4 Destiny Myths You Should Escape Right Now
1. “I need to achieve something in order to make something of my life.”
Ambition is esteemed in our modern world. Our accomplishments give us influence, status, and a sense of personal fulfillment. We are told that in order to live our life to the fullest, we must maximize our potential and accomplish as much as we can. We assume the litany of pressures we feel–our workplace goals, our relationships, our creative pursuits–justify our inferiority complex.
I mean, you shouldn’t be so down yourself–but you really could try harder, couldn’t you?
The problem with our endless quest for significance is how we underwrite the value of our own human life. We start with the assumption we are in the red already–that unless we fulfill some dream or live up to someone else’s expectations, we will have failed in a profound and irreversible way.
It’s impossible, under this assumption, to enjoy the human experience we’ve been given. We must constantly be pushing ourselves further and faster, not realizing we are running our tank on the fumes of fear.
Ambition thrives, like bacteria on the wet steps up a waterslide, on the fear we are ultimately insignificant.
We spend our whole life shooting for the stars, never realizing how much we resent the dirt beneath our feet.
Am I saying all achievements and accomplishments are insignificant? Of course not. Am I saying all driven, goal-oriented people are broken and afraid? Nope. I’m simply saying that we live in a world where our personal significance is tied to what our lives can achieve–and this is a lie. This myth is aggressive and pervasive in our thinking, and if we’re not careful to notice and resist it, we’ll live our whole life on an emotional treadmill.
You are alive. That is enough.
You exist! Congratulations, this is significance. You are significant because 99% of all matter in the universe isn’t living like you are (citation needed) and just by taking your next breath you are beating all the odds.
Don’t spend your whole life trying to prove you matter. Spend your whole life being thankful how you already do. When you genuinely realize that you are important, just because you exist, you’ll do a better job managing your influence on the world.
And you’ll do what you do because you’re inspired, not because you’re ambitious.
2. “There are no limits, if I just believe in myself!”
I could say, “this just simply isn’t true.” But I don’t want to be a downer on all you power-of-positive-thinkers. I know I don't have to burst this bubble because life always bursts it for us. I wanted to be the next Wayne Gretzky when I was a child, but I moved on at eleven when I realized I didn't even know how to skate.
Instead, I’ll just ask: what’s so bad about limits?
Our world has conditioned us to believe that freedom is only possible when we are without constraint. To acknowledge our weakness is to curse our own existence. Of course, most of us are vividly aware of our weaknesses–but we tacitly endorse a system where we all pretend like we don’t have them, or we’re soon to be getting over them, so the social order we’ve created can continue.
We don’t live within our means. We spend on credit like temporarily embarrassed millionaires. We dress up our faults as either setbacks, or misunderstood strengths. We take inspiration from self-made men and women who tell us all about their hard work and dedication, but scarcely remember just how luck factored into their success.
Some dream of a very specific kind of significance where someone else cleans our toilets. Of course, we don’t like to think about how our dream of getting someone else to do our dirty work makes someone else dirty.
If everyone gets their dreams fulfilled–no matter how selfish they are–who is going to clean all the toilets?
If we think we can will our way into our own narrow definition of success, we begin to shame the poor, the weak, and the marginalized as self-made failures.
While there is a danger in swinging the other way, and making everyone out to be a victim, the myth of "self-made" success is more toxic, because we're justified in our judgements against others as we isolate ourselves.
This isn’t about accepting some lower standard of apathy. This is about rejecting a culture where our dreams and aspirations are built upon the neglect of others. To ignore your limitations, and to believe you can be whatever you set your mind to, is to start down a dangerous road where you are always the protagonist and everyone else is merely an extra in the background.
If we accept our limitations–not as setbacks, but as an invitation to rely on the strength of others–we start down a different road: one which leads to a dream for the common good of our community.
3. “I need to be fulfilled in order to be happy.”
Unrealized desires are an unavoidable fact of life. In recent history, though, we’ve spiritualized and sanctified our discontentment.
Nobody questions whether the desires they feel are legitimate–and nobody can handle the prospect of remaining unfulfilled forever.
This is why we live as slaves to carbohydrates and pornography and vapid political jargon without nuance. And this is why these industries creep into everything else, too. A sexy woman eating a potato chip can tell you about how the snack has zero trans-fats, even though potato chips never had any trans-fats in the first place. Politicians use divisive, judgemental rhetoric–but we give them a pass because they're voicing our own self-interest.
We know it’s all propaganda, but we let it speak to us anyway. We’ve moved ahead with the assumption that how we feel, and what we want, are unquestionable truths.
This is the greatest curse of the postmodern age: we tore down our idols and replaced them with shrines to ourselves.
What if you don’t get to make a million dollars before you’re thirty-five? What if it isn’t wise to express your sexuality exactly as you want to? What if you should invest more patience and sacrifice in this relationship, instead of cutting the other person out of your life so you can be more comfortable? What if you shouldn’t quit your job just because you don’t like it?
What if you just don’t get your own way?
We don’t like confronting our naked selfishness, so we dress it up in all sorts of mature, emotive language. But the truth is that contentment doesn’t come on the other side of all your desires being fulfilled.
Contentment is knowing you won’t fulfill all your desires, and making peace with your life anyway.
There will always be dissatisfying elements with life, at least on this side of eternity. How are you going to reconcile this to your expectations?
4. “Tomorrow must be better than today.”
If we can become content in less-than-ideal circumstances, while being mature enough to manage our unrealized desires, then the next thing we must change is our understanding of progress.
But, if you believe your circumstances are always supposed to improve, you won’t be prepared to face certain eventualities.
And reality will always dash your hopes upon the rocks.
Too many people worship at the altar of almighty Karma, thinking they’re going to be paid dividends for their efforts if they just give it enough time. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of people who are discouraged the easiest.
These are also the same people who are paralyzed from making any significant decisions because they’re only capable of walking through “open doors”. They're looking for the universe to confirm their bias by making their toughest choices easier.
If we're not careful, we end up addicted to the path of least resistance.
Any true prophetic tradition will challenge these assumptions. Any individual running headlong against the winds of success and self-promotion will not be rewarded by those being blown about by the status quo.
When you speak up for the coworker everyone else is comfortable picking on? Congratulations, you’re the new person they make fun of. When you refuse to tolerate dishonour, or gossip, or spiritualized self-interest? You become the face of whatever group they’re excluding. When you refuse to take the shortcuts others will as a matter of personal integrity? Now you’re ten steps behind those who did.
But… are you okay with that?
Are you okay with your life sometimes getting profoundly worse… precisely because you are making a difference?
What if your destiny isn’t about moving from one roaring triumph to another? What if your destiny is about being faithful to an entirely different kind of values that set the world around you on edge?
What if the way you love your kids, and the way you treat your spouse, and the way you chose to avoid the spotlight stands as a critique of the way everybody else runs the world?
Would you be okay with that?
If you’re not, then you’re going to need these myths–don’t let me take them away from you. They’re the fuel in your tank that gets you up in the morning.
But if you prefer a quieter, more steadfast kind of revolution, consider letting these lies go.
It might be painful at first, and you’ll catch yourself in the old way of thinking a million times before you get traction. But eventually, you and I will learn to love different sorts of things. Eternal things. We'll gain the clarity of the sunrise while everyone else is still asleep.
And as we leave the prison of our old motivations behind, we invite those we love into an entirely different form of freedom. We become revolutionary people simply because we refuse to be chained by the lies our culture perpetuates.