Some things in life you can let pass you by: the movie, the birthday, the business deal.
But other things if gone unchecked—will kill you.
Your potential is one of those things. It is your essence, the deepest part of you. If you let it slip away, you’ll end up in a life you didn’t ask for, with a career you don’t enjoy, and a restlessness that won’t let you sleep.
I know. That was me a few years ago.
I was lost, trying to figure out what to do with my life and living someone else’s vision. Expectations haunted me. I hung on to well-intentioned, but wrong, advice of family and friends. I didn’t want to disappoint. I was too scared to choose wrong. More than that, I didn’t know how to choose. So I sat for months in what felt exactly like barbed wire. Prickly. Painful.
The uncertainty was so immense I developed an extreme fear of flying. And the reason my heart was so heavy, the reason it felt so overwhelming was because, since I was a kid, since forever, I’d known I was born for a reason. I knew I had a purpose that I felt beyond a shadow of a doubt. And I knew that force inside of me was greater than just myself.
But on my way to finding that purpose, I got lost. I knew I wanted to change my life; I just had no idea how to do it.
I also knew that my impact on the world would not—could not—end with me, eating Cheerios in my pajamas, in the middle of an existential crisis. So I made a decision right there to start living MY life. And at that very moment, the instant I recognized the potential coursing through my veins, something inside of me woke up. I unleashed what was inside of me and knew I had to try for the life I knew lay ahead. Personally, it usually gets that bad before it gets good.
Then my life changed at such warp speed, I questioned whether or not it was real. The resources and energy that came my way were so specific they felt wrong. I genuinely could not understand what was happening. It almost felt like . . . magic.
I got into a coveted MBA program with one of the top business leaders in the world on an honest application, a prayer, and zero business experience. I landed a job with my idol photographer. I launched the magazine I’ve thought about for years. I made relationships with people who’ve enriched my personal and business life. I’m building a business where my “deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” I’m more optimistic about love after ending a relationship I didn’t think I’d heal from. My friends are people I respect and who do breathtaking, important work in the world. I’ve given up explaining it all because it sounds ridiculous. And it is. It is unbelievable, exhilarating, shocking, delightful, and ridiculous.
More than that, it’s terrifying. Hold-on-tight scary. I’ve cried, battled, quit, started, quit again, failed, been mortified, cringed, and wanted to drop into the ground more times in the last four years than in my entire life. And nothing that has come has come without fear. In fact, the things I most wanted came with a fear so intense I didn’t know if I’d survive. I’d call my sister and say, “I can’t handle it. I don’t think I can do this for one more second.” And then I did it for another three years. Not surprisingly, I still have moments like this.
I’m not telling you this to scare you. I’m telling you so you will look up, see what’s possible, dig deep, and run as fast as you can to the things that call out to you.
Because when you’re moving toward your soul’s calling and living out what’s untapped inside you, you should expect MONSTER-sized challenges on the road there. That when you fall flat on your face once, twice, sixteen times, it’s a sign you’re actually on the exact, perfect path for you. And your trials will only triple as you get closer and closer to realizing your dreams. Because I couldn’t run away from my fear, because I couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities that came to me unless I stepped out of fear’s shadow, I learned to harness it. I manipulated my fear to get what I wanted and I had to get to it before it got to me. I didn’t overcome it as much as I studied it, stared it in the face, became friends with it, swam in it, decoded it. Most of all, I used it to create a life that showed me what was possible. It wasn’t magic at all, I just used my fear to access my own potential.
And that’s when I stopped running from my biggest fear of all: dying with the music still inside of me. Because every single one of us wants to live a life where we manifest our true potential and give it everything we’ve got. I know I do.
You cannot let your potential slip away. It is your most powerful resource. And no coincidence it starts with the word POTENT. And we really have no clue about what is possible until we use our potential to see what is. Once you see, you believe.
Your potential is coursing through your veins right now. And the same energy and magic is available to you this very minute. There is still a great deal possible for you, but it’s up to you to lead yourself to an exhilarating life manifesting your potential. Will you challenge yourself to grow beyond your wildest dreams while facing your fears? Will you create your most remarkable life and let excitement keep you up at night instead of fear?
I hope so. Because one thing is true: Potential doesn’t unleash itself.
Ishita Gupta is the publisher of fear.less magazine. She worked at The Domino Project, runs the Potential Project, and helps people overcome fear and design their best lives. She also consults for authors and businesses on marketing and publishing.