What does it mean for someone to live in the pursuit of their full potential? Does it mean they are always working on bettering themselves? Is it about attaining a Ph.D. level of education followed by a lucrative career? Or are the only ones who come close to achieving their full potential those people who have changed the world, like Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Albert Schweitzer?
As I have been considering these questions, defining what is meant by potential seems key. One definition might be a person’s latent abilities that, if developed, could lead to success however they might choose to define it. However, perfectionist over-achievers may want a more tangible definition of potential. They may see it, instead, as being about working hard to perfect themselves in order to accomplish some great feat that serves humanity.
Yet, what if potential isn’t so much about productivity as it is about experience? What if it isn’t about striving to perform, but is instead about stepping into who you were already created to be? I don’t know about you, but given the choice between the two, one feels much more inviting.
Not only that, but what about those among us who are limited in their ability to be productive? If a person’s full potential is all about accomplishment, does that mean that a person who will never be able to read, or speak, or even feed themselves cannot achieve their full potential?
If so, then we are left feeling sad for them. We may even think they are a burden. Even worse, we may devalue them to the point of believing that their life is not worth living.
Defining one’s potential, then, becomes paramount. Therefore, I offer the following:
To pursue your full potential is to experience the fullness of who you were created to be.
David Helfgott, the Australian concert pianist, is a beautiful example. After spending eleven years in mental institutions, he now delights audiences all over the globe. However, what I find more inspirational than his talent is his manner of being. Namely, he doesn’t behave like we have been conditioned to believe a concert pianist should behave.
Instead of being reserved and formal, he is unabashedly affectionate. Instead of remaining reverently silent during a performance, he talks the entire time that his fingers fly on the piano. If you have ever been to the symphony, you know this is not how a concert pianist is supposed to act. As a result, some purists find his habits distracting or outright improper.
Others, like German conductor Matthias Foremny, have a different view. “The world needs more outsiders who are more original and think less reverently,” he says. “And who simply don’t stick to the norms and rules as much.”
I agree, but even so it can be uncomfortable when people behave in unconventional ways. Yet, if we try to conform ourselves into what the world thinks we should be, we will never experience the fullness of who we were created to be. It is only by resisting the desire to look good and blend in with the world that our true self can begin to emerge. When we allow the space for this to occur, we are on our way to realizing our full potential.
To learn more about David Helfgott, the German Documentary titled Hello, I am David is available on Netflix.