to be taking part in that Post-Grad in the first place. I felt like a fraud, rising above my station. In my mind, I had to do the best, in order to prove I was worthy. Anything less than best would show me up.

Well, I guess I got showed up. And what has it meant to my life since then?

Nada.

It’s ridiculous when I think of it. But we all apply this logic to our thinking at times.

It’s called “focusing on the outcome”. As in: I’ll be good enough when I am successful. Or when I am rich. Or when my kids are successful. Or when I get to the top of the corporate latter.

But “when” never comes. The bar we measure ourselves against lifts itself higher and higher.

I realize, as I write this, this topic is not unique. But I’m writing about it anyway, because I feel I’ve got to say this:

My ADD comrades – they tend to judge themselves extremely harshly. I know many ADDers who feel like they have to work harder and do better than everyone else, just so they can feel good enough. Note what I just said: good enough. They don’t want to feel better than everyone else. But the only way they get to feel like equals, is to excel.

Not really a fair contest is it?

We’ve all had plenty of reasons to feel “not-good-enough”. Always late. Never paying attention. Breaking things. Failing classes. Losing jobs….When our lives are dotted with experiences like these, how can we learn to feel proud of ourselves? Or, at the very least, like we are good enough?

Go back in time. Somewhere along the line, that message was fed to you like an airplane-spoon full of porridge into a baby’s mouth. Somebody or somebodies made you feel like you didn’t measure up to what was expected of you. They made you feel screwed up.

But when you look over these times, you’ll always ignore one fact. Those people who made you feel screwed up… were just as screwed up themselves. They’d been elevated to status of judge-jury-and-executor when they had no right to have that kind of influence over your entire self-perception. Those in glass houses, right? But it didn’t matter – their perceptions hooked your psyche like fishing in a barrel.

But the truth is – we’re all screwed up. Every. Single. Person.

So what’s there to feel proud of?

Feel proud of your efforts. Not of the outcome, but of your efforts. Feel proud that you showed up and did the work. That you tried, even when the trying got hard. That you pushed yourself past your own limits. That you learned when you messed up. That you learned some more when you messed up again. That you kept trying. Whether or not anyone noticed it. Whether or not you got that grade. That bonus. That promotion. That whatever.

Those things do not define your worth as a person. They are only minor benchmarks in the timeline of your life span. When you measure yourself – only against yourself – and focus only on the effort you make each step of the way… that’s when you get to feel the kind of pride in yourself that never goes away.

Tell me today: what are you proud of?

Productivity

Productive ADDers Manage Expectations to Be More Successful

manage expectations

Synopsis: Getting things done and finding more success when you have ADHD comes down to how you manage expectations. 

Are you exhausted by the myriad of things you do each day, but go to bed feeling disappointed that you didn’t accomplish quite enough?

ADDers have a hard time feeling satisfied with their achievements. We have a lot of interests and ideas we want to put into action, and we want to get them ALL DONE (even when it’s not realistic). And sometimes, we get so distracted by our voracious goal-appetites, we end up “grazing” all day – on this and that – but we don’t really do anything substantial.

Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. I am co-editing an online magazine for ADDers. I am developing on an online course for Adult ADHD, to be published on Udemy in February (fingers crossed). I am also halfway through writing a book, though I’m not sure I should even mention it in this lineup, as I’ve been “half-finished” since January of last year. Oh yeah, and then I’ve been writing for this blog, too.

Some days, I’m on fire – I get in a few uber-productive hours of work and make real headway on these projects. Other days (in fact, more days than not) – I get little to none done. It might even be weeks between bursts of super-powered productivity. It used to depress me. The term “long on will, short on skill” comes to mind. I do everything the productivity gurus prescribe – get up early, remove all distractions, work hard for defined periods of time.. How is it that I can be so motivated, yet still so inefficient at times?    

I’ve come to realize that it all boils down to how we manage expectations.

I wish I could be more productive on my goals each day. It’s kind of disappointing that I can’t work as fast as my head imagines things getting done. But when I EXPECT myself to be more productive – to write 5 blog posts in a day, to publish an e-course within a month, or to write, edit and publish a book within 6 months of its conception – well, it’s downright devastating.

When it comes to being satisfied with your daily output, it’s crucial to distinguish between wishes and expectations.

