text and photo © Jonathan Zap
How do we waste potential? Everyone needs to probe into this for himself, but many of the ways are classic.
Using myself as example, I see that I waste potential when I compromise my physical health because I feel under stress, or I feel celebratory, and use those as reasons to mistreat my body through over indulgence in food or whatever else. Every day feels either stressful or celebratory or both, and therefore I can find reasons to indulge at any time. Almost any time I treat my body in a way that would not make sense lifelong, I waste potential. I said “almost” because there are some occasions where it is appropriate to use up some of the body’s potential to save some other potential that is more valuable. For example, it would be appropriate to stay up past a healthy bedtime to talk to a suicidal friend.
When I look to see where I waste potential, I am essentially doing an energy audit; I am looking at the energetic transactions in my life, such as financial transactions, bodily transactions, social transactions and emotional transactions. At the same time, I must do a time audit. Just as space/time is a bonded pair, so too is energy/time. Where my energy goes, so goes my time, where my time goes, so goes my energy. Let’s say I make an impulsive purchase of something I don’t really need. It seems like I didn’t spend much time making the purchase, but for most of us time and money are in an equation together. It takes a lot of my time to make the money I need to get by, and the more I spend, the more I need to spend time working to replace the lost money. Social transactions can be the most fulfilling and valuable uses of resources possible at certain times, but at other times they can be massive depotentiators. A huge depotentiator that I have found in myself and others is trying to work out inner conflicts interpersonally. An addictive, dependent relationship can be a place where we waste massive resources.
Where we waste potential is where we put energy and time into departing from the experience of meaning. We waste potential when we vent, act out, and let ourselves go. As Goethe says, “A master first reveals himself in his ability to hold back.” There is a divining rod available to tell us if we are wasting potential. Ask yourself, “Will I remember this well on my death bed?” If you can’t answer in the affirmative, then you are probably wasting potential.
Consider this a propitious time to see the ways you waste potential, and reclaim it for life-affirming purposes.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)