I am starting to dislike the term potential. When ever I hear someone refer to my "potential" as some sort of tangible future that I've purposefully waylaid, it makes me cringe. Like the economic system we have is some great Ponzi scheme, and my potential is to join the next tier being created at the bottom so lift those who already have time invested.
In a nut shell, "live up to your potential" sounds to me like "willingly disenfranchise yourself to support our corrupt system". I have found my self questioning many of the bed rock assumptions of modern society. Assumptions like the necessity of a phone, or the consumption of goods besides food and water, and the stressful pace of life in the modern age.
I can remember a time when one household would share a phone. Maybe it had an answering machine. Before my time, a letter could take weeks or months to travel from the writer to the recipient, yet progress marched on just fine to introduce humanity to the industrial age. I challenge the assumption that we are more productive in the era of instant communication. I feel as though we talk more than we accomplish tasks. Having instant communication lends its self to a lack of accountability because we can always pass the buck off on some distant consultant, instead of facing the consequences of our errors when we failed to figure something out for our selves.
Recently someone said to me "I knew we were screwed as nation when they started referring to us as consumers instead of as citizens". In political terms, the most powerful demographic the vast majority of us fit into is the 'consumer base'. Yet we cheat on boycotts, or consume regardless of the environmental costs, in essence we condone vile business practices every day by consuming needlessly. Other than food and water, all other "needs" are manufactured artificially by social norms or homogenized influence from media. There is not a single person who will actually die from not having a new TV, laptop computer, phone, car, etc. But there are creatures that will have to die in order for these products to be manufactured.
All this manufactured need and the debt encumbered slavery that is intrinsically tied to it has another effect. Stress kills. When you are stressed out at work, you body doesn't not know that the stress you are experiencing is different from the stress of being chased by a tiger through the woods. Your boss may be dangling your next raise on the completion of a paperwork cycle, but the chemicals that are flooding your blood stream are geared not for grinding hours at a desk, but to help you run faster and fight harder. Without actually getting out and making use of these chemicals, they just linger causing damage to your heart muscles and other systems.
Your standard of living will increase with your budget. The mirage of "enough" is only realized by a select few, and even they rarely see it and will continue racing break neck for their grave seeking more. We are much better off learning to be happy with what we have. Limiting personal consumption has a great many benefits. Maybe my potential is to live a streamlined life, free of the stresses of ownership and responsibility for the environmental costs tied to my consumption.