How to Achieve Your Highest Potential

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A thousand different desires speak from a thousand different mouths. One says, "I want to be an artist." Another says, "I want to be an athlete." We're born with innate desires, destinies inscribed into us at birth. To achieve our highest potential, we need only to follow that voice inside. But as we'll soon find out, our deepest, immutable desires call us to the highest mountains. And often, abandoning the climb is easier than making it.

On a hot summer's day, we find ourselves bored at home. A desire speaks from inside us, but it speaks unclearly. We think it says, "freedom." We look out of the window and see our bike. We decide we're going to learn how to ride it.

On our first try, we fall and scrape our knees. We feel the pain of failure, and we face a critical moment that all kids face when they fail to meet a desire: do we suppress it or find a way to meet it?

We try again and again, and we fail. Every time we fail, we get another bruise. When our friends and family see us fail, we feel embarrassment. When our more successful friends ride past us, we feel like dumb, inadequate failures. Learning is slow and painful.

But we're determined. After every fall, we get up. We brush off our knees and keep going. With every extra inch we pedal, we feel powerful. And after a thousand attempts, we do it: we learn to ride a bike.

Some of our friends use training wheels before they learn to ride a bike. Some fail at biking, but succeed at roller-skating and skateboarding. With determination, we all learn to meet our desire for freedom.

We enjoy our freedom all summer. We feel the wind in our hair, experience the thrill of going down hill, ride over to our friends house, make our way to the park, and even stop at the convenience store on our way home. But, what if we give up? Let's imagine what would happen if we suppress our desire instead.

We fall off our bike and scrape our knees. We feel embarrassment. Instead of sticking with our goal, we go home. We lie to ourselves. We say we don't even want to ride a bike, because they're overrated. But everywhere we go, we see kids having fun on their bikes. They challenge our worldview. We lie to ourselves again to explain this. We say biking is dangerous and dumb. Smart kids like us don't do dumb things. We use our lies to create a world in which suppressing our desire is justified.

With every lie we tell, we move further away from our destiny. The peak of the mountain gets taller, and we get smaller. We let the fear and pain of failing the climb prevent us from learning how to do it. We let shame and embarrassment prevent us from trying. We learn to resent those who can climb, and we lie about them too. We get rid of fear, pain, shame, and judgment but only at the cost of pleasure. But how are we doing in the other timeline—the one where we follow our desires?

We learn painfully. We fall and break limbs. We fail. We get laughed at. We fear that the mountain we climb today will be our last. But we never run from ourselves. Every day we pick a peak to climb and learn how to get to the top. We pick peaks that are too high, and we realize we have to start on smaller ones. We try different paths to reach the peak. When others laugh at us, we laugh with them. On dangerous cliffs, the ones that really matter, we pick our partners carefully. We pick friends that pull us up, hand in hand, and not ones that pull us down by our boots. And our desires keep growing. The mountains get bigger and so does the potential for danger, pain, pleasure, and knowledge.

We gain useful knowledge that we can give to others. We can empower others to reach their own destiny. By becoming strong ourselves, we become the type of person who can make others strong.

To achieve our highest potential, we climb the mountain of our desires. Not the shallow desires that change from day to day, but the stuff that's written in our DNA. The desires that sit inside of us as children and call to us and call to us. They always lurk in the background of our lives. They make us say, "hey, maybe I should finally do that," or, "I'll do that one day!" But one day never comes.

And it's a shame, because our highest desires lead us to our highest selves. We face danger and feel great pain on the way up. We sometimes feel lonely and abandoned. People call us dumb, and they ask us where we're going. They try to prevent us from climbing any higher. They point to other peaks, the ones they would like us to climb. But only we know the way to ourselves—so we bravely continue. We learn wisely by taking careful steps and experimenting with new paths—there are many ways to reach the peak. But each step up the mountain feels good and gives us a more beautiful view. We turn knowledge into power and use it to climb up to the summit of ourselves. And if life is nothing but a mountain climb, we find joy in the climb. And there's nothing more beautiful than the view from the peak.

 
essaysJustin Deol