Taking inventory of what we're capable of doing and can potentially accomplish while we're still breathing is something we should all do. It's really just a matter of identifying what we can, want, and need—then prioritizing to get things done. Trying to maximize our potential may help ensure we leave this earth with fewer regrets.
Whenever the daily grind wears on me, I stop to think about three things: birth, life and death. I think about how fortunate I am even to be breathing. It's amazing how many billions of people were born, lived, and died prior to my existence. And I'm betting billions of individuals are going to live and die long after I'm gone. For reasons unknown, our numbers (my twin brother John and I) were finally drawn in 1971—birth is quite the winning lottery ticket. Of course, every ticket of life often lasts less than 100 years, which is a small window of opportunity in the overall scheme of things.
Taking life for granted is a human flaw and, for whatever reason, most of us struggle to live to our full potential. By definition, potential is the capacity or ability for future development or achievement. One of the worst things anyone can say about you is that you had potential—which means you don't have it anymore.
I've yet to meet anyone who didn't have it; in fact, I believe we all have potential—it's the gift of being human. But I've also met plenty of people who failed to capitalize on it. Certain hardships and losses are obstacles that can get in your way and stifle your life, if you let them. The death of a close friend or loved one, losing a good job, bankruptcy, divorce, tough childhood, serious injury, or enduring a severe sickness are things people around the world experience. They're all experiences the opposite of easy, but they're also a fact of life, and it's our own responsibility as individuals to work through and overcome them. Don't, and you won't tap into your own personal potential here on earth.
Putting forth effort to achieve your goals is part of maximizing your potential. It's completely healthy to work hard to achieve great things in your career. Maybe you want to be the best walleye angler in the world. Great, go for it. Maybe you've dedicated most of your life trying to leave your mark in the fishing industry. Or maybe you've worked all your life striving to make millions of dollars. All impressive accomplishments, but there's more to life than being a hard worker, great angler, millionaire, or a television star.
Most of us struggle to dedicate time and effort to what's really important. We put off spending time with our family and friends because we're too focused on a select few aspects of life. Some of us put off the most important things we know we should do today until tomorrow, next week, or even next year. Yet, we fail to consider that we could die at any moment.
I have to drive home from work today and there's a chance I could get killed in a serious car accident two hours after I write this column. Sad to think about, especially when I consider all the things I still want to do. I want to spend more time trying to catch more and bigger fish than I've ever caught. I want to spend more time hunting and enjoying the outdoors with family and good friends. And I want to become a better outdoor writer and photographer. But I also want to be the best son, grandson, brother, uncle, husband, friend, and the best dad in town according to my children. I want to help people—big, small, young or old—whenever the opportunity presents itself. And I want to call an old friend and catch up on his life.
Use your next free moment to consider making an inventory of what you want to do, what you've been doing, and what you're capable of accomplishing with the time you have left. You may have to reprioritize your life a bit, but you'll likely still have time to fish, maybe even with an old friend.