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Potential vs Passion

A while back, I wrote an article about teaching our children to live passionately. In it, I made references to “passion” and “potential” where the two appear almost synonymous. Unfortunately, the relationship isn’t quite so straightforward because while you might have the potential to be great at something, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you will have the passion for it. And if you don’t have the passion for it, you will never really reach your full potential. A person with more passion and less potential can be as good or better than a person with the potential but no passion.

Whenever I think of this, I remember the Polgar sisters – the sister with the greatest potential was the weakest link of the three sisters because she was not as motivated to practice as was her other two sisters. The basic message is clear – your talent can only get you up to a certain point, after that, you need to work for it because even geniuses have to work hard and even geniuses will struggle.

The problem with having talent is that people often feel it is a “waste” when you choose not to develop your talent. You know how it goes – so much potential and such a waste if you don’t follow through. A lot of people end up pursuing areas within their talents because of this. Personally, I think it is a waste not to go after your passion. Opinions on this will differ greatly though. When I was studying dentistry, someone told me this:

“You cannot always do what you like, so learn to like what you do.”

I tried. I really did. But I couldn’t. No matter how many patients told me I was good at what I did and how grateful they were that I was their dentist, I couldn’t shake the feeling. I woke up every morning sick with dread of the day ahead. I couldn’t wait for the end of everyday at work. It made me think of something my cousin once said:

“Every Monday, I can’t wait for the weekend to come. When the weekend comes, it’s over so quickly. Then I’m back to Monday again wishing for the next weekend. I feel like I’m wishing my life away.”

Although we can make a good living out of our potentials, I believe that life is too short to live without passion. And if we want the best for our children, then shouldn’t that include their happiness? It is easy to assume that we all like what we’re best at. However, being good at something also means it is easy to get bored of it. Sometimes it is the challenge and the struggle that make it worthwhile. Sometimes, we just have an affinity for something we cannot explain.

The other reason why we are not encouraged to pursue our passion is because some dreams don’t make money. At the end of the day, we need to survive, and to survive means to be able to put food on the table and do whatever is necessary to do that. But what if we could see things differently? That passions have a way of becoming more. For this, I invite you to watch the following video: What if Money Didn’t Matter. I think Alan Watts says it all much better than I can.

Further reading:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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