Potential Energy is defined as “the energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge, and other factors.” Objects are able to store energy relative to their position. They have the potential to release said energy and move, in the form of kinetic energy. Kinetic Energy is the energy of motion. Any object that is moving has, and is expending, kinetic energy.
People, too, have potential. There is a certain amount of “energy”, as it were, to be used to accomplish virtually anything, depending on the person’s skillset, personality, et cetera. It’s a word used to describe someone who is capable of achieving great things and accomplishing much more than they are currently.
I had a friend in high school who would always say, “Potential is just a nice way of saying, ‘You suck.’ “ To this day, I remember it, and honestly I have a hard time denying his claim. I would word it like this, though. “Someone with potential has a very long way to go and needs help getting there.”
We look at teenagers and young adults through this critical lens a lot. I know I heard it about myself growing up quite often. “You have so much potential. You just need to apply yourself more.” Or, “I hope you find something you can be passionate about before you waste all that potential.”
I’m not the only one here, right? Perhaps you even have children of your own and have caught yourself looking at them, not through the lens of who they are and what they will accomplish, but who they might become and what they might achieve. If only. Imagine the pressure that puts on a kid. Or, perhaps, remember the pressure that weighed on you from observations just like that.
In the end, we really do want the next generation to succeed. We want them to expand on our discoveries. We want them to create what we could not imagine. We hope that they overcome our failures. And we desperately wish that they would learn from our mistakes.
So maybe instead of looking at the people around us as “wasted potential” and “misguided”, it’s time to start seeing others as “needing propulsion” and “needing navigation”. See, one is blame casting and benefits no one. The other looks at the situation and realizes that the rocket cannot launch itself. And that’s where we step in.