Jewish Journal

Can you reach your peak potential?

by Beit T'shuvah

February 6, 2013 | 1:33 pm

By Ben Spielberg


In my line of work, I deal with potentialities on a daily basis. When clients are admitted to inpatient care at Beit T’Shuvah, the staff as a whole assesses each client’s potential for sobriety. We assess whether or not they can internalize our words; we judge their spiritual principles by default paradigms and ancient dilemmas. When we send clients for IQ tests, we see predictions regarding where their IQs “could” be. We judge whether or not a client will be successful later in life by them going to groups now.

However, it may not be productive to afford so much responsibility to potentialities. In other words, while everyone may have the potential to get sober--not everyone fulfills that potential. I have the potential to do well on a meteorology quiz I have later tonight (but I probably won’t, because I’m writing this blog instead). The problem here doesn’t lie within futuristic terms; the problem is that the potential makes us unable to appreciate the moment.


When I miss a couple problems on my quiz tonight, I’m going to determine that it was because I didn’t have enough sleep. I should have studied cloud formation instead of write this blog. If this is the case, when will I have enough sleep? Surely undersleeping or oversleeping could just as well be the culprit to an obvious mistake.

Slight deviations from my sleeping patterns could therefore affect my grade, which is a consequence that will literally make me crazy. I would try to formulaically set up sleep calculators and track REM cycles until I miss my quiz completely. If I generalize the situation, I can apply it to most instances in life: I will never be able to perfectly balance the teetering between lavish vocabulary and social reservations in a job interview. I will never begin that application to a Ph.D. program because my thought process will be too muddled with possibilities, or my focus will be unfortunately narrow.

People remark that they will get sober in the future because they are sick in the present; they will go on that diet later because their blood sugar is too low now, or they will do something really nice for Mother’s Day next year because work is too stressful at the moment. There is a reason that we are enamored with the idea of “living in the present.” We cannot be fixated by the potentialities that change our future--we can only do the best that we can right now.

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