I’m Sorry to Tell You This, But Now Might be a Good Time to Realize Your “Great Potential”

First. I apologize. You have every right to be annoyed at all those people who told you that you are so lucky to be so smart and, thus, you are obligated to live up to your great potential. After all, that pressure may have set you up for your serious struggles with perfectionism and identity. And yet, well, you really ought to consider how much sense it makes, in today’s world, for you to aim toward actualizing your strengths, finding your purpose(s), and making the contribution(s) you are here to make.

So, before you get all mad at me or before you have a panic attack, let me explain.

I don’t have to tell you how things here on Planet Earth aren’t looking so great. You are aware. In fact, you might be so aware, you are becoming an expert in compartmentalization and denial. I understand. Me, too. As a highly sensitive, empathetic, socially responsible person, you might be easily overwhelmed and yet, you might also be feeling the need to stay informed. Me, too. If you are raising kids, struggling financially, dealing with chronic illness, experiencing racism, homophobia, or antisemitism, living through a tornado/wildfire, or in a war zone, for example, you might find managing your daily life is as much as you can handle. If you have experienced serious abuse in your family of origin, healing the trauma stored in your body and stopping the legacy of abuse in your family line, might be a quite reasonable and adequate life goal.

So, what am I suggesting?

Reaching your *great potential* means: actualizing your strengths, finding your purpose(s), and making the contribution(s) you are here to make. You see? Now doesn’t that sound rather reasonable? So, perhaps, you might consider realizing your potential after all.

But how do I do that? you wonder.

Glad you asked.

Some of you may need to start with healing from trauma experienced as a child. So, you may need to do more inner work, therapy, and/or journaling.

Others of you are anxious or afraid to fail or afraid to succeed. You may need to learn self-soothing strategies and design a daily spiritual practice. You may need to examine your perfectionism to get to the root of your fear of failure. You may need to write to your inner child to learn how to keep them safe while you become more influential in the world.

The good news about living in difficult times is, the circumstances provide the motivation and urgency you might not otherwise feel or allow. Right? You might choose to remain small and hidden if you didn’t heed the call.

Here are a few more things you can try to get started: 1.) Take a moment to open your journal or your laptop, and write a list of your strengths and then make a list of all the things you love to do, activities that make your heart sing. This might be a long list that can open a door to actualization. 2.) Design a mind map and brainstorm possible purposes. 3.) Visualize your future self and ask them what they are doing in five or ten years. 4.) Read the book Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility. 5.) Join a climate change organization. 6.) Develop your intuition and your spiritual practice for insight, direction, and support. 7.) Join the Evolutionary Collective. 8.) Use your powerful imagination and effervescence to visualize positive futures. 9.) Don’t underestimate the power of love. 10.) Read this post. 11.) Vote. 12.) Spread the good news. 13.) Work through my guided journal. The prompts are all about reaching your potential!

And, as Octavia Butler said, “We don’t have to wait for anything at all. What we have to do is start.”

So, let’s get started.


To my dearest bloggEEs: Many of you are already actualizing your strengths and contributing to a brighter future. Tell us how. What are you doing that is having an impact on your family, community, and/or the world? Where do you find inspiration and creativity? Your comments will inspire others. Thinking of you with so much love and gratitude.

(Note: I’m thinking of creating a series of YouTube videos around this theme. Does anyone know of a high quality simple mic that is easy for a not-very-techy human like me to use for recording?)

(Another note: Thank you so much for ordering my latest book. Your reviews are most appreciated. I would love to see your adorable face holding my book and to hear how it’s going.)

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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

11 responses to “I’m Sorry to Tell You This, But Now Might be a Good Time to Realize Your “Great Potential””

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  1. Tiffany Chambers Avatar
    Tiffany Chambers

    Oooh! I love your post and it resonates with my “project joy,” as I call it! Last year was my year of healing; I left the corporate rat race after years of trying to maximize my “smart” potential. I wasn’t honoring my TRUE self, which, as it turns out, is quite a gifted artisan! I have therefore been living my happiest, best life as a local artisan at our Saturday Market and spreading joy/happiness through my colorful, sparkly creations! My advice to others starting on a similar path: just freaking START, and keep going! New things are difficult, but “difficult” doesn’t equal impossible. Lean into the difficulty, and you’ll blow your mind with what you’re capable of! (My old, perfectionist self would cringe at breaking a fundamental rule of grammar just there, but my new self is too busy being happy to care.)

