What if We Don’t Try To Fulfil Our Potential?
Why do we obsess over fulfilling our full potential?
One thing that scared me for a long time was dying without fulfilling my true potential. I don’t know where the obsession came from. I looked at my whole life through the lens of exploiting my talents to the fullest.
This constant chase to reach your highest level created a sense of urgency. I had to ‘reach’ that before I ‘turned old’. It felt very uncomfortable and I got anxious about it.
Why We Obsess Over It
Our society values accomplishments and achievements so much that it trumps every other aspect of life. When someone dies young, we say: “He had so much potential” or “She had a whole life in front of her”.
It’s as if we only value a life when it has proven its worth. And how do you prove your worth in this society? Be ‘becoming’ someone or achieving some success.
Another thing that we unconsciously do with our talents is: we only think our talent was useful if we were able to make money with it. When people are not earning big sums from their art, we call them hobbyists, blooming artists, or even unsuccessful artists.
When people feel they are good at something, others offer their advice and tell them to do something with it. They now see that this person has a special gift and can, finally, become someone.
What If We Don’t Fulfil Our Potential?
When we no longer see a successful life as a result of its achievement, we can find a new way to define a successful life.
At one point in my life, I decided that I didn’t want to look at myself as the sum of my achievements. I asked myself:
“If I remove all achievements, and try not to achieve more, what would make me valuable?”
I made a list of the things that made me valuable:
- I was nice to people
- I had the ability and insight to create nice works, even when I don’t exploit those works financially
- I liked my friends and the community I have around me
- I love the fact that I am on the only planet, as far as we know, that can sustain life. I get to be on that planet. How cool is that?
- I get to be alive and gather so many experiences. Good or bad.
- And so on
What Does Life Offer Beyond Achievements?
I found out the things that made life valuable weren’t found in achievements. The most valuable things were simple and free. As cliche as it may sound. The obsession to fulfill your potential keeps you distracted from the fact that you are inherently valuable.
You are here and you are valuable. Even if nothing works. Even if you don’t leave a legacy.
I do have some stuff I want to have done in this life. For example, I write fiction, I make paintings, and I have some material wishes. But what I no longer do is obsess over having to see everything materialize.
I’m happy I get to do these things and experience whatever way they turn out, but the greatest thing is to be present and enjoy the things you have already achieved and experience by simply being born: love, friendship, beauty, poetry, art, or whatever it is that took your breath away.
When you stop the obsessive chase for achievements, you will notice the following benefits:
- You create some space to breathe. Time doesn’t put such pressure on you anymore. You’re not in a race to fulfill your full potential before <insert random stage of life>.
- Most of the things you wanted to achieve weren’t your ideas, to begin with. I wrote a piece about how most of your thoughts aren’t yours.
- You find out what you really like. You are no longer working for goals that don’t align with your values.
- You notice you are more a sum of the things you value instead of the things you achieve.
- You will do more of the things that you value and less of the things that don’t energize you.
- You start liking yourself more. This feels crazy, because before you needed to have that achievement BEFORE liking yourself.
- You are already there. There is no big goal to achieve to have the feeling of ‘arriving’. This society keeps you thinking you need something in order to feel at home. Now you can already feel at home, without achievement. This might take some time to get used to because we still judge ourselves based on old beliefs.
What do you think are more benefits of letting that obsession go?