The Burden of Potential

by PJ McClure on March 5, 2012

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What is a sundial in the shade?”
-Benjamin Franklin

“You’re capable of so much more than what you’ve put in here. If you would only give us 100%, you’d be an absolute superstar.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that, but I have. The difference in people is which part of that statement they focus on.

The millstone around your neckDo you hear, “you’re capable of so much more,” “if only you would give 100%,” or “absolute superstar”?

One phrase might signal to you that someone believes in you more than you believe in yourself.

Another might tell you that you’ve let somebody down by not working hard enough.

Yet another, might feed your ego and make you think that the world owes you something because of what you have to offer.

I’ve been through all three. From as early as kindergarten, I remember being told that I had great potential for school. In elementary, I shrank because the kids in my neighborhood didn’t like kids with good grades.

By high school, I had figured out that it was much easier to float somewhere in the middle. Not reaching so far that you risked failure, but knowing and doing just enough to stay clear of the bottom.

The trouble with floating is that you can be swept away much easier than you can chart your own course. When you float, you know that you are capable of more than you are giving, but you leave it in reserve.

I personally conditioned myself to think that it was better to lose and not look like I was giving full effort, than it was to give full effort and lose. But you never escape the fact, maybe confined to the back of your mind, that you have more to give.

Much of my adult life has been riddled with instances of shrinking, of playing it safe. Well guess what big boy, there is no playing it safe in this life. On this planet there is only giving it everything you have.

Life is not about managing your image and coming out clean and pristine. Life is about getting dirty, gutting it out, and pushing the edge of possibility…and that is where the fun is!!

You never lose your unused potential. It is always shifting, adjusting. You cannot achieve your full potential because when you reach what you thought was the edge, you see a whole new world before you. That should be really exciting!

The only reason it isn’t is because we get caught up thinking that life is about destinations. Until the grave, there is no such thing as finding a place to arrive and staying there. Our potential is an ever increasing horizon that can never be reached, only pursued.  Potential is meant to be fulfilled, not achieved.

Take a few moments to consider your own situation.

  • Have you always pushed yourself to the edge of what is possible?
  • Do you always leave a little in the tank, just so you can say that, “I could have done better”?
  • Are you keenly aware that there is something you can do, but you’re doing your best to avoid it?
  • Now that you are thinking about it, does that potential feel like an energy boost or a burden?

There is no greater burden than unused potential. It’s like a mill-stone around your neck. Rid yourself of the burden and rise above the mess. It is your right. It is your responsibility.

It is mine too.

Be your best,




Jeanetta Cloney June 13, 2010 at 9:05 pm

You wouldn¡¯t believe it but I¡¯ve wasted all day digging for some articles about this. You¡¯re a lifesaver, it was an excellent read and has helped me out to no end. Cheers,

Chad March 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

I love you man.
You know I have to ask, how does one get from the burden of untapped potential to the bliss of potential fulfilled?

PJ McClure March 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

Love ya back Chad.

That’s a great question and I’ll do a more extensive post about it later. For now, the major issue falls between two of the Six Elements of Personal Choice…purpose and forgiveness.

Without a sense of purpose (what you want to do and why you want to do it) the idea of pursuing potential is a pipe dream. In the absence of purpose, regarding our potential, we lack direction. We recognize our potential, get excited about it, and then spin around in circles because we aren’t applying ourselves.

The forgiveness issue comes in when we consider our worthiness in realizing our own greatness. To quote Marianne Williamson, “Who am I to be beautiful, gorgeous, and talented?” We see where our potential could take us and, more often than not, freak out. Look around you. Are the people in your life living up to their potential? Do you have people pulling you up, or holding you down?

When we realize that we are capable of more than what we are, there is often a guilt that comes along with it. “If I do what I’m capable of, the people around me might be uncomfortable. I might look like I’m trying to be better than them.” This is easier said than done, but get over it. Our only responsibility is what we can do. Back to Marianne Williamson, “…who are you not to be? You are a child of God. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won’t be uncomfortable around you.”

Forgive them, if they don’t support you. Forgive yourself for ignoring your potential up to this point. There is no power in guilt or resentment. Just start now.

How? Ask yourself, why is my potential important? Ask as many times as necessary until you hit an answer that turns your guts. Only when the purpose inside of you is greater than the obstacle in front of you, can you make progress.

Make sure that you aren’t harboring resentment toward yourself or someone that you are blaming for holding you back. If so, forgive and move on. Forgiveness withheld is an anchor to failure.

With those two working for you, the other major Element of Personal Choice you need can kick in, Action. Go do something that moves you into your potential. Each small step, realize that you are doing something about it. Celebrate and stay in the moment.

You can’t fulfill your potential by dwelling on the past or gazing on the future. Only in the moment can any of this come to pass.

Be your best.

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