The mind dreams of possibilities and potentials and is cursed by the inability to express them all. The disconnect between our dreams and reality is felt during the weeks after New Year’s, when resolutions are put to the test and people find that it is much harder to write that book or run that mile than they had imagined. Sometimes the disconnect is verbalized as “not knowing who I am” or “not living up to one’s potential.”
The value of an individual is not measured in potential; it is measured in expression. A vivid imagination and intellect will provide many paths to follow; all is for naught if none are walked. Potentials mean nothing unless expressed. The five small ideas made real are worth infinitely more than the thousand big ideas left undone.
Potentials are something we create, and it is important to acknowledge that the mind can imagine almost anything. The passageways, scenarios, personalities and interests that one can picture are practically limitless. The mind is constantly creating and devising new potentials for the individual.
The mind tries to express and fulfill some of these potentials though the body. Yet, the body is limited. It only has a limited number of perceptions, and those perceptions are limited in themselves. We cannot see the whole spectrum of light, just a small sliver called “visible light,” and we cannot hear all possible sounds, just a small fraction.
Time is another limiting factor. Our minds are instantaneous; we can come up with complicated potentials in the blink of an eye. In the physical world, it often takes quite a bit of time and effort to achieve results. Any musician will speak of the countless hours of practice; the scholar of the countless books and papers; the writer of the countless drafts and rejections. We forget how long it took us to learn to speak our native tongues.
It is a perennial challenge of choosing the right dream to chase and finding ways to express it (while allowing others the freedom to express theirs). A potential is far easier and faster to create than it is to fulfill. That does not mean that one should not try. The progress of society and the individual depends on making a dream, no matter how small, into something real.