The Big Lie: You can be whatever you want to be

“You can be whatever you want to be” say well meaning people everywhere.

“BS!” says me.

Parents tell us this, teachers tell us this, society tells us this, optimists tell us this.  All in hopes that we will push ourselves to work hard for what we want, be pioneers, and break glass ceilings. All of those things are very good things.  Ingraining this in our brains will help us grow up either with ambition or entitlement.  Either way it will slowly dawn on us that this is a lie. Sometimes  work and determination just can’t get us there.

I hear the diehard positivity people booing me.  Unfortunately it’s true!

*I can work out every day, be the best dancer in the world, but no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to be a Rockette.  Rockettes are required to be 5’ 5”- 5’8” tall.  I log in at a lowly 4’ 11”.

*Someone with Parkinson’s disease will never be a surgeon.  You can’t slice someone open correctly if your hands are trembling.

*Someone with a severe peanut allergy can’t work on a peanut farm (Well, I suppose technically they could if they were willing to risk anaphylactic shock and death).

*I know a young woman who has always wanted to be a trust fund baby.  Problem is there is no trust fund. Even if she works hard and saves a fortune she still can’t be what she always wanted.

*If you are not born in the United States, you cannot be president in the USA. (Not looking for ‘birther’ arguments here)

*To be a fighter pilot in the Navy you have to be a sitting height of 34”-40” and no allergies so if you are taller or shorter and ragweed makes you cry you are out of luck.

We all have restrictions.  They are different for everyone.  This doesn’t mean we can’t do spectacular things and push boundries or social norms or break records. It doesn’t even mean we can’t work to change some of those restrictions.  It just means we have to work with what we do or do not have.  It means that instead of being whatever we want to be we can be the best that we can be.

Maybe instead of seizing the day we should seize the limitation. - Phil Hansen Click To Tweet

The best way I have ever heard this illustrated was in a TED talk by Phil Hansen entitled “Embrace the Shake”.  I loved this so much I posted it as a Spark one week.  Phil talks about how he had to embrace his limitations and work inside the box instead of outside the box.   My favorite quote is when he says, “Maybe instead of seizing the day, we should seize the limitation.”

It’s only a ten minute talk.  Go ahead…click the link and watch….I’ll wait.

Just because we can’t be anything we want doesn’t mean we can’t end up being fabulous,  IF we accept and work with what/who/where we are.  How much more can we be or do if we focus on what it is we have to work with?

So let’s give ourselves the respectability of truth and stop perpetuating the lie. How about instead we say, “Let’s investigate all the cool options out there!”

Do you agree?  What limitations have you worked around?

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