I used to hate it when people tell me “you have great potential”. It still kind of irritates me. I know it’s supposed to be encouraging, but it just makes me feel like I’ve not done things to the best of my abilities. And how the heck do you even know what my “potential” is anyway? And how was I supposed to reach this potential of mine? And then I thought about it for a moment. What if I never hit my potential? What if I’m already at my best?
Which is scarier? Being told that you’re never going to reach your potential or that you’ve already hit it.
The answer, as with most things, is a matter of perspective. It depends on your ambitions. Let’s say the potential in question is in regards to my footballing skills (or soccering skills if you prefer that). I won’t really care. I don’t even play football, I play futsal which require a slightly different set of skill, and even then I don’t play often. Six times a year might be a generous assumption. To me, in terms of football, never reaching my potential and being at my potential is the same thing, because it’s not something I’m actively seeking to improve.
Well, duh, Jamie. Of course that won’t matter to you. You don’t even play football. You’re literally paying money to run around the futsal court like some headless chicken. Seriously though, two hours of futsal courts can cost quite a bit of money. About half a book’s cost.
However, if the potential is about something more important to me, it would have a huge impact. Let’s take my writing for example. If someone told me that I’ve already hit my potential with writing, I’d be devastated. There’s so many stories I want to tell and I want to do it in a way people can enjoy. My current skill level is not where I want to be. And if I was told that I was never going to hit my potential? I’d still be sad, but at least I know there’s some room for improvement, however small that might be. At the least, it gives me hope that I can reach a point just below my potential and maybe that will be good enough. Or I can redouble my efforts to prove them wrong and hit that potential.
So yes, I feel the fact that I’m at my potential would be far more terrifying than the fact that I would never reach my potential. What about you? What are your thoughts on this? How would you judge potential anyway?