Living Up To One’s Potential

Saturdays With Shivani

While growing up, I rather enjoyed school and exams were fun. For me, it was a way to challenge myself. I have no qualms in admitting that I didn’t take too kindly to a bad performance. My mother, a teacher herself, would go through my papers and make a note of my weak areas. Once done, she only had one question for me- Did you put in your best effort? If I nodded in the affirmative, she’d breezily say, “Then nothing more needs to be done.” If I shook my head in the negative, she would calmly pat my hand and tell me to work on that. The ritual continues to this day for exams and for all the curveballs that life may have thrown at me.

Most students had nightmares before their results fearing their parents’ reaction. To me this was an emotion I couldn’t identify with. What I didn’t realise then was that my parents were setting me up for something bigger and beyond their standards- my own expectations.

Setting up my own benchmarks makes me what I am today. There is an inherent need in me to do a job well; my perfectionist streak comes from there probably. It does give me grief sometimes especially when I don’t like any particular work but the satisfaction that I derive from the output makes it worthwhile. Cooking is a case in the point. My daughter often remarks, “Considering you are not fond of it; you do cook well.” I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but merely state a trait of mine. When I know I am answerable only to myself, my conscience works overtime. No wonder integrity has always been high on my list of desirable qualities.

Raising the bar for ourselves is something we should all be working on. ‘Living up to one’s potential’- this phrase has been something of a guiding light for me for quite a few years now. We are all born with ‘immeasurable potential’ (again something that my mother says) and it would be a sad waste to leave it unexplored. We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we go through our lives ignoring the various doors of possibilities that come our way. We owe it to ourselves to try and open them and see what awaits us on the other side.

I am fully aware that I say this from a place of privilege. There are a lot of things I could do because I had the luxury to make those choices. Not everyone gets conducive conditions to thrive the way I have. This write up addresses to people like me who are fortunate in so many ways that we have no excuse not to live up to our fullest potentials.

To be able to begin working on it we need to introspect and rely heavily on honesty. Once we have the insight of what we can do, it is our courage that will translate our intentions into action. It’s never too late and we have enough examples around us to corroborate that fact. In the end, we owe it to ourselves for the blessed life that we have been given.

Dr. Shivani Salil