    Seriously. Bet on yourself. Start tapping into your true core, whatever it is that makes your heart sing, and I’ll be cheering for you along the way!

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh my goodness, Tiffany. Project joy! Thank you for these inspiring words!

  2. Leafy Avatar

    Thank you Paula for this post. This question is one that is very often on my mind. When I think about what I’d like to do, there are so many things that come to mind. There is so much I want to do, because I want to serve my community as much as is within my ability, but it is humbling to see just how few hours there are in a day. It is painful to realize the gap between high ability in one area and opportunity cost to actualize it. It seems like for any worthwhile endeavor with the intent of making a sizable difference, a whole lot of effort, time, practice and sacrifice are needed.

    In a sense, I suppose this is a form of perfectionism: feeling like you’re constantly letting down the people around you, because you don’t excel in every area where you could with the right effort and unlimited time, energy and opportunity. It is not sustainable to live like this, so I make the effort to focus on what I do, rather than what I don’t. On most days, I do research in my field, with a focus addressing an important problem. I regularly help, mentor, orient younger graduate students, undergrads, or even create opportunities for them. I listen to friends and family and make them feel loved, seen, heard, and appreciated. I volunteer with children who need it. And when I look at things, I thing I’m doing pretty okay actualizing my strengths. It will always be, however, a bit of a grieving process letting go and accepting I can’t help in every way I would like.

    Another thing that comes to mind is how our community has a bit of a hero complex. It is constantly reinforced to us that we must do great things. When you have high ability in one or more area, the pressure is even greater. But I don’t think it’s a healthy mentality. Our strength comes from community, from putting all our efforts together. We are ONE person, with ONE set of strengths. So much of our most lasting achievements are those that directly impact the people around us, locally. Whereas if you look at most famous or great figures in history, they almost always have done some very problematic things. Almost every one of them, even among the most admired humanitarian leaders. It’s easy to idealize someone we don’t know or that is not alive anymore, and to gloss over the dark aspects. But to me, greatness has a price; trying to do it all requires one to be extremely careful and self-aware you are not sacrificing your humaneness, your loved ones, or your own self in the process. Even if it is possible to be great and remain oneself (which I’m not convinced of, but I admit the possibility exists), it is not required of everyone to be, so long as we do our best together. In most RFMs, I think striving for greatness comes from a very genuine, sincere place, from deep caring and social responsibility and love. But this is compounded by social pressure, and this cultural emphasis on extreme self-sacrifice and achievement is making many of us miserable.

    To me, the best case scenario is everyone trying their best within their ability. Many cannot work for some reason, but are impressive contributors in many ways, through their kindness, integrity, and awareness. I know some people who cannot work and yet they are among the people I admire the most in life, because they are a balm for the heart and make you feel connected to humanity better than anyone, to all that is good in the world. Actualizing one’s strength is not always a tangible thing; I’d argue raising our spirituality, our shared values is more important than pragmatic concerns much of the time (though of course practical matters remain very important: I just think moral/spiritual ones are even more so).

    This almost always (i.e., raising our moral level in a global, rather than surgical and partial/fragmented way) happens when building intimate relationships (of all kinds), in a very localized, deep way. You connect with someone, build reciprocal love of some sort, and influence each other in becoming a globally better person. This does not happen often in my opinion: we have become better in terms of human rights, but the world, while more peaceful than in the past, doesn’t feel more authentic or loving, and certainly our current society is not sustainable. I think this area is where RFMs do best, and perhaps where we are most needed. So in a sense, when we are kind to people around us and do our best, we do something important. The rest tends to follow.

    Anyway, thanks again. Your posts honestly feel like a warm hug often, and they help a lot to develop further insight into things.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh my, Leafy, this is so beautiful. Thank you for taking the time. You add the complexity here that is often not written into a short pithy blog post. It is a reminder of how much the comments make my blog what it is. There might be some parts I will pull together for a future post to be sure people get a chance to think about what you are saying.

