Your Past Doesn’t Equal Your Potential – The Right Way to See Your Future

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“What’s your strength?” “What’s your goal?” “What do you wanna achieve in the future?” We often get asked these questions, sometimes in job interviews, sometimes even in just casual conversations. However, do we really know how we can find the right answers to these questions?

In my case, when I try to think about my options for the future, I often look back my past. I review my past experiences, and based on that, I see things I succeeded as “what I can do”, and things I failed or I haven’t tried as “what I can’t do”.

This way of thinking might help you to see what you can do right now, right here. It will help you to remember what you are already good at.

However, when you try to think about your future, is this really the right way to see it?

There is a pitfall in this method – it will not teach you anything about your potential about what you haven’t experienced yet, or what you stopped doing because you failed before. No matter how much you think about your past, there is no data to help you to examine the possibility about what you haven’t tried yet, or what you can’t do yet. Your past can’t tell you anything about what you haven’t seen before.

As long as you try to think about your future based on your past, your thoughts will be limited and affected by it. That way your future will always be bound by your past. Because you can’t think beyond what you’ve already seen, learned, and experienced by now.

Think about it – why do you think about your future in the first place? When you think about your future seriously, it is probably because you are more or less expecting the future to be different from the past and the present. You might be seeking for a change, and trying to think about the way you can make it happen. It is contradictory to try to see your future depending only on your past experiences, while you are hoping it to be different from them. It will not lead you to the answer that can fully satisfy you, unless you are already extremely satisfied by what you have now. Your past can probably give you some lessons for sure. However, it can’t make you see if there is something you’ve never seen waiting to be found by you, or if there is something you’ve never tried before but you will love once you try it. As long as you are focusing on what’s behind you, what you’ve already been through, you can’t see what awaits you in front of you, what you can possibly enjoy in the future.

All the things I can do now used to be the things I couldn’t do, because I had never experienced. I didn’t know a word in English, and I didn’t know how to play the saxophone. The only difference between now and when I started learning English or playing the saxophone is that there is nobody who tells me “It will be a waste of your time.” or “Isn’t it too late for you to start that?” And also, more importantly, I didn’t tell myself “It’s too late.” or “I can’t do it because I’ve never done it.”

Now that being late-twenties, if I start something that I have no experience or I have failed before, someone or I myself will probably question that decision, or in the worst case, might try to stop me from doing it. However, as long as I listen to these voices, I won’t be able to see anything but what I’ve already seen before, or something similar to that. I won’t be able to see the scenery I’ve never seen, or imagined before.

I used to automatically label what I can’t do yet as “what I can’t ever do”, but I started to feel like it’s time to change the way I label myself and my potential. In this world, there must be so many things I might fall in love with that I have never experienced, or that I have no idea that it even exists. The past twenty-something years of my life was probably not long enough for me to fully examine my potential. It’s time to stop underestimating myself, and instead, it’s time to start to see the world once again, with excitement and hope, believing in my possibility, like I used to do when I was younger. Let’s go on a journey to look for what I haven’t seen yet.

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