Edward De Bono, a paradigm-shifting thinker, introduced a verbal device designed to provoke original (“lateral”) thought processes.  This word is “po.” 

Po is a kind of signal to open your mind and consider a seemingly crazy idea with the hope that doing so will help you turn off your conceptual autopilots.  In De Bono’s own words, po is a kind “laxative” for the mind, and its function is to facilitate “rearrangement of information to create new patterns” (1990, 226-227).

So, I’ve got a po for you.

Po: there is no potential.

Indeed, show me your potential now.  Where is this potential you identify with?  There’s you, on a chair, on a couch, in a recliner, on your bed, standing on a subway train, reading this post.  But where’s this potential you talk about?  Step away from the computer (put your smart phone aside) and show yourself your potential right now. 

Recognize that potential is both a memory of what once was and an imagination of what might yet be.  Potential is just a thought you carry in your mind about yourself.

While the word “potential” exists, what it refers to doesn’t.  What exists is your memory of how you once ran a marathon.  What exists is your thought that you still can.  But this thought is just a thought that you have right now.

A thought about potential isn’t potential itself.   You are what you are, and there is no other potential you right now next to the real you that you are.

Nor is there is another potential you inside the actual you that you are.  Your potential is a vision of possible future accomplishments.

Whatever your thoughts of potential are, I hope they materialize.  But recognize: however you slice it, your potential is just thoughts of potential.  Thoughts are powerful.  They lead to action.  But you are not your thoughts.

Realize that you are not your thoughts of the future.  You are not these images in your head, however grounded they are.  Recognize that you are not what you think you are yet to become.

Recognize that the you that you currently are is fully maxed out in this moment, fully self-realized in this moment, without any untapped potential!  If you could be any more than you currently are, you wouldn’t be the you that you currently are, i.e. you wouldn’t be you.  But you are.

Reality doesn’t short-change.  Neither do you.  Everything that can be (at any given moment in time), is.  That is the ordinary perfection of whatever currently is.  A potential that is inevitably met, that is non-stop materialized, is an actuality.

Conclude: I am not my (thoughts of) potential.  I am not my potential.  I am not my image of a future, possible, hypothetical, theoretical me.  I am what I am, everything that I can be right now (in practice, not in theory).  And that’s enough anytime.

Adapted from Lotus Effect



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    Last reviewed: 9 Jul 2011

APA Reference
Somov, P. (2011). You Are Not Your Potential. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-living/2011/03/you-are-not-your-potential/


Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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