Reach Your Potential: 3 Steps to Overcome Mediocrity

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Miracle Morning" by Hal Elrod. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you settling for mediocrity rather than reaching your potential? Do you wonder how far you can go in life and fear you might have hit your limit? Are you ready to reach your potential but unsure how to start?

In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod offers more than encouragement. First, he sets the stage with some sobering statistics. Then he provides three practical steps to break away from the norm and reach your full potential.

Read more to discover how you can start reaching your potential.

Are You Settling for Mediocrity or Reaching Your Potential?

Every day, you face the challenge of rejecting mediocrity and reaching your potential. Most people—95%—don’t succeed at this. They settle for the life they have and live with regret, without realizing they have the ability to be who they want to be, do what they want to do, and have whatever they want.

If you take one hundred people at the start of their working life and follow them for forty years, you’ll find, according to the Social Security Administration, that:

  • One will be wealthy.
  • Four will be financially secure.
  • Five will continue working because they have to.
  • Thirty-six will be dead.
  • Fifty-four will be broke and dependent on friends, family, and the government.

The challenge is ensuring that you are among the successful minority rather than the struggling majority.

Here are three steps to rise above mediocrity, reach your full potential, and join the top 5%.

Step 1: Realize that Mediocrity is the Norm

If you don’t think and live differently than the mediocre majority, you’ll experience the same life of struggle, failure, and regret as most people, including your friends, family, and peers.

Every day, most people struggle physically, mentally, financially, and in relationships:

  • Physically: Obesity is epidemic; the average person is exhausted and lacks energy (with many relying on caffeine to keep going).
  • Mentally: Many people take prescription drugs to counter depression, anxiety, and other disorders.
  • Financially: Americans have more debt than ever; they overspend, fail to save, and struggle financially.
  • Relationships: Half of all marriages fail.

When you realize that mediocrity is the norm, it’s easier to see how to break away from that and reach your potential.

Step 2: Understand the Causes of Mediocrity

The most common reasons people struggle, accept mediocrity, and fail to reach their potential are:

1) Rearview Mirror Thinking

It’s human nature to view current choices through the filter of our past experiences—the rearview mirror syndrome. If we failed at something in the past, we believe we’ll continue to fail in the future at anything remotely similar. 

We measure every new opportunity against our past experiences and capabilities—for instance, thinking: “I’ve never done anything like that before; I’ve never succeeded at that.”

Thus, we limit our future development based on the limitations of our past. Even though we want to change, we’re stuck on the way things have always been.

Most people process up to 60,000 thoughts a day, but 95% are recurring thoughts, including fears and worries from yesterday. Instead, you must recognize these as limitations, move past them, and imagine a future without limits. Overcome limitations by repeating affirmations that inspire confidence that anything is possible and that you can make it happen. Focus on what you want, reprogram your beliefs about what’s possible, move in the direction of your goals until they become reality, and reach your full potential.

Remember: your past doesn’t dictate your future. Your present is a result of who you were, but your future will be determined by who you are from now on.

2) Lack of Purpose

The average person can’t tell you their life purpose, the reason they keep getting up every day. They just do what they have to do to survive; they take the easiest path, pursuing short-term gratification and staying in their comfort zone.

However, to escape mediocrity and reach your potential, you need to have a purpose. A life purpose can be anything that’s meaningful to you, that inspires you and directs your daily actions and priorities. It isn’t something you “discover”—you decide what your purpose will be.

You can start with a small purpose—for instance, smiling more or being more helpful—and make it bigger as you grow and evolve. The point is to create a purpose now, and start living it. Use your Miracle Morning to come up with something. Write it down and keep it where you’ll see it.

When you commit yourself to a purpose bigger than your problems, they’ll shrink in comparison and you’ll find you can easily overcome them and reach your potential.

3) Viewing Small Actions in Isolation

We wrongly think our choices affect only the moment—for instance, that it’s no big deal to eat something unhealthy or to skip exercising today because we’ll get a “do-over” tomorrow.

