It’s time to define potential.
I like the concept of potential as Joseph Campbell might describe it:
You enter the forestJoseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else’s path.
You are not on your own path.
If you follow someone else’s way,
you are not going to realize
Potential is the life that only you could live. It is the contribution that only you could give. It does not mean that it will be far-reaching, or that it will make you money, or that it will be any specific way. It doesn’t mean that it will be so unique that you won’t relate to others like you. But it does mean that it will be yours. That you have a path that only you can walk. And others may join you on the way, but the path is yours.
And so, if we have a purpose in life, it is to live in such a way as to reach your potential. To develop the gifts that only you can give. To have the experiences only you will have. To struggle with the frustrations and weaknesses that only you struggle with in this manner. To grow. To develop into an authentic version of you.
So what can keep you from that?
If you give too much into default thinking and behavior – if you identify too much with your upbringing and never look inside yourself or see yourself in others. If you avoid suffering. If you give in to delusion and escape. Then you are following someone else’s path. You’re not being unique. You’re not being authentic. You’re experiencing a version of life, but it’s not suited to you.
It’s less about potential and more about it being yours. It is your potential.
The truth is that it’s hard to screw it up. But it will mean more to you, you’ll have more ownership of it if you find your path. Your unique combination of paths. Your curation of paths and experiences.
If you can avoid the paths of addiction, distraction, indulgence, cowardice, politeness, ego, self aggrandizement, you can discover or uncover or create something sweet. And it may not be better than anything else. It may only be on the path to quality. But it will be yours – and there is inherent quality and worth in that.