Full Potential?

What does it mean to reach full potential? 


The idea for the blog came from recent conversations with parents and grandparents who are concerned that their kids and grandkids might not reach their full potential. Of course these discussions triggered the question “What is full potential? How do we go about measuring it?” 

As you’ll soon see, there are a couple ways of looking at potential. The question then becomes “Which is the appropriate way of looking at potential?” Let’s begin with an examination of two of the more common ways of looking at potential: intellectual and financial.


Parents and grandparents, who are reasonable in their assessment of a child’s intellectual capacity, often worry that the child isn’t living up to their potential…that they aren’t taking advantage of their intellectual gifts.

My question to these parents, and grandparents, is “Are you? Are you living up to the intellectual capacity you possess? Could you have accomplished more with the brain power you possess than you have?” I’m not a betting man, but I’d happily wager that the vast majority of us would answer “No, we haven’t.” That would be my answer.


In a similar fashion, caring parents and grandparents worry that the kids in their lives aren’t reaching their full earning potential. They want to see their kids and grandkids free of financial concerns. They see maximizing earning potential as a way to achieve that goal.

Again, I have to ask “Have you? Or have you traded earning potential for more time with family, friends and activities you enjoy?” I know that I could have made more money than I have, but I was unwilling to forgo time with my family, friends or the travel my wife and I enjoy. Did I reach my full earning potential? No.

So, if as I suspect, we have not reached our full capacity in these two areas, why do we worry that our kids might not? Based on the analysis above, it’s highly unlikely that they will. Then what should we wish for our kids? Happiness.


What we should be paying attention to is whether the kids on our lives are happy with the lifestyle choices they’ve made. Do they enjoy their work? If they’re driven to succeed in their field are they happy with what they’ve achieved while pursuing even greater success? 

If they’ve chosen to trade financial and career rewards for more time with family, friends and activities they enjoy, are they happy with their choices? Does the balance they’ve chosen produce the life they desire? 

Another way of looking at this is that it doesn’t matter what intellectual or financial capacity we possess, the real measure of a successful life is how happy we are with the choices we make. If we’re living the life we desire, then we have reached our full potential…for happiness. That’s what counts.

For you

Each of us has the right to choose the life we want. As long as that life brings us joy, we should  continue it. When it no longer brings us happiness, it’s time to choose again. The vast majority of us has the capacity to be successful in anything we choose to do..if we want it enough to do the work. 

There’s no reason for any of us to feel trapped into a life that no longer makes us happy. Those of you who know me well know that I’ve made at least five career changes in my five decades in the workforce…and I may yet change again, although I’m not anticipating a change anytime soon.

Use this thought to guide you in your interest in your child’s or grandchild’s welfare: Are they happy with the life they’ve chosen? If not encourage them to make a change that will bring them happiness. If they are happy, let them know that you’re happy for them…that a life well-lived is one filled with joy and happiness.

For our kids

When you see kids stressing about their future, remind them to make their choices based on whether or not the choice will bring them happiness. Let them know that just because they are capable doing something well doesn’t mean that they’ll enjoy it. They should pursue what intrigues them, what’ll make their work efforts fun because that’s where they’ll enjoy their greatest success and their greatest joy. 

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thought in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link) (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, I love this perspective! I know that this wisdom will help me with my grandson. Thanks for a fresh dose of your wisdom!

    • Dale Furtwengler


      I’m glad to hear that it’ll help you. It’s natural to want the best for the ones we love. It’s much more difficult to know what that best is. Indeed, only they have the answer to that.

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