“There is an idea embedded deep within the human psyche that potential can be a place of maximal horror, home to an infinite predator – or an infinite variety of predators,” writes Jordan B. Peterson in his book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.

Or put more simply, your maximal potential is a place of maximal horror.

At first glance, we may be tempted to look at this from an absolute value perspective. We think of our maximum positive potential, though really this should be examined from two perspectives – the maximum positive and the maximum negative potentials within us.

First, from a positive perspective. What is your maximum positive potential? If you dedicated every moment of your life to learning, growing, and doing the extremely difficult task of climbing uphill in your profession at the most ferocious pace manageable, who’s to say what you can’t accomplish? Perhaps it is becoming the most successful real estate developer of all time. Or maybe it is becoming a well-respected diplomat. Maybe, if you’ve been dealt an unfortunate hand, it is a more humble aim, like holding a steady job.

It is for this reason that Albert Einstein said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

Who’s to say that the university president has fulfilled their highest potential but the garbage man has not? What if the opposite was true?

We are all gifted with an unfathomable amount of potential. Fulfilling it is a function of becoming, rather than being. We are not born with that potential fulfilled. Instead, we start at zero. The trajectory upwards is treacherous and filled with horror. It requires us to courageously do that which we want to do least – that which will bring us maximum discomfort. Dragons, after all, are typically the guardians of the treasure. What we want most lies where we least want to look.

This is what Jordan Peterson means when he says that the point of maximum potential is synonymous with the point of maximum terror.

Unfortunately this also holds true for the point of maximum negative potential. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn so beautifully put it in The Gulag Archipelago, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

You are capable of excellence, but you are also capable of treachery. We cannot fully understand just how positive our potential is, nor how negative it could be. What should we do with this information? Most of us would run away, say, “That’s not me.” Refusing to accept this results in one more easily rationalizing bad deeds and decisions.

Now, none of this is to say we are going to try and find out what our maximum negative potential is here. But, as you make the wrong decisions – decisions that are antiparallel to your goals – you creep towards the negative. Bad decisions tend to beget more bad decisions in the same way good decisions beget more good decisions. The habits you form, whether consciously or subconsciously, are either helping you or hurting you. And as James Clear points out in Atomic Habits, if you get 1% worse each day, within one year you will decline to zero.

On the other hand, if you get 1% better each day, in one year you achieve a whooping 37x who you were when you started. Doing the work necessary to earn that 1% each day, fulfilling your maximum positive potential, can be a terrifying thing. It could mean you have to have more difficult conversations, cold calls, or exercise vigorously in the morning – things that all of us tend to avoid out of fear.

It is that which you least want to do that you must do the most. Facing that which you want to do least is terrifying. Recognize, however, that the hero and the coward both feel the same thing.

Are your habits and decisions helping you or are they hurting you? The choice is yours – maximum positive potential or maximum negative potential?

Carson is the Co-Founder of Development AI, a platform for real estate developers, and Co-Founder of The Success Minded, a blog on finance, investing and living a meaningful life.