Purpose vs Potential

My cousin and his wife has had another little baby, he is called Leo and I am obsessed with him. He’s 8 months now, I think, and in all this time never have I ever heard his parents stressing over whether he is ‘reaching his potential’, they are too focused on loving him and being loved by him (and trying to get some sleep). They don’t stop loving him because he can’t run yet or change his own nappies, they aren’t living their lives desperately waiting for the day Leo becomes ‘all he can be’, they don’t lose sleep over his potential because they didn’t ‘create him’ just so he’d become a President, billionaire, celebrity or whatever, they just wanted another human to love and call their own.

Many people over-complicate and overthink what their purpose is in life. The dictionary says the word purpose means “the reason why something was created or why something exists”. I believe that every human being has the exact same purpose, the same way every toothbrush no matter how basic or fancy has the exact same purpose which is to clean teeth. I have come to realise that every human was created to be loved by God and from that place love other people; though people have varying ‘callings’ in life, our purpose remains the same – in my opinion. I think I will go into more detail about how I came to this view in another blog post.

We get so wrapped up in whether we are reaching our potential that we live a life misaligned from our purpose. We allow the anxious thought that we are not all we can be to rob us of the joy of why we were created in the first place.

The problem with basing your joy on reaching your potential is that for the most part, your potential isn’t a static final destination, there’s always the next thing. If your potential was a physical point on the map you’ll never hear Google, Siri, Alexa or even Cortana say “you have reached your destination”. Can’t tell you how often Siri has said “your destination is on the left” and I turn left and it wasn’t my destination, or when I’m using Siri, Google and Citymapper and one is saying my destination is on the left, the other is saying it is on the right and the other is telling me to make a u-turn.

This is sometimes what it can feel like when you, and well-intentioned people around you, get so caught up with reaching your potential. It seems like whenever I am slightly questioning anything about my life, someone will say “El-Ruth when are you going to be a lawyer”, “you could be *insert some high-flying role*”, El-Ruth you should be with *insert name of some dream guy*, or the most savage “oh you’re so wasted on *insert whatever I’m currently doing*”. It can be so flattering at times when people have amazing ideas of all you can be, but if you let it, it can be derailing, it can cause you to be discontent and also paralysing when there are differing views of what you should be doing with your life.

I don’t reach my real or perceived potential every day, I may never reach my potential in my life but that’s not my goal anymore. I want to fulfil my purpose every day, I am loved by God every single day and I can choose to love others every single day, regardless of how close or far I am from reaching my potential. Maybe I will one day be a high-profile lawyer, the wife of what’s his name, maybe I’ll do performing arts and be an actress whilst being the mother of two over-achieving kids; maybe I’ll do another degree or add whatever accomplishment to my name; OR maybe I won’t do any of those things and no other accolades will be bestowed upon me for the rest of my life, but even if that is the case, I would still live a life of purpose and that will always be greater that reaching my potential.

Personally, I don’t think it is wrong to say Jesus didn’t reach his potential in many ways. Careerwise, Jesus was a carpenter and no offence to any carpenters because it’s an important job but back then I can say it wasn’t the best job he could have had – maybe if Jesus put his mind to it he could have made more for himself. Relationally, Jesus had no wife and no kids – maybe if he wasn’t so caught up with fulfilling his purpose he may have been able to ask someone out. Financially, Jesus had no money probably because he didn’t land the best job. Yet even with all of this, never reaching his ‘potential’, Jesus fulfilled his purpose on earth, to die for our sins and give us complete access to God and boy I’m glad He didn’t get distracted, stressing, overreaching his potential that He missed why He came in the first place.

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