Everyone reading this right now is alive, but how many of us are truly living?
Let us begin by observing the world around us and recognising that the laws of the universe dictate that everything is constantly moving, the universe is continuously expanding and there are stages of growth within the life cycle. In the same way, your human essence is also always seeking to grow and it has the potential to do so; your state today should not be the same tomorrow. Rather, the you of today should be a more caring, more conscientious, more productive and stronger version of the you of yesterday.
Let us try an experiment – for just one hour, turn off all electronic devices; switch off the TV, the phone, pull those earphones out of your ears – all the things through which we seek escape through every moment of our lives because we do not want to face the reality of our situation. We are avoiding the reality that, if we are being completely honest with ourselves, we are not reaching our full potential. So disconnect yourself for an hour and contemplate.
There are different components to human potential and it is only when all areas are worked on in an inclusive and comprehensive manner that the peak can be reached and our full potential realised. What should be understood about human potential, however, is that it is linked to happiness – a natural goal of every human being, and fundamentally based on care. If a person has nothing, care for others alone can bring about the great feelings of joy and happiness. Let us journey together through this article to find our human potential by considering three different realities; the individual, the family, and society.
Just as your fingerprints are specific to only you as an individual, your characteristics, capabilities and talents are very unique to you as well. When we talk about living, we must also acknowledge that no-one can ever stand to fill in your space. Knowing you are unique is recognising that you have your own specific purpose and that makes you special. Your family members and circle of friends are unique to you. When they are in need of support, they have only a few chosen people from all of humanity that their hearts will call out for and you have the honour of being one of them.
As an individual, ask yourself: What defines you? What makes you you? What beliefs, values, morals, mindsets and principles do you have with which you make decisions? What kind of belief is core to your nature? What are the intentions behind everything you say and do? Travel to the farthest and most remote island, travel to the lowest depth of the sea, or travel through space to the farthest stars; you will not find anything more secret and more hidden than a person’s intentions. Your intentions are entirely private. In your journey through life, the universe will respond not only to your actions, but also to the hidden intentions behind them.
How you cultivate your uniqueness and how lofty you make your intentions are both intricately linked to defining you as an individual. This is the start of where human potential is realised, for you can only give as much as you have.
As soon as you came into existence you were introduced to other beings; your family. In fact, you were physically attached to another being by the umbilical cord. It is true that you have been created as an individual to be special, but not as an individual to exist alone.
Your existence on this earth spread multiple smiles in your household, and without any effort on your part, life began with you in receipt of great care from them. Thus, is it not only natural that it is your family which you should first seek out to keep smiling? When a nation is unable to go forward, families must be looked at, for what is a nation except the coming together of families? When individuals fail in responsibilities towards their families, society takes a hit.
Consider the example of parents who correctly express care, love and appreciation towards their children. Each child will understand and approach life in a positive manner, remain motivated and have support and direction when things do not go so well, helping them become great assets to society. Whereas, when a mother and father have a child they have no time to nurture and love, we find he or she may grow seeking to fill that emptiness that only parents can, and thus becomes involved in anti-social activity. It thereafter falls on the society to create youth organisations to cater for this youth’s needs. In other words, failing of responsibilities in the family create gaps that are filled by other members of society, who generally do not have a fraction of the amount of love and care that we have for our own children.
Ask yourself, how are you as a son or daughter inside the home and how important is family to you? Do you know how things work in the home, what your responsibility and roles are and how finances should be taken care of? How have you as an individual responded to challenging circumstances, designed to test and mould you towards your full potential? How do you treat your siblings emotionally and psychologically? Do you offer care, love, support and appreciation?
Before we can even think to reach and perfectly fulfil the lofty positions in society, we must first take care to perform the ‘smaller’ roles and responsibilities at hand to an excellent standard. If we cannot aim high and remain strong in the apparently insignificant day-to-day matters, this lack of care for perfection and beauty will become part of our character and naturally impact how we handle our ‘bigger’ roles.
The last arena where your potential is exhibited is your position in society. Functioning as an individual but as part of society with others allows you to attain goals more efficiently as each person functions for their specific role, mankind advances as a whole and people begin to give due respect and authority to those who truly deserve it. Not only do you think like a human for humans, meaning with care and justice, but functioning as a member of society allows you to work towards positive change that is real and practical.
However, due to a misunderstanding of priorities, many seek existence and establishment in this area before considering individual and family responsibilities. When you stand for positions not meant for you, you do nothing but fail to fulfil the role in a just and correct manner, contributing to society’s disorder and downfall. It is imperative you flow with your human essence to fulfil your responsibilities in society for which you have been created, for it is only then that you will flourish without feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.
Living in an on-demand age, in an atmosphere of haste, it is easy to lose track of what is truly important and forget our values. Everything we desire, we want quickly. We have forgotten that all lasting happiness in life takes time to attain, requires much patience, and jumping in head-first chasing after low-priority tasks will only distract from the high-priority aspirations. Unfortunately, this hastiness seeps into the way we conduct ourselves with the people in our lives; most significantly, our families. It affects how we treat our parents, how we behave with our spouses and how we nurture our children and the beliefs and values that we pass onto them. The effects of a culture of impatience and instant gratification can be seen in our dependency on coffee, cigarettes, and excessive escapism through TV and music, gossiping and its likes.
Your potential can be summarised in accordance to the care you manifest upon those under your responsibility. It can be measured by looking at how your duties have been carried out and the level of excellence put into them. In the words of Aristotle:
‘Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.’
There are levels of happiness. Recognising and fulfilling responsibilities allows you to attain the lowest of those levels, where you simply have no regrets. Higher than that, is when you live a reality in which you are the reason for relief and smiles amongst those due your care and love. That is only found when your actions are dictated by excellence.
Attainment of the pinnacle of happiness found through the peak of human potential can be witnessed in the examples of the greatest group of people to walk upon this earth: the Prophets, such as Ibrahīm, Mūsā, Yahyā, ‘Īsā, (alayhim al-Salām), and Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). They were the best in human character, they were leaders of their families and households and they were best in societal leadership exhibiting care, justice and fairness. As beings, they reached the perfection of human potential like none other and, deservingly so, Allāh made them Prophets to enhance and perfect their humanity and to enhance and perfect their leadership in all walks of life.
Human potential begins at the individual’s core and its peak is reached in stages until it has an impact on people beyond the self. Your potential is linked to fulfilling your responsibilities first, before any formal position and, as a result, functioning at your human potential is when you are not only alive but also living; whereby Paradise, in terms of peace, serenity and happiness, begins to be experienced whilst you walk upon the Earth.
 Das, Dr. Amit. (2016) – Create Your Leadership Edge
The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.