Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about potential. I think some of that has to do with my current status of seeking employment and trying to discern which listings suggest the best fit and provide the best opportunity for both the company and me, but it goes far beyond that.
Last night I had a deep and lengthy conversation with one of my best friends. We talked about a lot of things, with one of those being the idea of potential. I’ve always bristled at the notion that anyone can be anything in our world. It’s kind of an over-the-top rosy worldview that has some value (it’s good to encourage kids growing up to dream big) while also creating the possibility for great struggle (feeling like nothing you do is good enough because it falls short of the lofty ideas you had when you were younger). While it’s absolutely important to push people to strive for improvement and to maximize their gifts, it only causes heartbreak if you convince someone they can (and should) be able to achieve something they simply cannot.
My go-to example is basketball. I’m 5-9 and unathletic; I never had a chance at an NBA career. Now someone could point out that there have been a select few who overcame similar height challenges to have successful professional careers, but they also had tremendous athleticism far beyond anything I could ever aspire to even with nonstop effort. It doesn’t hurt me at all to know this is not a possibility for my life. It’s actually quite helpful to realize when something is not an option because it allows me to narrow my focus on those that could be.
This is where the question of potential comes in. Every decision we make is a simultaneous choosing of one thing and dismissing of all others. Each step eliminates countless possibilities and sets us down a certain path that narrows itself naturally as we continue to put one foot in front of the other. Thankfully we have time and ability to choose several different paths to varying degrees, but each step in one direction is a step away from another.