However, your individual actions, as well as thoughts, have long-term consequences. Every thought, decision, and action determines who you’re becoming and, ultimately, the life you create. In Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T Harv Eker, wrote: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” 

For example, when the alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button, you tell your subconscious mind that it’s OK to not follow through on your intentions. Instead, when tempted to go back to sleep, tell yourself, “I’m not a person who lacks discipline. I’m getting up because I am committed to waking up early and working toward my goals.”

By keeping your commitments, you’re developing the discipline to achieve the results you want. Every action counts: what you do determines who you’re becoming. Every action either hinders or facilitates you reaching your full potential.

4) Lack of Accountability

A lack of accountability can keep you from reaching your potential. Accomplishment and success require accountability, which means being responsible to someone else for our actions or outcomes. As children, we were accountable to parents, teachers, and coaches; as a result, we did homework and ate our vegetables—things we wouldn’t have done on our own.

As adults, however, we often resist accountability and, as a result, we’re prone to mediocre performance, short cuts, laziness, and ducking responsibility. To be successful, you need to create your own systems of accountability, using friends, family, mentors, and partners—for instance, having an exercise partner who expects you to show up at the gym. The most successful people use the power of accountability as motivation to act when they don’t feel like it and reach their goals.

For that reason, Elrod recommends finding an “accountability partner” for your Miracle Morning routine to help you reach your full potential. To team up with someone else while reading this book, post an invitation in The Miracle Morning Facebook group. (Shortform note: Refer your partner to this summary or the “crash course” at

5) A Mediocre ‘Circle of Influence’

We emulate the people we spend the most time with—our circle of influence.

If you’re surrounded by negative, complaining, lazy, people, you’ll be like them. Likewise, if you spend time with positive, successful people, their attitudes will rub off and you’ll become more like them. This is true of every aspect of life, including happiness, health, and even income. If your friends are financially successful, you’ll think the way they do and adopt the habits that made them successful. However, if the majority of the people around you are struggling financially, they won’t inspire you to do better. 

Spend less time with people who pull you down (this can include family) and associate instead with those who believe in and encourage you. Work actively to improve your circle of influence, through resources such as online networking, professional groups, and the Miracle Morning Facebook group.

Look for people who will add value to your life and strive to add value to others’ lives by contributing to their personal development, so they, in turn, can be a better influence on you. Surround yourself with people who will help you reach your potential.

6) Lack of Personal Development

The amount of success you achieve is determined by how much you develop yourself. The Miracle Morning provides structured daily personal development time to practice silence, affirmation, visualization, exercise, reading, and scribing (writing in a journal). These practices help you develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. They help you reach your potential.

When you don’t commit time to personal development, you’ll spend it spinning your wheels on problems.

7) Lack of Urgency

The greatest cause of mediocrity and failure to reach your full potential is lacking a sense of urgency to improve yourself and your life. Most people put off challenges, planning to tackle them “someday,” or they hope problems will work themselves out. This is the path of lost opportunity and regret. However, what you do now matters immensely because it shapes who you become and sets the course of your life.

Step 3: Draw Your Line

In addition to realizing that most people accept mediocrity by default and understanding the causes, there’s a third step to overcoming mediocrity and reaching your potential: drawing your personal line in the sand and committing yourself to being different

It’s important to draw your line today because at the moment you reject mediocrity, your life changes going forward. Commit yourself to achieving an extraordinary level of personal development and success—to being, doing, and having what you want. Commit yourself to reaching your potential. The Miracle Morning is your key.

The Potential Gap

When you want to change, there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be. You may feel frustrated with yourself for lacking the motivation and effort necessary to produce the results you want. You know what you need to do—and spend time thinking about it—but you don’t do it.

The size of the potential gap varies depending on the person. For some, the gap seems huge and almost insurmountable, while others feel close to reaching their potential. But whatever your distance from the life you want, it’s absolutely attainable. You can reach your potential.

Reach Your Potential: 3 Steps to Overcome Mediocrity

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Hal Elrod's "The Miracle Morning" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Miracle Morning summary :

  • How getting up early and following a simple, daily routine can empower anyone to transform any area of their life
  • How Elrod's "Life S.A.V.E.R.S." routine can help you feel energized and motivated
  • Why hitting the snooze button is comparable to resisting your life

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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