Changing the Way You Think and Achieving Your Full Potential

Michaelangelo's work as an example of full potential

Have you ever wondered what it really means to achieve your full potential? How do we define that, and who is to say whether we have achieved it or not? Is it possible to look at our potential in a new light? What if I told you that I know one of the greatest sculptors in the history of art? Then what if I told you I know one of the greatest painters in the history of art? I also know one of the greatest architects and engineers who ever lived. Finally, I know someone who had a knowledge of medical anatomy that was way ahead of his time. You would probably think I know a lot of smart people. Well, what if I then told you that this was just one person?

Michelangelo Buonarroti was a master sculptor. While still in his twenties he sculpted one of the world’s greatest masterpieces, the statue of David.

Michelangelo was a master painter. While only in his thirties he painted one of the world’s greatest masterpieces, the entire 10,000 square feet of the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo was a master architect and engineer. He was the primary architect and engineer when St. Peter’s was rebuilt in the 1500’s. The large building-spanning dome is an architectural style that still graces nearly every capital building in the world today.

Michelangelo had an extensive knowledge of human anatomy that matched any doctor of his time. Take a close look of the background “shell” that surrounds God in his famous panel, “The Creation of Adam,” from the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo painted this background in the shape of a human brain to represent God’s perfect knowledge. The image of this brain has been analyzed by a modern medical computer. So meticulous was Michelangelo that this image was found to have the “perfect” dimensions and proportions of an anatomically correct human brain.

Michelangelo’s greatness forces us to ask some very important questions about the possibilities of human potential. For instance, why isn’t the world producing people like Michelangelo anymore? Imagine today if one person were contracted to be the architect and engineer on a Presidential Library, painted 10,000 square feet of that president’s accomplishments on the walls and ceilings of the entry way of that library, and then sculpted a 15-foot marble statue of that president. In addition, that same person would have a doctor’s knowledge of anatomy on the side. No person like this exists in the world today.

The Difference

For some, Michelangelo was simply a genius and that explains it all. But does it? Today we have more money and patrons for the arts. Today we have better art schools and universities. We have more people with genius level IQ’s. Shouldn’t we have more geniuses like Michelangelo than ever before? Instead, we have none. So what was different back then?

Another important question is how do we look at our own potential in the world? Does our own world view, our own training hold us back? Are we too specialized? Do we categorize ourselves as either a right brain person or a left brain person and that’s that? I’m either creative or scientific and mathematical and I can’t change it! Are those the correct underlying assumptions? Is that how it really works? Why didn’t Michelangelo have those limitations?

There is a lot to think about and a lot to answer, but in the final analysis, what it all comes down to is how you answer this question: Was Michelangelo blessed with more gifts inside himself than the rest of us or did he just have access to those gifts somehow?

Your personal answer to this question is really the key. Is it possible for you to look at your full potential in a much more limitless way? Are you afraid to compare yourself, your goals, your achievements and your potential to Michelangelo’s? If the truth is that potential is an “access” issue and not a “genius” issue, then each and every one of us has a chance to live out our full potential in a way we never imagined before. No matter where we are in life or no matter how old we are, we can start right now. It is never too late to create and live out our own Sistine Chapels and statues of David.

Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017. 

Robert J. Dougherty

Robert J. Dougherty

Robert J. Dougherty is the Director of Information Technology for the college. He has 30 years of experience in the higher education IT field and is actively involved in University IT initiatives including learning management systems and database applications.