To get the most out of this post you need to read the prelude to it. It starts with Becky Robinson’s birthday musings that formed the basis of my post Monday and the comments that led to today’s topic. (Please read them if you haven’t already.)
We hear all the time about ‘living up to our potential’.
I know that every time I didn’t do what someone thought I should, I heard about my potential. It became the club-of-choice used by teachers and family to push me, but I don’t take well to being pushed and my reaction was to dig in my heels.
The same ‘club’ had a different effect on many others and became a driving force in their lives.
Different MAP, different reaction.
I didn’t give it much thought until I was in my early twenties and a friend killed himself. The note he left is one of those things you never forget.
“I’m sorry. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to do what you want. I keep being told to live up to my potential, but no one tells me what that is or what it means. I don’t know how to do it and nothing I tried seems to bring me any closer. This is easier, I won’t have to try any more.”
My friend was a straight A student, cum laude high school grad, full scholarship to a top university, etc., yet he was still being chased with that club.
I’m not suggesting that potential should be quantified because that would limit it, but living up to it shouldn’t be a club or a judgment—it should be an encouragement and incentive.
I read once that the past is a series of paintings that can’t be changed, while the future is a blank canvas on which we dream, but the present is within our grasp.
I believe that each day is a blank canvas; if you live it to its fullest, doing everything as well as possible within the power of who-you-are-today, then your pasts will hold many positive accomplishments, good memories and far more learning experiences than regrets.
To this day, I still hear the potential club, but no outsider can know whether I’ve lived up to mine.
In my response to Becky I said, “Life is about choices; when you look at how far you’ve come you have the choice to see errors or learning experiences; to congratulate yourself on what you did or beat yourself up over what you didn’t.”
I stopped beating myself up the day my friend died, but I didn’t stop striving.
Again, it’s about how you choose to view your past, present and future.
Image credit: futurowoman on flickr