Potential – what does it really mean? We often talk of reaching our potential as if it is some far-off concept, something elusive that we have not found yet.
When we look at a 16-year-old child and say that “he has a lot of potential”, what are we really saying? And, more importantly, when does that 16-year-old child actually reach his potential?
Is it when he gets married, becomes CEO of a company, starts a non-profit, speaks in 47 countries, helps a friend through a hard time, or, sometime else?
We live every day of our lives knowing that there is something we could have done better. We live every day knowing that tomorrow brings with it new opportunities, and that even if we are a CEO today, there is always another opportunity that may come to do something bigger or more impactful.
So, when do we reach our potential? At what point have we made it there?
In mathematics, there is a concept that normal linear rational struggles to fully define or process, the concept of ‘infinity’.
We know, from a linear perspective, that 1 + 1 = 2, and that no matter how large of a number you can dream up, you can always add 1 to it. Humans, therefore, by simple addition logic, are incapable of ever actually putting on paper the largest number possible.
To provide a way to cheat a little, math uses the infinity sign to represent the concept that numbers can go on forever, and then math focuses on trying to understand what happens to numbers as they ‘approach’ infinity by mapping equations on graphs and performing other functions. However, there is no point that anyone in math can ever identify at which infinity is ‘reached’.
So, what if our concept of potential is simply a way to cheat a little, kind of like the concept of infinity? We can always do something more until the day we are dead, so if we are alive, there is not a ‘point’ to identify as having reached our potential. Even when we are close to death though, if we are looking at our life through what we have done with it so far, we will likely have regrets and missed opportunities.
With the things we did wrong, the person we yelled at, the chance to help a neighbor that we passed up, the opportunity to pursue career advancement that we did not pursue, is it possible to still ever reach our potential?
While these thoughts remain with some people, what if potential is not something that exists somewhere else, that is in the future, or that is laying lost somewhere in the past? What if potential is a measure of how you used your time today?
Perhaps our concept of potential is so elusive that we do not take time to evaluate if it comports with reality. We all live and operate in the time segments associated with the earth’s rotation. We cannot go to our past and change anything, we cannot visit the future, we are sojourners in what is known as ‘today’.
‘Today’ is the only place in which we can reach our potential. We ‘reach’ our potential by making the highest and best use of our time ‘today’. Each of us has a sphere of influence and we each interact with or pass by another nearly every day. We each have the ‘potential’ to use our time to its highest and best use today.
If we elect to utilize our time to its highest and best use, we are reaching our potential. When the sun sets again and rises in the morning, we can then elect, again, to reach our potential by putting our efforts to the highest and best use based on the sphere of influence around us then.
At Believe, one of our oft-repeated lines is “you can change the world, for good.” Just as reaching our potential is a ‘today’ thing, so too is changing the world. The world changes on a daily basis, and its changes are the sum total of what we put into it each day.
If you take what today has given you and make the best of it, you will receive more opportunity. As you elect, each day, to utilize these opportunities, whether to help a child, focus on an employee, reach out to a friend, form a non-profit, go back to school, or the like, the world will change because you reached your potential, today.
Don’t worry about what tomorrow holds for a moment. Focus on doing what you can, today, and you will be amazed at the individual power you wield to be a force for good in this world. Your potential is real, but it is not something you will never see. It is found today, by utilizing your time to its highest and best use.
At Believe, we are actively working to change the world, for good. We are building a community of people to do the same, and we invite you to join us. The world will never be the same.