Take these two examples from everyday living. Example A – When my Internet connection is poor and my search leads me to the dreaded “Internet Connection Timed Out”, I nearly explode in frustration at the sheer incompetence of my Internet service provider. I expect it to work after the first click. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t care that a webpage took 5 minutes to load while the modem dialed up – the Internet was such a marvelous novelty then.

Now take example B – I really wish that I could be a millionaire (who doesn’t?). I would spend half my time engaged in charitable occupations and the other half doing wonderful and exciting things with my family. But I get over it pretty quickly when the lotto fails to come up with my numbers.

Although I dream of winning the lottery, I don’t expect it. Yet taken at face value, surely the loss of millions of dollars (even if only just the potential) is far more devastating than the inconvenience of a timed-out Internet search! The difference lies in my personal appraisal of these two events: one is an expectation and the other a wish. I hate to imagine how I’d react if I expected to win the lottery.

Yet, for so many ADDers, what we expect from our daily accomplishments is about as realistic and likely as winning the lottery. We need to better manage expectations.

 

Here’s What Happens if You Don’t Manage Your Expectations:

  • You’ll never be satisfied by what you do get done
  • This feeling of disappointment lends to a “what’s-the-point” sense of futility
  • Feelings of futility make it less likely you’ll keep working at something (after all, what’s the point?)
  • Your work rate suffers – you’ll either give up easier or give up all together

Before, you weren’t getting as much done as you wanted to get done. Now, you’re getting nothing done at all. A lifetime of Facebook and Game of Thrones it is for you then!

Success breeds success. Dwelling on positives inspires more positive action in your life; the more satisfied, fulfilled and successful you feel in your efforts, the more likely you will be to continue applying more effort. Be warned, though – the opposite is also true.

 

Manage Your Expectations to BE and FEEL More Successful

1. Play a Game of Semantics

This tactic is the verbal equivalent of diazepam. Instead of saying “Ugh, I didn’t get anything done today!” say:

“I wish I would have got more done, but I guess it just didn’t happen. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

When that ping of frustration bubbles at the surface, check in with yourself, decode expectations and translate them to wishes. Unfulfilled wishes are disappointing but manageable, while unfulfilled expectations are devastating.

 

2. Set the Bar Lower and Surprise Yourself

We know ADDers have a lot of desire to bring ALL our diverse ideas to fruition. Often, it’s not physically possible to get everything done.

In a world that offers so freely a plethora of stresses, frustrations and even tragedies, why add coal to the fire by heaping on unrealistic and incalculable personal expectations? If you scrutinize and exam your expectations closely, you will likely find that many of them are not only unreasonable, but also unachievable.

Plan, intentionally, to do less than you think you are capable of doing. If you exceed expectations, you’ll feel all the better for it. If you simply meet those lowered targets, you’ll still feel satisfied because that’s what you set out to do.

 

3. Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

In the same spirit as #2, many ADHD Coaches (myself included) work with their clients to develop this principle. Commit to less than you are capable of. If you give more than what was expected, other people will be delighted. Over-committing and not following through – because you set the bar too high – disappoints everyone – including yourself.

 

4. Work towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

In the start-up industry, the MVP is a pivotal starting point in accelerating growth. In brief, an MVP is a “product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.” (Wikipedia) In the ADD world, we refer to this as “good enoughness”. ADDers are prone to perfectionism, and we see things in black-and-white terms. Either something is done or it’s not. We see no in-between.

In reality, there are multiple steps between coming up with an idea and bringing it to life. Work towards achieving a minimum viable product or good-enough effort each day, knowing that continued application of these principles will lead to eventual completions.

 

I don’t propose that learning to manage expectations is the only way to be more successful with ADHD.  There is no one-sure-path to success – it’s more like a system of interconnected highways, byways and even a few grid roads. But by becoming aware that expectations do not have to be fulfilled in order to be successful, and in fact can be limiting, takes you a small chunk of the journey closer to that destination.

 

If you want more strategies for productivity, success and bringing your ideas to life, make sure to sign up for free tools and updates in the box below, or contact me to find out how ADHD coaching can help you.

P.S. If you’d like a free year’s subscription to the online mag I co-edit, email “editor at everydayADDvice dot com” and mention that Andrea sent you!

Productivity

Sometimes… Don’t Write Things Down

write things down

Productivity experts may be able to motivate the masses, but they know nothing about the ADHD brain.

