Working Up to Your Potential

     By Nathan Naparstek, Ph.D

Naparstek is the author of several books and is a licensed psychologist, formerly of Niskayuna, now in Florida.

     There is always a reason why someone is unable to work up to their potential. I have never accepted terms such as “Lazy” or “Unmotivated” to describe why a person is not being successful. I believe that every person wants to do well and would if they could. When I was younger, I developed a four-component model to explain why people were not working up to expectations.

                                    Here are the Four Components:

  1. ATTENTION: You have to be able to pay attention to complete most tasks

Therefore, you have to rule out issues related to:

  1. Hearing
  2. Vision
  3. Physical Health Conditions
  4. ADHD, which is a condition experienced by 6-8% of the population and needs to be ruled out if somebody is easily distracted, cannot sustain attention, chronically procrastinates, has difficulties with reading comprehension, and just seems to take a lot longer to complete tasks.

  1. ABILITY: A person will need to have the skills necessary to complete the tasks that are assigned to them or those they desire to complete. Sometimes the inability to complete tasks can be due to a lack of cognitive or genetic ability, but very often it is the result of a lack of skill due to not having enough exposure or repetition experience. Practice at a task in which one uses multisensory approaches can often lead to skill improvement.

  1. EFFORT: These components are connected and an inability to focus well or lack of skills will result in tasks being so overwhelmingly difficult that it leads to avoidance behavior. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse also need to be ruled out when looking at a lack of effort.

  1. ORGANIZATION: Success is directly related to a person’s ability to be organized and have a good plan. Good habits and routines are important for achievement. Sometimes it may be beneficial to work with a coach or a person with good habits to model good organizational skills

     I have used this model to guide my treatment for clients as a psychologist for the past 40 years. Looking at these components has allowed me to be able to make better diagnoses and rule in or rule out factors that are contributing to underachievement.  Getting an accurate diagnosis is the key to good mental health treatment. Good diagnoses can only be made with getting a good personal history, completion of rating scales, and specific testing as needed. Any diagnosis that is made by a psychologist should be backed up by some form of data and it should not be a subjective opinion. You would not want to be diagnosed with a physical illness on the basis of a doctor’s opinion. You would want a good health & family history as well as testing such as bloodwork, MRI, CT Scan, or X-Ray.

     If you feel that something is not right in your life you need to be assertive and advocate for yourself. You can use my Four Component Model as a means to work effectively with your mental health provider to address any issues of underachievement that you may be experiencing.