What is potential? Reflections from Physics

What is potential? Reflections from Physics
Picture of 4 coiled springs

By: Basmah Hendy  

Maybe you’ve heard it all your life: “you’ve got so much potential,” or “don’t waste your potential.”  

Typically, this sentiment is meant to inspire you. To make you believe in yourself. To cause you to push yourself further than you initially thought possible.  

And for some of you, maybe that’s the case. You’ve come to think of your unused potential as a motivating factor and it’s helped you get further in different areas of your life.  

But maybe, you’re like me instead. As a student who did well throughout grade school, this phrase haunted me. I began to view recognition of my potential as evidence that I wasn’t doing enough. If people thought that I had a lot of potential, then it clearly meant they thought I could do more. I came to view my potential as pressure to achieve, rather than recognition for what I was doing and belief in myself from others.  

Then one day, everything changed. I had recently taken a physics course that discussed different forms of energy and the conversion between them. What struck me the most was how many different forms of energy existed. Light energy, heat energy, gravitational energy, electrical energy, and so many more. But there was also potential energy. The kind of energy a coiled spring has before it’s released. The same kind of energy that a resting ball has before it falls off a given height.  

As I solved my physics problems, something special stood out to me. Potential energy and tangible energy were both valuable. You could convert one form to the other and go right back. I became fascinated by this, and wondered if I could apply this framework to my limiting beliefs about my own potential.  

And that’s exactly what I did. I challenged myself to view my potential as just another energy form, and that removed all the pressure. My potential was now something exciting, something that brought me life, and it wasn’t so heavy anymore.  

What I’m hoping you take away from this short blogpost is that there is a lot more to learn from your courses than their content. I don’t remember much of the math I learned in this Intro Physics course, but I do remember what I learned about potential. And just maybe that was the point all along.  

Overall, I hope this advice helps anyone who needs it. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via Insta or email! (@mapmentorship / mapmentorship@outlook.com

Thanks to all who have taken the time to read this post!