Success gurus say to write down goals in order to make progress on them. They also suggest creating itemized lists of all the steps involved in getting to completion – a sort of road map to guide us from none to done.

For the most part, I understand the logic. But normal logic does not apply to the ADHD way of doing things.

 

Why NOT write things down?

Most of us are rebels. We have big ideas and sure, we really do want to achieve success with those ideas. But we don’t want to be told what to do.

When you write things down, it can feel like being told what to do. Itemized lists are grown-up versions of self-imposed homework. Many of us are super wonderful at making lists and creating strategies… that we never actually use.

Why? Because making lists and developing strategies tricks our primal brains into thinking we’ve already done the work. Our attention bank is already spent by the time it comes to putting the work into action.

 

Play to Your Rebel-You

Every single time I have developed a robust strategy for moving forward on say, my writing or coaching goals, I’ve sabotaged the plan within 48 hrs. I simply drop it for something shinier or easier.

Yet…

Every single time I’ve decided to do something without thinking too much about it (referred to by some as impulsivity) – I’ve got it done.

ADDers can be over-thinkers and over-planners. We try to get things “right”, but this cripples us. Harnessing our impulsive streaks can be a lot more productive than trying to focus more. Nike says “Just do it”. I say “Hell yes!”

 

How to “Just Do It”

Elaborate plans are overwhelming. We give up before we’ve even started.

Simple plans are easy to stick to because we don’t really have to think about them.

To get back into regular writing and posting, with double the amount of output I previously achieved, I had 2 simple steps to my mental plan. First – read one research-esque thing (news feed, blog post, book chapter) every day. Second – write 500 words on a related topic 5 days a week.

That’s it. Easy. Realistic. Achievable.

And I don’t get bogged down with written plans, detailed by multiple steps that make me feel like I’ll never get to “done”.

Sure, have a goal. Make it simple and achievable. But you don’t HAVE to write it down or have a detailed plan in order to tackle. Etch it in your mind and embed it in your heart. Work on that goal everyday. If it’s simple enough, you’ll do it. Stick to that mental plan for as long as you possibly can. And then, a bit longer.

There may be a time down the road when you WILL need a written out strategy. Goals have different phases on the road to completion. But by the time the next phase rolls around, you’ll already be rooted in the achievement habit and won’t be fooled into thinking that the plan is all you need.

Impulsivity can be an ally just as much as it can be an adversary. But it doesn’t want you to write out a plan for your goals, it wants you to go for them!

Productivity

One Goal Wonder

one goal

Which of your children would you give up if you had to?

Maybe you don’t have kids. Okay then- which of your limbs would you sacrifice in order to save the rest? I mean, if you HAD to.

Can’t make a decision?

Thankfully, most of us don’t have to. But we do have to make important choices about our goals. And sometimes when I ask people to do that, they react as if it’s an offspring or appendage I’m asking them to relinquish.

By the way, that’s not what I’m asking at all. I’m not a prehistoric deity or the psycho out of Saw.

But…

I am asking you to juggle your goals differently. One ball (goal) at a time.

But I have many… why should I choose just one goal?!

 

All too frequently, my coaching clients want to change their agenda every time we meet. They try to relegate whatever we talked about last week in favor of this week’s shinier (more urgent) topic.

I get that. We live in the moment. Whatever is on our mind right now feels like the most important thing. Ever. And sometimes it is, so we refocus our priorities and switch gears.

But other times, our vacillation is really just a symptom. We can’t hold on to our goals and priorities just like we can’t keep track of our thoughts, our keys or the passing of time.

In other words, goals can be distractions.

To pick one goal out of a bunch and focus solely on it feels like neglecting some of our kids in favor of one. Sometimes, though, one kid needs more attention. And then when that kid is okay, you can turn your attention to the rest.

And just so you childless people don’t feel left out, rest assured – the same applies to limbs. Sometimes you have to favor one of them (i.e. an injured one). That doesn’t mean the others aren’t important.

How do you choose one goal?

It really depends on your circumstances. There may not be one right answer. You may have to simply pick one and stick with it, until it doesn’t need your attention any more. You’re not going to say no to your other goals. You are going to say: not now.

Your other goals benefit by proxy from your discernment. Success breeds success. When you feel successful, it will make you more apt to tackle your other goals with vivacity and enthusiasm.

