The Present Driven Life

Thousands of inspirational books have been written to help people realize their “true potential” or find meaning in life. While the concept behind this is intended to encourage and uplift, I have started to notice that this thinking can actually be quite stressful and lead to a lot of self-doubt and depression. When we get lost in the idea of our goals or the results or even our own potential, we lose sight of the action itself taking place in this moment.

What if the purpose of your life is simply to be fully present in whatever it is you are doing right now and have a willingness to enjoy and learn from the life happening to you?

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Many times in my adult life I have asked myself if I am living up to my “true potential.” This happened again recently as I found myself once more shifting gears and changing careers. I found that as I questioned my potential and whether or not I was fulfilling it, I felt stress and angst about life. Then I listened to a Byron Katie podcast and heard something that changed my life. She reminded me that by being 100% present no matter what I am doing — whether it’s washing the dishes, listening to a friend, or teaching a class — I was “reaching my full potential.” I let out a huge sigh of relief.

It seems like many of us struggle at times with this idea of finding a life’s purpose or knowing if we are realizing our full potential. I would like to share a few thoughts from Eckhart Tolle and Michael A. Singer that helped me shift my perspective and feel less stress and anxiety about trying to figure it all out.

  • “It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how much of you is doing it.”
  • “Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
  • “There may be things to be attained or acquired.…Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.”
  • “When you are free of ‘becoming’ as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome, and so there is freedom from fear.”
  • “Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship.”
  • “Don’t waste a moment of life trying to make other things happen; appreciate the moments you are given.”
  • “What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.” 

When we believe we are living a life without meaning or feel anxious when we do not know what our purpose is supposed to be, we can get into a spiral of negativity. But when we make a choice to be present and accept what is, we can begin to fully experience the life we have and, by doing so, lead a “meaningful” life.

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to “I’m Not Living Up to My Full Potential” with Byron Katie for additional perspective on this topic.

What is one thing you have done recently and did the best job you could in that moment? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.