“You can be anything…” Hogwash!

We’re coming around the corner on yet another calendar year, and many will be setting goals for the next. This is a great time of year to reflect on where we are in relation to where we would like to be in life, and adjustments are important calibrations in the journey.


Feet_8078mPhoto credit: Doug Bisson – doug.bisson@icloud.com

“You can be anything you want to be in life if you want it bad enough and work hard enough”.

I did not hear this statement from my parents, but it seems to be a popular expression for parents of this generation. There are two major flaws with this statement, which warrant consideration as we make adjustments in our journey, and speak into the lives of others. First, it is not true. Second, it may be counterproductive. Though it may be expressed as pure loving sentiment, it holds the potential to lead us away from success and happiness. Let me explain.

First, it is not true. I love baseball, but I never had a chance at the big leagues. I could have worked all day, every day, but I just don’t have the DNA for it, never mind the fact that my home life was not in any way able to support my quest – no finances, no time, no taxi, no dice. Imagine Danny Devito dreaming of being a power forward for the Boston Celtics! Imagine Andre the Giant dreaming of being a jockey on the back of Sea Biscuit! Come on maaaan…!

Second, it may be counterproductive. Contrast “YOU can be anything YOU want to be if YOU want it bad enough” – with the words of Viktor Frankl below:

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The pursuit of success and happiness, as a direct self-absorbed personal accomplishment, suffers the law of diminishing returns. It borders of self-indulgence and there is never enough to fill the void we feel inside. I am not suggesting that we should not be successful or happy, nor that we should not set lofty goals, merely that the road to this destination is counter-intuitive.

What message have you been carrying within you as a compass for your journey? Do you sense the erosion of fulfillment with you? What message are you speaking into the lives of others? Do they run the risk of winding up with the same?

Is it possible that a simple adjustment in focus – to a cause greater than ourselves, or a person other than ourselves – could bring about happiness, precisely because we had forgotten to think about it?