One of my favourite philosophies is Aristotle’s theory about potential. If you regularly read my articles, you’ll notice it’s a term I frequently use. So today, let’s look at it in more depth. For the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, life is intimately connected to potential. Life is all about ‘becoming’, aka. the actualizing of potential. Take a seed. A seed carries within itself the potential to become a mature tree. This potentiality is a possibility, but not a necessity: for if the seed isn’t planted and nurtured, it will fail to turn this possibility into a reality. In that case, its potentiality would never become an actuality.
Aristotle describes potentiality as matter, and actuality as form. Matter is marked by inaction, whereas actualization is all about… Guess what? ACTION. Actuality is the shape we give to our potential, through the actions we take. As such, actuality is the tangible manifestation of fulfilled potentiality. And it’s the act of action-taking that makes all the difference.
As human beings, we carry a lot of different kinds of potential inside of us. This ranges from potentialities commonly shared (our potential to grow old, to become parents, etc), to potentialities that differ from one individual to the next.
You might have a talent for numbers and abstract thinking, which, through stimulation and nurturing, can lead you to become a mathematician. Or a talent for languages, which may lead you to become a polyglot. Perhaps you have an eye for light and composition, which may lead you to become a painter.
But having the potential doesn’t mean it will necessarily become an actuality. It’s the crucial element of action that bridges between them.
Without developing your gifts, they won’t blossom.
Without nurturing your talents, they won’t mature.
Without action, you won’t achieve.
High-potential and giftedness
Gifted people, by virtue of having a higher intelligence than average, are often high-potential as well as multi-potential people. We can become and achieve a lot of different things, at the highest level.
While this is a blessing, and a true gift, it comes with its own challenges. Because it can be deeply confusing to understand which talents to nurture and stimulate, which ambitions to pursue, and how to construct a fulfilling career in a world that constantly tells you to narrow down and 'stick with it'.
This is why we often don’t fit into predesigned boxes, why a lot of gifted students experience anxiety around picking a study course, and why a lot of career paths feel too restrictive. It's also why gifted people tend to hop from one job to the next, feeling like failures, because they just can't seem to find their 'one passion'.
From the moment we’re asked as kids ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, we’re made to feel like we must shrink ourselves to fit a professional label that is actually too narrow for us. Others see us as being too ‘all over the place’ and we might hear from the outside world that we should ‘make up our mind already’.
This is why a lot of us feel stressed out by our own potential. We freeze, we delay decision-making because we don’t want to cut off any potential paths and interests for us to explore. Some of us get completely paralyzed and are unable to make any move at all, because we just don’t know what to do anymore.
For gifted people, it’s often not as simple as that seed becoming a tree, because if you’ve been bestowed with so many gifts, you could develop into a medic, an artist, a teacher, a politician, a writer, a scientist, a financial advisor, a business owner, and 258 other things….
Sometimes this might make us wish we could be more like that seed, with one clear destination, so we know which steps to take to get there. How much easier would life be! It’s this sentiment that might make us envy people who have one particular calling and a straight-forward path to follow.
And when you combine all that indecisiveness, self-imposed pressure, societally imposed pressure, an overall sense of overwhelm with all the possibilities out there, with perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and a constant effort to adapt and fit in…
Even just writing this exhausts me. Because my goodness, it’s a lot.
This is precisely why lots of gifted people are high-potential but NOT high-achievers. Most of us are in fact high-potential underachievers.
This tragic combination breaks my heart, because of two reasons:
1) the amount of pain this causes the gifted individual her/himself is absolutely saddening,
2) the world misses out on a valuable contribution this gifted soul could be making.
It’s a double loss, both for the individual and the world, when there’s so much that potentially could be, but never actually comes to flourish.
The pain of unactualized potential
This stagnation leads to all sorts of emotional blockages. You might experience bursts of anger. You might be easily triggered. You might feel a constant sense of frustration and dissatisfaction. And if you’ve been in that dark emotional space for long enough, chances are you’ll develop a deep-seated sense of spite, a resentment towards yourself and the people around you, and an animosity towards the world.
You might start to blame yourself for ‘wasting your potential’, and punish yourself by sabotaging your own success and happiness. You tell yourself you should have done something sooner. You might tell yourself it’s too late now to change anything. You might torture yourself thinking about what could have been if you had given your dreams and talents a chance. Even if you manage to push those painful thoughts away, they leave a numb sense of disappointment with life altogether.
How do I know all of this? Because I used to be that deeply frustrated person with anger outbursts. I realize this may be hard to believe if you have only ever known me as the joyful, positive person that I am today. But trust me (or just ask my family): I used to be an absolute nightmare to be around.
But what I also know is this: I know that deep down inside of you, there is a little voice reminding you of your potential.
And perhaps, over the years, you’ve become really good at silencing this voice. Because it’s inconvenient. Or because it’s too painful to be reminded of everything that could be, but isn’t.
But just because this voice is quiet, it doesn’t mean it’s gone.
A while ago, someone got really emotional during a coaching call because I was reawakening that voice inside of her. I was reminding her of her vast potential, which she had ignored and buried beneath self-doubt for so long. The coaching made her feel things she hadn’t felt since she was a child. She got very upset, feeling like she had lost this voice, this core part of herself.
But what really happened in that moment, is the opposite: during that call, she found that inner voice back. It felt sad more than joyful at the time, because finding something back after many years made her realize she had missed it for so long.
I'll tell you now what I told her then: You can’t lose your essence. You can’t lose your potential. You can never lose that inner guide nudging you back to your core ‘matter’.
Because that matter… it’s what you’re made of.
You are matter. You are potential.
You’re just not actualizing it yet.
To do that, you've got to get into action mode.
'But what action?' You ask.
Luckily, this is exactly where I can help.
So if you're willing to take a chance, I've got you covered.
Time for action!
The Gifted Go-Getter Mastermind is designed to help you actualize your potential, and create a more joyful, purpose-driven and fulfilled life in the process.
The program all about action-taking. Because that’s what will get you from potentiality into the realm of actuality. We’re going to take all that beautiful matter that you’re made of, pour it out into the world, and mould it into tangible shapes. This way, your gifts can be shared with others, rather than remain stored inside of you.
GGG mastermind is where you’ll break all the rules and tap into your inner rebel.
You’ll make bold moves and play a much bigger game. You’ll receive all the coaching and support you need to make this year a truly life-changing one.
You’ll get clear on what you want, how to find purpose in your giftedness, and how to create output that embodies your brilliance.
Whether that’ll take the shape of a business, or a non-profit organisation, an exhibit, an educational course, a book, a talk, a combination of these things, or something different all together…
We’ll make sure that your potential will take up shape in this world, so it can impact and inspire others for decades to come. And so that you, in turn, can experience what it feels like to live a truly fulfilling life.
A life where potentiality becomes actuality.
A life where matter takes on form.
A life that benefits both you and the world.
If, after reading this, that quiet inner voice is reawakened, I invite you to listen to what it tells you. Honor its message. It’s never too late to follow that calling. How to apply: Send me a short email to indicate your interest in the program. I’ll send you an intake-form and we’ll set up a call to discuss your suitability for GGG. Doors close by the end of the month and there are just 2 spots left.