When your space is more organized, you’ll feel more focused when you write. When you’re managing time better, you’ll be able to grow your business. When your finances are in order, you’ll start saving for the round-the-world trip you’ve been dreaming about.

But if you try to tackle them all simultaneously, you’ll get nowhere on any of them.

So maybe that’s the best reason of all to stick to the one goal strategy:

Its better to get somewhere on one thing, then nowhere on everything. 

Check out Ramit Sethi’s interview with Noah Kagan for more on how focusing on one goal can accelerate your productivity.

Growth

Major Screw-ups and Fresh Starts

fresh starts

When was the last time you congratulated yourself for screwing up?

No, I’m not kidding.

We’re conditioned to believe that mistakes are bad things, and sometimes they are. Screw ups – while devastating at times – can also create fresh starts towards new and better things.

Two weeks ago, I tried to tweak this website. A function wasn’t working properly, so I went into the abyss of WordPress to attempt a fix. It didn’t fix. Instead, it booted me out and gave me an error message that could be loosely translated:

“You royal idiot. Don’t play with things you don’t understand. You are officially banned!!!”

I was locked out. The Art of ADD initiated a coup on me.

Eventually, I got help and fixed it. Since I’d been thinking about a revamp for awhile, I used the rebuild time to make The Art of ADD new. Hopefully better.

The redesign wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the crash. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right? But when it is broken – why stop at fixing it? Why not try to make it better than it was before?  

The point is: not all wrecks are total wrecks. Occasionally, they are catalysts for better – sometimes outstanding – things.

Some famous screw-ups…

Traf-o-data was a 1970’s company that aimed to process traffic counting cheaper and quicker than the existing methods of the time. As fascinating as it sounds, it didn’t last. But its co-founder, Bill Gates, did last – and went on to create Microsoft.

Laugh-O-Gram Studio had short lived success in the 1920’s before it went bankrupt. Its co-founder had the last laugh, though. He was Walt Disney.

A two-time Yale dropout authored a novel that didn’t make it to publication until 30 years later! In the meantime, he became the movie producer, Oliver Stone.

(Check out this post for a list of 50 famous people who failed in their careers before achieving massive success later on.)

What they had in common…

  • They weren’t held back by temporary screw-ups.
  • They believed that success was inevitable – and that failure was an unavoidable obstacle on that path.
  • They looked for new opportunities and applied what they’d learned to find future success.

What this means for you…

Of course, not all of your screw ups will lead to huge breakthroughs or gigantic achievements.

But if you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to work – fresh starts may lead you down paths to better and brighter opportunities.

You won’t know for sure, though, if you don’t get back up.

(PS – when’s the last time you got back up?)

Mindset

Relentless Positivity

Positivity… we all know it can help you go farther in life…

Positivity, at best, inspires you to keep going, move forward and reach for your highest potential. At worst, it softens the blows when something doesn’t work out like we hoped it would.

The most successful people in life are not those who have had no obstacles. They are the people who have fallen and gotten back up – tougher and stronger than before. They are the positive people, who no one can hold down for very long.

But positivity isn’t something that can be achieved easily for everyone. For some of us, we are negative by nature. We don’t mean to be downers, but our set point simply hovers around zero. For others, life has thrown so many curve balls, the only way they can avoid getting hit any more is to constantly look down.

But there is, objectively, no more reason to look on the downside than there is to look up. Looking up can actually inspire you to get back up – try harder, do better, push yourself until you achieve the success you desperately want. On the contrary, negativity does nothing more than hold you down in the trenches with the heel of its boot pressed up against your ear.

How do you get more positivity in your life when can’t find anything to be positive about?

You have to fight for it, of course!

You have to pursue it, relentlessly, until it can escape you no longer.

No one said that positivity has to come easily in order for it to be worth it. You need to look for the reasons to be positive. You need to search your soul and itemize every single thing you have to be grateful for, no matter how small. You need to dig deep, find the beauty in every moment, and be glad simply because you are alive. Turn the other cheek, not to get smacked again – but to see what you have been missing. There is always a silver lining. If you don’t see it, maybe you haven’t opened your eyes all the way.

I know its not that easy…

But you have to treat positivity as something to be sought after… coveted. And anything you want that badly – you’ll fight for.

The harder and longer you chase positivity, the more likely it is you will find it.

For more motivational videos, check out motiVRations!

 

Focus

Opportunity Knocks: Catch Up on the Life You’ve Missed Out On

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get back all the time you’ve wasted in your life? Imagine what you’d do with the days, months, even years!

