How to be whatever you want to be in life

You can't. I tricked you.

I was forced to sit through a talk by an "inspirational speaker" for an hour not long ago. He was nice. But, like usual, I heard again rhetorical statements like, "You can do whatever you want to! You can do whatever you put your mind to! You can be whatever you dream of!"

This is pure, unadulterated nonsense. I can want to go to the moon right now on a magic pony with a rainbow tail. Watcha' wanna' bet I can't do it?

I've heard this nonsense all my life from people: people on TV interviews; people on documentaries; people on movies; people giving "inspirational" talks; preachers; various speakers; whatever.

And boy, do people believe it! For years I watched American Idol. Show after show the kids left in absolute despair and horror when they didn't make the cut. Of course, it's their parents' fault. In their desire not to hurt their kids' feelings, they only delayed the total, absolute despair that hits them when they never sign that record deal. The kids scream out:

"You don't understand!!! I've wanted this all my life! I've worked so hard! All of my family and friends say I'm so talented!"

Who cares?

If you can't sing, you can't sing. Is this difficult to grasp? Without the requisite talents, your desires, wishes, wants, dreams, whatever are utterly irrelevant.

Look, if you want life to be fulfilling and not drowning in stress, you absolutely must spend most of the energy you have in life based on two things:

(1) You need to pick careers, friends, and hobbies that support what you really value in life. Of course, I truly hope that you don't value murdering, lying, gossiping, etc. Figure out what you really value and choose to spend the most amount of energy and time you can in those things. Wonder why that gossiping friend wears you out? It's because you value integrity and honesty. Wonder why that career always make you anxious when they lie to customers? It's because you value telling the truth. Etc. What do you really value in life?

(2) Either possess the skills you need by genetic make-up or family-of-origin training, OR go to school and learn the skills. If you don't have the skills, then you must choose another field

Really, to say the same simple point again: your desire or wishes are simply irrelevant if you don't have the necessary skills.

Just ask the singers in American Idol if their dreams were enough to make it big.

OK. So, if "you can do anything you put your mind to" is stupid, how do I handle the fact that I don't have the skills to do something I love? Here are a few pointers:

(1) Stop trying to put all your energy--and certainly not your validation!--in areas where you don't have the skills. Really, put your time and energy in things that use other strengths you have. You actually must limit the amount of time and focus you spend on something you're not good at. Stop buying all those Karaoke machines and spending money on voice lessons if you're not good enough to make it as a career. Are you doing it just for fun? Go for it! Do you really think deep down that one day you'll be discovered by all this time and energy, yet you've never been asked to sing at one major event in your life? The same is true for sports, writing, acting, whatever. Get real. If you would just take 50% of the time, money, and energy you're wasting on things you're not skilled enough to excel in on things you actually can do, you'd be flying!

(2) Let it go. Yes, with the tune to "Let it Go" from Frozen playing in the background, you need to let it go. How? Grieve it. Really. Get sad. Cry. Journal. If need be, speak with a counselor. Let the dream go. You won't play in the NBA. Or the NFL. Or the Olympics. Or be an actor. Or sell millions of albums...if you don't have the necessary skills. So, do everything you can to accept the fact that you don't have necessary skills. Have a funeral. Let it go. It might take years; it might take minutes. Whatever it takes, work toward accepting the fact that your dream needs to die a natural, healthy death. You're making great progress when you can say without crying, "Yeah, I really wish I could X...but, I'm not good enough to do it full-time. And that's OK. I still enjoy it though; I've just let go of the dream that it'll be my career."

(3) Receive your validation from areas that count: God and healthy relationships. It's certainly OK to feel validation from doing well on the job (in fact, your brain releases the feel-good chemical, dopamine, when you accomplish something). But remember, you can't do well at your job without the necessary skills. So stop trying to get water from an empty well. Get your validation needs met from God and healthy relationships. When you do this, not being able to do some dream you want doesn't hurt so badly. You're not trying to get emotional worth (validation) from something that will never feed you.

(4) Begin to pay close attention to other skills you have and spend your energy there. If you don't know what your skills are, ask people who know you. Ask them, "Hey friend. I'm struggling trying to find out exactly what I'm really skilled at (or have real, genuine potential). I need you to tell me the truth. Really. I won't be mad. It won't affect our relationship at all. I trust you. I know you love me. Just tell me the truth. What do you see in me?" See if their answer resonates with you. (If you know they all lie to you because they have bad boundaries and feel responsible for your feelings, then go to people who don't know you. Want to sing? Go sing for a producer and ask for the truth. Want to play in the NBA? Go ask a coach to tell you the truth. Etc.) 

**What you're looking for are skills that you have that don't require much energy, focus, or effort on your part AND clearly have a track record of producing results that many people (those who know you well and those who don't) would affirm. (E.g., If only your parents say "you're the greatest," that's a bad sign. If you're known in your entire company as the person who's "great with numbers" or "artwork," etc., it's likely they're correct.)

If you've told yourself all your life, "I'll never be happy until I'm on stage next to Beyonce," then you've probably been lying to yourself and wasting time. As soon as you can complete steps 1-3, you might get to: "Well, now that I've let go of that dream, I now see that I'm also really good at X and I see that my passion for the stage can be used by doing X. So, I'm not singing on stage, but I'm doing something that uses my skills and makes me excited."

Don't give up. The longer you've wasted your time the harder it'll probably be to change your focus to something else. Moreover, the harder it is, the more obvious it is that you're not done grieving and you haven't "let it go" yet.

Bottom-line: In fact, you can't "have it all" and "be whatever you want to be" or "do whatever you can put your mind to." Stop believing the lies. Just because some twelve-year-old made it big and now is preaching to the rest of us how "anyone can make it big," doesn't mean it's true. You'll need to disregard that nonsense. Be happy for the kid. Yeah! But it is certainly false that because he made it I can too.

Healthy people know what their skills are. And they know what they're not. They accept that fact. They move on with life. They find their validation in God and healthy relationships and when possible, in careers where their actual skills and passions are being used.

There is enormous freedom in letting go of false dreams. There is enormous freedom in grasping and living in your actual skills and passions.

It's time to be liberated.


David Pendergrass6 Comments