Living up to your potential is BS

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Living up to your potential is BS

The idea that we somehow have a certain amount of potential that we must live up to is a complete crock. People who say they are not living up to their potential do not understand what living means.

Life is very hard. We each probably have some fundamental goals, even if we don’t think of them consciously. First of all, getting up in the morning is very hard. It is fundamentally an act of optimism. Because surely you have already realized that most days are not full of happiness. They are full, but with something else. Yet we still get out of bed every day, thinking that the day is going to be good. That’s a big deal. A huge leap of faith. I spend a lot of time wondering why more of us don’t kill ourselves, and I never come up with a great answer.

The next big goals we have are the spiritual kind: Be good, be kind, treat people with respect. You probably don’t write these on your to do list, but now that you read them, surely you are thinking to yourself, “Oh yeah, I want to remember to do that.”

So already, life is very full. For example, I just took the red eye home from San Francisco. But if you live in a little town like Madison, Wisconsin, there is, really, no red eye. There is only half a red eye to Chicago, a traumatic awakening at 5am, and then an 8am flight to Wisconsin. By the time I get to my gate, treating people with respect takes pretty much everything that is left of my potential.

Living up to your potential is not crossing off everything on your to do list on time, under budget. Or canonizing your ideas in a book deal. Really, no one cares. You are not on this earth to do that. Trust me. No one is. You are on this earth to be kind. That is your only potential.

And then you have to earn a living.

It’s no coincidence that everyone who is walking around bitching that they are not living up to their potential is talking about how they should be more successful at work. Because “living up to potential” is really just code for “not being recognized as the talented genius that I am.”

How about this? How about saying, “I was so good at getting high marks in school. Why am I not catapulting up the corporate ladder?” The answer, of course, is that most of getting what you want at work is about having social skills, and school doesn’t measure that. So there you go—if you insist on talking about living up to your amorphous potential, the reason you’re not doing it, most likely, is that you are not being kind enough at your work.

If you want to live up to your potential, be as nice as you can be. Be as respectful as you can be. Be as honest with yourself as you can be. Because you can’t be honest with other people if you are not honest with yourself.

What can you do if you think you are living below your potential?

1. Recognize that it’s delusional. You are who you are, and you should just be you. Have realistic, meaningful goals for your life, like: Be kind. Be engaged. Be optimistic. Be connected. Most people who say they are not living up to their potential are not talking about this most-important stuff.

2. Recognize that the world isn’t a race. A race assumes that everyone has an inborn ability to reach a personal best. If you stop racing, you stop wondering what that inborn ability is. I mean, really, “living up to one’s potential” is always relative. You are really talking about your ability to kick everyone else’s butt at something. And it’s not a pleasant thing to say. When you stop looking at the world as a competition, then you can stop wondering why you’re not coming in first place.

3. Recognize that you sound like your mother. “Living up to your potential” is a phrase from a grade-school report card. It is elementary-school speak. It is your parents saying you need to do more homework. It is your mother saying “Joey, you’re a genius. Why don’t you get straight A’s? Look what you do to your mother!” In almost every case when someone says, “You are not living up to your potential,” the proper answer is, “So what?” Because it’s always someone trying to tell you that the thing you should contribute to this world is something other than kindness.

227 replies
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  1. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I like the message of being kind and having meaningful goals that fit in with who you are and what you want from your life.

    I don’t like the whole thing about getting out of bed. Could you be dealing with post-divorce depression? Please don’t project it on to the rest of us. My life is filled with happiness. Sure, it’s filled with other things as well but I have a fundamental base of happiness and contentment. I appreciate that not everyone is as lucky as I am but people should know that happiness is possible. There are plenty of people who live meaningful, satisfying and, yes, happy lives.

    I don’t think it would be helpful to anyone in a suicidal state to read your comment that you wonder why more of us don’t kill ourselves. Comments like that could tip someone over the edge.