      1. Leafy Avatar

        Thank you Paula! I would be honored. I agree about the comments. I don’t always have time to read them and sometimes stick to the post, but I try to as much as possible. It’s a remarkable community.

  3. Mardelle Avatar

    Is it possible to be both afraid to fail AND afraid to succeed- and be anxious about it?

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, yes, M. All are possible. At the same time!

  4. Ciera Avatar

    Rebecca Solnit, Octavia Butler…<3
    Hadn’t heard of Thelma, but will look into her project with Rebecca.
    Thanks for these inspiring words and reminder to keep forging hopeful paths towards what makes us feel fulfilled, dear Paula.
    I am having a fantastic summer of learning here in Portugal, where my ancestral roots lie and where no one in my family has been since the last of our ancestors fled poverty and political challenges. There is a sense that life is better in the Americas, where ‘progress’ will make anything possible (though I am not convinced). I find much peace doing volunteer work on organic farms, witnessing the daily ripening of vegetables and sprouting of freshly planted seeds (and enjoying frequent taste tests of, for example, fresh watermelons). This is in exchange for staying with local families in a priceless bundle of cultural and linguistic experiences that I am soaking up. For anyone interested: World Wide Opportunities/Organisation of Organic Farms (WWOOF).
    This hands-on learning is preparation for designing and building my own little garden paradise, a tangible way to live more sustainably and connected to Mother Earth. I don’t have access to land yet, but this current learning will help inform me when I do have the means to purchase/lease, solo or with a friend (or a communal reality, who knows). I’d love to help heal soil that has been degraded, bring back biodiversity in a microcosm of our planet.
    Learning about the changing socio-economic-political realities, the impact of the Arts, the transformation of what was not long ago a dictatorship with many colonies abroad that were (and still are, in more subtle ways being) exploited, to a democracy… simply speaking with many strangers (and hanging out with them and their dogs) is so thrilling as I practice and learn my heritage language and about a country to which my roots are connected, but barely, seeing as I was born in a British colony and then moved to a former British colony.
    Even if most of my family is not interested in our family history or learning languages other than English, I can take pleasure in being a cultural, lingusitic nerd, relishing my time in local cafés to write, to read poetry and local non fiction from mini libraries in parks, 2nd hand bookstores and modern bookstores with the latest publications (big smile as I recall my luck); to take the time to imagine life as it was, as it would be if our ancestors had never left, and as it could be if I choose to relocate to this part of the world.
    Taking in the recent meteor showers, visiting Roman ruins and more modern castles, seeing live music performances, visiting museums, watching kids do summer camp activities (and helping out a bit with that at the first farm), observing families as they enjoy spending together, taking public transit and walking with no fixed agenda (but with my eyes open to whatever I find) is a relaxing and thrilling time of journaling, taking photos, reading on park benches, getting ‘lost’ in city streets, laughing at myself when I misunderstand something due to the language, etc.
    It is so healing, and the sun, plants, Mediterranean diet and climate all feel so natural. My soul knows I am happy here, but so does my physical body. I highly recommend to any and all to go spend time in one of the places to which you can trace your cultural roots; it is powerful, curiosity-evoking and reaffirming, and gives you a new lens to look at humanity and the life we share the planet with. Sending much love to you all and my best wishes to enjoy the rest of summer or winter, depending on which hemisphere you are in. (excuse the typos; writing from my phone as I happily left my laptop at home).

    1. pprober Avatar

      I’m so happy to hear about this, Ciera! It sounds like your life is full, nourishing, rich, and healing! Always good to hear what is up with you.

  5. Laura Avatar

    I am all for stopping climate change and preserving the earth. However, this post is supposed to be about realizing my potential. The fact that most of the suggestions for realizing our potential you gave have to do with climate change makes it looks like the post was just a pretext to talk about that, rather than my actual potential.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, Laura, I am definitely suggesting that the climate crisis is a big motivator for each of us to reach our potential but there are still a number of ideas listed, particularly in all of the links. If you are looking for even more specifics, I would suggest you look at my latest book, the guided journal. The whole intention of that book is developing your potential. Thanks for the comment. (I just added that as a suggestion.)

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