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Christian mentor and Professor Howard Hendricks once said, “Nothing is more common than unfulfilled potential.” Unfortunately this is a sad reality. Many people live and die not having realized the fullness of their potential. Our potential is the difference between what we are and what we can become… Amanda Antcliff
So, this is what I did with the word – potential – and this is what I discovered. It means, ‘something possible but not yet actual’…‘Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future usefulness or successes’. One of the many wonders of humanity is that we all have potential. Each one of us has possibilities waiting to happen and capabilities yearning to be expressed. Potential is where vision comes from and what drives personal growth.
Pope John XXIII (1881 – 1963) said these wise words, Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.
Potential is a force inside each one of us that is laying dormant – unexpressed and underdeveloped – waiting to be released and realized. The word ‘potential’ is captured in these images…
a flower poised to bloom
a seed ready to germinate
the sun rising in the morning
a bottle of champagne ready to pop
a butterfly developing in a cocoon
sails waiting to catch the wind
What Does the Bible Say about Potential?
Interestingly the word ‘potential’ does not occur in most conventional versions of the Bible. However, I believe the principle of potential does. The Kingdom truths which Jesus taught, about ‘seeds’, ‘growth’ and ‘fruitfulness’, can all be applied to the concept of potential.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.
The potential we carry is like seeds which God has planted within us. These seeds may be gifts and talents, desires and dreams, calling and purpose. They might be tiny, like the mustard seed, but they have the potential to germinate and grow, and to become exceedingly fruitful and successful.
Jesus also talks about light. He calls himself the light of the world then tells his followers that they also are lights, created and called to shine. In a couple of the Gospels, Jesus mentions that sometimes lights are placed under beds or covered by bowls, thus reducing their brightness and effectiveness. This image of dulled lights is a vivid reminder of potential that is yet to shine. A Christian who wants their life to shine brightly will make a conscious effort to personally develop. This growth will then have a positive effect and influence on others.
Roger Williams, a theologian in the 17th century said, The greatest crime in the world is not developing your potential. When you do what you do best, you are helping not only yourself, but the world.
Personal and Professional Potential
Most people have potential abilities and possibilities in their personal and professional lives. It’s very important, every now and then, to reflect and pinpoint the areas of your life where you have potential. Here are twenty thoughts about the potential which may lie within you.
Desires not yet fulfilled
Adventures not yet experienced
Creativity not yet displayed
Gifts not yet utilized
Relationships not yet forged
Knowledge not yet learnt
Talents not yet revealed
Passions not yet expressed
Goals not yet achieved
Dreams not yet fulfilled
Career opportunities not yet explored
Promotions not yet attained
Leadership not yet matured
Ideas not yet imagined
Inventions not yet created
Actions not yet initiated
People not yet developed
Markets not yet explored
Profits not yet exceeded
Businesses not yet established
Did you notice the word ‘yet’! It’s small but significant. It reflects the power of potential, the power of possibility and the power of decision. ‘Yet’… is the door which brings possibility into reality. ‘Yet’… is the bridge between what is and what can be. ‘Yet’… is the challenge that demands us to grow and to reach our potential.
Three Keys to Reaching Your Potential
Identify and Focus
Our potential can be sitting just beneath the surface or it can be deeply buried. The first key to personal growth is always self-awareness. It’s important to identify what possibility, capability or quality is waiting to be dug out and developed. Once the specific area of potential is identified, focus then comes from setting goals and taking action. For example, if you have creative potential in the arts then a practical step is to book yourself into a course such as painting or photography.
Courage to Start
Often our potential has been hindered because of fear and negative self-beliefs. When this is the case, courage will be required to see breakthrough and growth in these areas of our life. Courage is having a go…even when you are afraid.
The words of Winston Churchill, prime minister of England during World War II, resound with wisdom; Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential. Anything worth achieving will always demand commitment and perseverance, and a willingness to push on despite challenges and obstacles.
Self-Actualisation versus Stewardship
Psychologist, Abraham Maslow theorised in his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ that the top order need or motivation in peoples’ lives is Self-Actualisation. The fulfilment of this need is heightened when the lower order needs – Self Esteem, Love and Belonging, Safety and Physical Needs – have been met. Self-Actualisation is focused on recognizing and realizing one’s potential. In Maslow’s own words, ‘what a man can be, he must be’.
As Christians we need to recognize that the reaching of our potential does not become an all consuming, ambitious and self-absorbed pursuit. In first world countries it’s becoming increasingly common that people can get addicted to ‘self-advancement’ and ‘self-fulfilment’. This is when the quest for reaching one’s potential is skewed and out of balance because it is all about ‘self’.
A healthy Christian perspective of realizing your own potential is to see it as stewardship. That God has entrusted each of us with gifts, dreams and purpose, and it is our responsibility to utilise and increase these things for His purpose and His glory. As we focus on growing the different areas of our personal or professional lives, our potential will be progressively realized and the level of our influence increased. Reaching our potential is all about becoming everything God has designed us to do and to be. CW