Thousands of inspirational books have been written to help people realize their “true potential” and find meaning in life. While the concept behind this is intended to encourage and uplift, I have started to notice that this thinking can actually be quite stressful and lead to self-doubt and depression.
When we get lost in the idea and results of our goals, or our own potential, we lose sight of the action taking place in this moment.
What if the purpose of our life is simply to be fully present in whatever it is we are doing right now and have a willingness to enjoy and learn from everything around us?
Many times in my adult life I have asked myself if I am living up to my “true potential.” This happened recently as I found myself once again shifting gears and changing careers. I found that as I questioned my potential and whether or not I was fulfilling it, I felt stress and angst about life.
Then I listened to a Byron Katie podcast and heard something that changed my life.
She reminded me that by being 100 percent present no matter what I am doing—whether it’s washing the dishes, listening to a friend, or teaching a class—I was reaching my full potential. I let out a huge sigh of relief.
Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts. Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking if it’s possible to be both present and on purpose.
It seems like many of us struggle at times with this idea of finding a life’s purpose or knowing if we are realizing our full potential. I would like to share a few thoughts from Eckhart Tolle and Michael A. Singer that helped me shift my perspective and feel less stress about trying to “figure it all out.”
1. “It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how much of you is doing it.” ~ Michael A. Singer
When I catch myself worrying that I’m not achieving enough or doing enough, this serves as an incredible reminder that it’s not about the “what,” it’s all about the “how.”
How am I showing up in this exact moment? Am I fully present or am I trying to do three things inefficiently at once? Am I listening intently or am I checking my phone every few minutes while having a conversation? Am I bringing my whole self to the activity or am I cutting myself off by being stuck in my head?
The more I cultivate mindfulness, the more I can bring to whatever it is that I’m doing, and experience a peace that is only found in the present moment.
2. “There may be things to be attained or acquired…yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
Just because we are present and more mindful of our wholeness doesn’t mean we still can’t attain or achieve things. The difference is we now go about doing this from a place of ease and non-attachment. When we can recognize that we are whole in and of ourselves and begin to operate from this belief, things and opportunities start to flow into our life effortlessly.
This has certainly been true for me as I examine just how much has flowed into my life amidst all of the fear and doubt I have felt about “living up to my full potential.”
3. “What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.” ~ Michael A. Singer
Life isn’t about getting someplace else or achieving more. As I heard on a podcast many months ago, “We don’t suffer because we are human, we suffer because we aren’t willing to accept our humanness.”
We spend so much time running away from ourselves and running towards filling in the perceived void by buying more, doing more and thinking more. But when we make a conscious choice to be present and accept what is (which can sound harder than it is), we begin to fully experience the life we have and, by doing so, can lead a meaningful life.
When we believe we are living a life without meaning or feel anxious about what our purpose is supposed to be, it becomes easy to fall into a spiral of negativity—at least that’s been my experience. If this is true for you, I highly encourage you take 20 minutes and listen to Byron Katie’s podcast, “I’m Not Living Up to My Full Potential” for an additional perspective on this topic.
How about you? How do you strike a balance between living a present driven life and a purpose driven life? Share your thoughts and wisdom by leaving a comment below.
Author: Amanda Johnson
Volunteer Editor: Nicole Cameron/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes/Flickr