It feels like time speeds up as you get older. Having lived more life, you become acutely aware of how each moment of life can be (has been) savored or squandered.

The older you get, the less time you have ahead of you. This creates an urgency to use it devoutly. While you can afford to waste time in your youth, doing so only causes a delayed side-effect of mid-life regret.

That kind of time-grief isn’t limited to middle age.  In fact, existential crises can happen at any time in your life.

 

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What do I want to do with my life?

 

These are the “crises” of youth. At some point, though, we get a pretty firm grip on the answers to those questions. We know who we are and what we believe in. We know what we want to do with our lives, except for one thing…

It hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

And that’s frustrating as hell. Not to mention depressing. And frightening!

What if your ledgers are full of wasted, frittered-away time?

What if opportunity seems to have vanished from your life, and “potential” is nothing more than a holy grail you’ve given up on?

So many of us have major gaps in our timelines. Youth gives us a liberty we don’t recognize until age takes it away – the chance to do so much more than we did. Instead, we have holes in our resume of life experience, a gaping parity between what we’ve accomplished and what could have been. If only we’d known how to motivate ourselves and take time more seriously…

There is no rewind button. You can’t get that time back. But before you strain your neck in the head-hang-of-sorrow, consider this:

Who’s to say all that time was really wasted?

You’re here now, aren’t you?

Don’t assume that all the opportunities you missed out on were necessarily ones you should have seized. Opportunity may knock, but it may also be an axe murderer. It’s a damn good thing you didn’t answer the door.

Okay, let’s say it wasn’t an axe murderer. Let’s say it was the guy from Publishers Clearing House. It came to your door with a giant check, inked with more figures behind the dollar sign than you can count fingers.

And you didn’t answer the door.

Yeah, that was a dumb-ass move. But what are you going to do about it? Never answer the door again?

Would you ostracize every other opportunity in retaliation for the one that got away?

Of course not.

Opportunity knocks more than once in a lifetime. It knocks every day, in fact, but it may look different each time.

You can’t get all the wasted years back. You can do more with the years you have left. This moment – right here and now – is your opportunity.

This moment is your opportunity…

To worry less about what other people think. Nothing wastes time like the sanctions we impose on ourselves when we live life to appease the scrutiny of others.

To try out that thing you’re afraid you’ll fail at. Successful people have failed more times than the average person. If you’re discontented, maybe it’s because you haven’t failed enough to succeed yet.

To let go of regret. The one that got away may not have been the right one for you after all. Even if it was, it’s gone. Stop rueing that. Open the door to something else.

To get clear on your values. Figure out what’s really important to you. Maybe some of your wasted time was attributable to uncertainty. If you don’t know what’s really important to you, how can you begin to know where to invest your time?

To redefine success. Maybe you haven’t lived out your dreams or achieved success in your lifelong goals. Unless you’ve been in a coma, you have achieved something. Maybe you raised kids or did some charity work. Perhaps you traveled a bit or were a good friend to someone. Whatever you have done, you must realize that those things are just as important as the goals you haven’t achieved.

To let go of expectations. Sometimes we don’t answer opportunity’s knock because we’re certain it won’t work out. But how do you know for sure? Life isn’t one long journey, it’s a series of paths. Sometimes you have to travel the arduous ones to get where you need to go.

To cut out the crap. Nothing that is important and worthwhile is a waste of time, even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. The lessons we learn along the way are as invaluable as the destination itself. BUT a lot of the things we do routinely are disguised as important, when all they really are is busy-work. Get clear on why you are doing whatever you are doing, and stop doing it if it’s not all that important to the bigger picture

To open yourself up to possibilities. Every day is a chance to start again. Live, laugh, love more. Make time for something you usually pass by. Take a new route to work. Do something silly. Relax. Let go. See every day, every moment, as the right time to make things better – for yourself, for the people in your life, for the world. It doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes, the most meaningful opportunity is the one you take to be in the present moment and accept it as it is.

Do these things, and you can quickly make up for the life you’ve missed out on. Though it’s not formulaic, all of these things will help you waste less of your precious time. Once you take out the worry and the fear of failure, and you cut out the crap and let go of your expectations; you redefine what you see as an opportunity because you know your values and you see the endless possibilities for a life well-spent, you only have one thing left to do:

Open the damn door!

