3 Dangerous Myths We Live By

How many times have you heard one of these before? 

“You haven’t lived until you've…!” 

“Happiness is the key to life.”

“Live up to your full potential.”

While these are often said with the best intentions to inspire, encourage and uplift, they judge reality and place unrealistic expectations on people.

What if I told you there was another way to find the “key” to living a full life?

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I’ll be honest; I bought these "truths" hook, line and sinker for many years. Then I became familiar with a different perspective — all we have is this moment. And, by doing my best to live in each moment fully, I no longer need to chase after these falsities to live a full life.

So, what’s the “key”?

Be present in each moment. And, dispel the myths we keep telling ourselves.

Let's take a closer look at each of these myths and explore another perspective that is less harmful and more empowering. 

"You haven't lived until you've..."

For starters, this statement insinuates that someone currently alive is somehow not "living.” How can that be? Each time we take a breath we are living, right?

It also seems to insinuate that my living isn't as “worthy" as someone else's simply because I have not done something. And, well, that's just plain silly.

I prefer to accept the life experience I have than to compare myself to others or think that somehow my life isn't worthwhile because I haven't climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

How about a new phrase? "You haven't lived until you’ve become aware of and accepted each and every moment as it is.” Still a little dictatorial — and a little wordy, I know — but hopefully you get the point.

Happiness is the key to life.

While I have nothing against happiness and creating more of it, I worry that an over emphasis on one emotion can set us up for disappointment.

Happiness — like sadness and anger — is a part of being alive. And, while it’s great to cultivate more moments of happiness in life, at the end of the day, no matter how hard we try we won't rid ourselves of the other emotions.

I prefer to be at peace with whatever emotion or situation presents itself in the moment — by observing, accepting and expanding what is — than strive to always be happy (which is impossible).

New phrase? "Peace is the key to life."

Live up to your full potential.

Again, not intentionally negative, but potentially depression-inducing to believe that if I don't get that promotion or become the next Oprah or have two kids and a white-picket fence then I'm not living up to my full potential.

How in the world are we to measure our full potential? “Potential" is something yet to occur so we will never know just how big — or small — it can be. So, to strive to fulfill our capacity to become or do something in the future is, well, quite insane.

I'd much prefer to live up to my "full potential" in each moment by being 100% present in whatever I am doing whether that is listening to a friend, doing the dishes, giving a presentation, reading a book or saving a life.

Strive to do this each day of your life, and you can confidently say that you are "living up to your full potential."

Okay, so you might be thinking, “Can't this chick just relax and not take everything so seriously?!”

Well, no. I can't.

It is getting clearer and clearer to me how much unnecessary suffering we cause on a daily basis. And, much of this comes from our beliefs that our lives aren't "good enough," that we aren't "happy enough" or we haven't achieved everything we "should have."

The silver lining?

We can all live full, peaceful lives by dispelling these myths and replacing them with living in the moment and accepting what is.

What other myths might be harming our experience of life? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

The Present Driven Life

Thousands of inspirational books have been written to help people realize their “true potential” or find meaning in life. While the concept behind this is intended to encourage and uplift, I have started to notice that this thinking can actually be quite stressful and lead to a lot of self-doubt and depression. When we get lost in the idea of our goals or the results or even our own potential, we lose sight of the action itself taking place in this moment.

What if the purpose of your life is simply to be fully present in whatever it is you are doing right now and have a willingness to enjoy and learn from the life happening to you?

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Many times in my adult life I have asked myself if I am living up to my “true potential.” This happened again recently as I found myself once more shifting gears and changing careers. I found that as I questioned my potential and whether or not I was fulfilling it, I felt stress and angst about life. Then I listened to a Byron Katie podcast and heard something that changed my life. She reminded me that by being 100% present no matter what I am doing — whether it’s washing the dishes, listening to a friend, or teaching a class — I was “reaching my full potential.” I let out a huge sigh of relief.

It seems like many of us struggle at times with this idea of finding a life’s purpose or knowing if we are realizing our full potential. I would like to share a few thoughts from Eckhart Tolle and Michael A. Singer that helped me shift my perspective and feel less stress and anxiety about trying to figure it all out.

  • “It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how much of you is doing it.”
  • “Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
  • “There may be things to be attained or acquired.…Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous energy behind what you do.”
  • “When you are free of ‘becoming’ as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome, and so there is freedom from fear.”
  • “Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship.”
  • “Don’t waste a moment of life trying to make other things happen; appreciate the moments you are given.”
  • “What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.” 

When we believe we are living a life without meaning or feel anxious when we do not know what our purpose is supposed to be, we can get into a spiral of negativity. But when we make a choice to be present and accept what is, we can begin to fully experience the life we have and, by doing so, lead a “meaningful” life.

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to “I’m Not Living Up to My Full Potential” with Byron Katie for additional perspective on this topic.

What is one thing you have done recently and did the best job you could in that moment? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.