By Steve Clayton
I hope everyone had a great holiday season. It is always good to see family even if just for a short time. I was contemplating writing about this time with family when, chance – if you want to call it that – brought a quote to my attention: “Potential has a shelf life”.
This quote was short, sweet, and all the rage when I was back in college roughly twenty years ago. Talk about pressure placed upon ourselves. We did not admit it at the time; in fact we often laughed about it, certain we would reach our potential long before our best-before date reared its ugly head. Myself, I was going to have written the great Canadian novel by twenty-five, then by thirty, then by… you get the idea. Somewhere in my sub-conscious that quote had taken root and I all but gave up on my dream. It happens. As I write this I feel a twinge of sadness, of something lost, a speck of regret and strangely, quite a bit of guilt. The guilt is what surprises me the most. Do I feel I have somehow let down all the people who believed in me? Or, perhaps more to the point, do I feel like I have let myself down?
As I sit here pondering these feelings I reach for my animal oracle cards and what cards jumps out as I shuffle the deck but that of the Dove. ‘Serenity – slow down, pause and breathe’ are the words that accompany a picture of a dove. A quick look in the book advises, in the midst of turmoil, slow down and breathe deeply. Do not try to resolve whatever is causing turmoil. Rather center yourself and the solution will find you when you have removed yourself from a place of fear or anxiety.
With the benefit of hindsight, this makes a lot of sense, considering it’s taken me almost fifty years to get to where I now am. Throw in the meditation and spiritual work I have been doing and I wonder why I did not figure this out much earlier in life. In the not too distant past, my ego would have said this sounds too airy-fairy, too out there. I believed everything my ego told me, thinking it would not lead me astray; unfortunately, that’s not always the case. But I digress.
What the appearance of the quote and then the Dove card tells me is that the quote is a load of hogwash. Potential does not have a limit. Potential is as individualistic as the number of people there are roaming about on this planet. I have a sister ten years older than me who has retired from teaching elementary school and taken up learning to use a scroll saw and a lathe. This impresses me to no end. She has always been artistic, but instead of sitting on her laurels or doing the done thing, she is pushing her boundaries, expanding her horizons. One could say here, tongue in cheek, that her expiry date has not been reached, but that is too glib, glossing over a simple truth. That truth is that the only limit potential has is how easily a person gives up. I know this from firsthand experience for I had given up for a while. Luckily, I have had quite a few people in my life this past decade who have not given up. My wife, who has degrees in History, Education and French and often had it pointed out to her that she was not ‘using’ them as she searched for meaning in her life, has persevered until she found her calling. Her joy at this discovery is magnificent and infectious, and has inspired me to shake off old fears, dust off my potential and take the first step toward a new and rewarding career. If I can do it, anyone can do it.
The first steps are to slow down, pause and breathe, and to get in touch with one’s inner self. Do that and you will find just where your potential lies. Do not let anyone tell you differently.