(And now over to you – what would you like to “catch up on” in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!)

Mindset

In Defence of Lost Potential

 

I used to believe that anything was possible if you really set your mind to it.

Now that I’ve hit 40, I have realized this: I probably won’t achieve even half of what I am capable of in this lifetime. It’s a sad realization, but equally freeing.

While I still concur with the basic tenet of my youthful belief, experience has shown me a hidden clause – that it would be virtually impossible to set my mind to one thing. If I really wanted to be an astrophysicist, and it was my sole priority in life, then nothing could stop me. But I am not built to be singularly focused on one pursuit. I’m guessing you aren’t either.

So what does that mean for me, or for you?

I know you have many lingering regrets about what could have been if only you had learned to manage your ADHD better at an earlier age. The most frustrating part of ADHD is this phenomena of not living up to potential.

Almost all of us are afflicted. We could be achieving more with our lives but because we lack focus and some of the skills necessary to make things happen, we fail to live up to our true potential. We could have done better or tried harder. We could have made something out of ourselves.

But actually, that’s not the problem at all. “Potential” is a synonym for capacity, for possibility, or for what’s imaginable. In that context, “potential” is limitless. There are infinite options as to what we could do or be. How can anyone live up to something that has no limits? It would be like racing towards a finish-line scripted in invisible ink.

Society celebrates those who achieve excellence in a certain endeavor or field of occupation. Celebrities, politicians, philanthropists, moguls and magnates… that’s all we hear about these days. Books preach the good news – how we can achieve (business/academic/financial/professional/weight loss/etc) success in 97 simple steps. In turn, we are seduced to lust after lofty goals, so that we too can leave indelible marks on this world.

It’s bullshit. There are 7.2 billion of us on this planet. If we all left our marks the world would become a giant golf ball.

The ADDer’s biggest struggle is that our insatiable curiosity and abounding interests in varied pursuits prevent many of us achieving greatness in any one thing. We can’t set our minds to anything. We set our minds to many things, and with that comes the side effect of not reaching our so-called “true potential”.

Instead, we get part-way to many different potentials.

Some of us do go on to start IKEA or become the greatest basketball player of all time. Some of us start record companies and airlines, write best-selling novels, or develop the general theory of relativity.

The rest of us? We’re weekend basketball players who reach the middle rungs of our careers, while occasionally writing prose for fun or playing video games or building crude garden furniture out of upcycled materials.

Let me ask you this:

What’s wrong with that?

It looks like mediocrity from the outside. But what it’s really is a rich diversity within our own complex make-up. We cannot be happy to do one thing really well. We aren’t even happy with a couple of things. We need to do a lot, and because of that – we have to learn to accept what it means to live in “good enoughness”.

A few in our cohort have the gift of hyperfocus. They find “that thing” that captivates them and steers their lives in the direction of notoriety. Thank God for them – they inspire us.  They are ambassadors for the tribe. They make us feel that anything could be possible for us, too, if we really set our minds to it.

But if we did, we’d have to unset our minds – almost exclusively – from everything else that allures them.

I’m not willing to do that, are you? My brain lusts after so many interests that I’d rather forfeit major success in any one of them than to give up the rest of them.

What are we really cursed with? Brains that have limitless potentials but are confined to bodies with a finite timeline. If we had a few hundred more years on this earth, no doubt we could live up to our potentials. We could give ourselves over, fully and wholly, to everything that interests us.

In the meantime, reach for the stars. Pursue your goals and work hard at furthering your accomplishments. Go back to school, get a better job. Start a business, write a book, play a sport, or solve world peace. Try to do something extraordinary with your life.

But do not – not for one minute – feel like you are not a success if you haven’t done any of those things. Lost potential doesn’t point to failure. It only tells us what we haven’t, or haven’t yet, done. Recognizing it is an opportunity to survey the landscape of our lives and assess where we go from here.

Frequently, moving forward means choosing a new path in life. But other times, it means choosing to see the path we are already on in a new way. Let go of your “potential” and focus on what already is, here and now. What do you already do well? How do you affect the people in your life? What have you learned through your experiences? And how do your rich and varied interests contribute to the world in small ways?

All these little things… they make indelible marks on the world just as much as the extraordinary things. You may feel like you haven’t lived up to your potential, but potential can be defined in many different ways. The opportunity you have now is to redefine it and start living it.