The problematic puzzle of potential

So here's the thing. We had a few people get up in arms last week when we talked about looking for potential in a mate. Some argued it's not a marketable commodity, I vehemently disagree. What I will say about potential is that it's tricky. First of all, let's define it. 

po·ten·tial \pə-ˈten(t)-shəl\: noun a : something that can develop or become actual b : promise
adj : existing in possibility : capable of development into actuality 
: expressing possibility; specifically : of, relating to, or constituting a verb phrase expressing possibility, liberty, or power by the use of an auxiliary with the infinitive of the verb 

Thank you, Merriam-Webster.

I do believe as long as one is breathing there is hope and potential for betterment. Some things are easy. As far as looks go, I think everyone can mastermind an extreme makeover in six-twelve months time. So I don't factor in looks. You either like what you see in someone or you don't.

As far as brainpower goes, everyone has a brain. It's how they use it that comes into play. For personality, it pretty much is what it is. A super high energy sarcastic girl is not going to turn into a laidback go with the flow chick overnight. Pick accordingly.

Usually when we talk about potential, we're talking about life choices as they pertain to employment, goals, long-term plans and lifestyle. 

I think when you are looking for a lifemate (as opposed to a cocoa buddy), potential should be factored in. But here's where it gets tricky and discussion worthy. How much time do you give a person to either realize their potential or call it a wrap? What's the difference between potential and pipe dreams?

Classic Case A - Dude is 35, living in Nana's basement still talking about making it to the NBA. I don't care if he is 6'10" with the physique of a Greek God. His sell-by date on those hoop dreams has long passed him by. Am I saying he's not worthy of a long-term looksee? No. I'm saying that if his serious plan to support himself and whoever he chooses as a mate is waiting on a call from the Miami Heat, his judgment is as suspect as his jumper. 

Classic Case B - Girl is 32, taking pictures of herself in the bathroom mirror still talking about her modeling career. She needs to have several seats and a reality check. Not saying she may not be gorgeous, but the chances of her truly getting to live out her Naomi Campbell fantasy are slim to none at that point.

Okay, those were extreme cases. In other, more frequent examples we often see people in their thirties and into their forties that may not have hit their stride yet. This can be a good thing or a bad thing. Can we all agree that potential without a plan to get there past the age of 35 is a bad thing? And by "there" I mean the path to attaining a life goal. A realistic sustainable life goal. 

I'm not hating on folks that go back to school at 40 or start completely new careers at 50. That's a plan, a foot on the path, if you will. Maybe you are in your late twenties now doing something you absolutely hate but you're being paid well for it. In my mind, you still haven't reached your full potential. When you find yourself doing something that makes you happy or at least satisfied in your soul, you're on that path. 

The tricky thing about this is how to recognize when someone is temporarily knocked off the path, taking their time getting to the path or when someone doesn't even know what their path is. This is where the Barack/Michelle thing comes in. Michelle meeting a Harvard Law Grad who was struggling to pay back loans is worlds apart from meeting someone who has been working customer service for ten years wondering where their life went. Sure, Barack had all the skills in the toolkit and fire in the belly to make sure  he was on the come up. Who's to say customer service chick isn't going to turn it all around next year? It's harder to see.

The long and short of it is that each person has to decide for themselves. When you meet someone - do they share your dreams and goals and morals? If they aren't where they want to be, do they have a plan to get there with the brains to back it up, the drive to keep going when things get tough and the hustle to switch courses and make it do what it do no matter what? 

As one who has hit the reset button on her own life a few times, I always think there's time to do more, get better, keep pushing, all of those "where there's breath there's hope" analogies. But then again, I never hit reset without knowing exactly what I was going to do next and what the backup plan was if that didn't work. 

BougieLand, how much do you factor in potential when you meet someone? At what age do you find that your tolerance for "potential" runs thin? Do you think after a certain point, people still have the power to change and better themselves? Do you think you've realized your potential either professionally or personally? Do discuss...