The Problem with Potential (a poem with some potential)
The problem with potential is that it lives in the future. It is, by definition, not what is happening right now -- a fantasy of what could be but isn’t.
The problem with potential is that it’s used as a way of putting down what is, in favor of what could be, which is (always so much) better than what is.
The problem with potential is that it’s a future version of ourselves that we use to measure ourselves against and come up short. Again. Not because we can’t or are unable but because we won’t or are too lazy. Which is such a shame, because we have so much potential. (Potential and shame are often used in the same sentence.)
The problem with potential is that it knocks the life out of the you you are today in favor of the future version of you which may or may not reach said potential. Depending on how much work, effort and drive today’s you puts forth. (C'mon, work harder! Future you is at stake!)
The problem with potential is that it’s often accompanied by an ellipsis and a shake of the head. As in, tsk, tsk, he has so much potential.....
The problem with potential is that it sticks a carrot above the treadmill, sets it to 7.0 and has you run, interminably. (Have you ever spoken to someone who said they fulfilled their potential?) (And if you are that person then please leave your comment below, we all want to hear from you!)
The problem with potential is that it’s mean. It’s a mean thing to say about yourself and you usually say it while comparing yourself to someone else who did, allegedly, fulfill their potential and is nowhere near as fabulous as you are so it’s kind of a mean thing to say about them, too. (And you’re not great about being mean.)
The problem with potential is that it infers that everyone has some potential to reach and that anyone who isn’t meeting that potential is a failure, a loser, a rotten seed that didn’t sprout and grow into the big tree that we know it would have could have been, if only....
The problem with potential is that it doesn’t trust the goodness in what is, in where you’re at, in what you’re working through, in what you have now. Ack! I have so much potential! Why am I doing this?!?
The biggest problem with potential is that it refers to the most materialistic things: your best body, a successful career, some talent that should bring you fame and fortune (mostly it’s about being renowned and rich). No one talks about their potential for being kind, loving, caring, present and joyful. Or their potential for gratitude, acceptance and open-heartedness. Or their potential to give great hugs, show up with a meal, or be your shoulder to cry on.
Potential has so many forms that we often ignore in ourselves and the people around us. Imagine a world where kids are encouraged to live to their potential of kindness and self-love. Where they are assured that they have reached their potential every time they give us or each other a hug. Where potential becomes not some future goal but a rich, joyful moment of a life lived lovingly.
That's something I could potentially get behind. You?