  2. CS
    CS says:

    I disagree with the argument put forth in this post. You most certain CAN “live up to your potential” and conversely, not meet it. I am an example of someone who hasn’t lived up to their potential, I recognize it and am now changing it because I desire to. I have always done well in school and on the job according to other people, but by my own account I know I can do much better. The problem is, excelling at school and at previous jobs was not something I wanted to do. It was something that happened to be the result of me being OBLIGATED to be in those environments. In my own mind, I was giving the bare minimum. To others, I was doing very well. Right now I have defined my career goals for myself and am working toward entrepreneurial goals. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever worked for in my life, and I feel myself being challenged every day. Success-wise I am not even close to “making it” yet. Personally, however, I am doing great, because I am now using my potential for something fulfilling to me.

  3. TE
    TE says:

    As someone else said, you struck a chord with me as well–YOU ROCK, Penelope. And this is not from a twentysomething, but an overachieving-to-be-successful 40something who needs this validation.

  4. Jane Greer
    Jane Greer says:

    I agree that any goal other than being kind is pointless. Situations change and crises happen, causing even the smartest goals and plans go in the crapper every day. But we can all control how we treat others. On many days, life being what it is, it DOES take everything we have just to be kind.

    That’s because “kind” is the OPPOSITE of “nice.” Often the kindest thing to do–telling the truth, saying “no,” letting someone work their own way out of trouble they got themselves into–is the hardest way for the kind person and not “nice” at all for the recipient of the kindness-or at least not at first. A truly kind person is not a patsy or a pushover. He or she takes the long view and seeks to encourage others rather than to comfort them inappropriately.

  5. Laurie/Halo Secretarial
    Laurie/Halo Secretarial says:

    This is so true – especially how people don’t always succeed in their careers because they never learned about being kind or don’t have good social skills. I’ve had people comment on my “successes” and wonder how I “always did well in interviews” or whatever. I know why, I am positive, friendly, empathetic and I listen to the people talking. Simple stuff, but so many people are too self-centered to get it.

  6. William
    William says:

    Sorry that your experiences with “living up to your potential” has negative experiences associated with it such as being weak, bitchy etc. – but don’t castigate the phrase/cliche for the rest of us (and the truth is, you can’t).

    In the right context it is used by someone who knows you/I can deliver better than what we’ve delivered and call it out.

    P, if the calling for all is only to be kind, then there would be no performance reviews, no performance plans, everyone would receive equal pay, there are no 1st place ribbons etc. No purpose for Tony Robbins or coaches (life, sports or otherwise)…

    Sorry for all of you and your angst, but I guess you’ll have to learn to be kind while smelling the rest of our BS.

  7. chris
    chris says:

    “Reaching one’s full potential” is a catch phrase used by teachers and therapists who support children with disabilities. Within that context, it means that a child with a disability has a certain set of limitations that impede that child from growing and achieving what other children would achieve.

    In a magazine for parents of such children, called “Exceptional Parent,” a mother writes “We must withhold judgments about our child’s potential and spend our time learning and helping him discover who he is”.

    So, when I add this comment to Penelope’s post and all the replies, I have more pieces to the puzzle that I am struggling with: What can my child achieve? Will he ever live independently?
    Will engagement and connectedness and kindness and optimism be enough if he cannot make a living and live independently? Will society be kind to him, or will he be forgotten in a “group home” at some point?

    Thanks to all who wrote about their self-reflection. My child will probably never self-reflect about this issue, never try to find meaning, or choose or interpret among the various meanings of “full potential”. His unselfconsciousness is actually a beautiful thing. But his mother (me) does worry . . .


  8. Jennifer James McCollum
    Jennifer James McCollum says:

    Greetings –
    I came across your blog several times while researching Generation X blogs, links and content. I am on a quest for great 50 Gen X Bloggers from 50 States. I’m assuming you are from Boston and must add your great blog to my list. So, you now represent the State of Mass on my GenX Blog list. Thanks for all your advice and the nods to Generation X. We need it.

  9. A Name On The Door
    A Name On The Door says:

    Having thought about this overnight (a good thing; it means I engaged with the post at a high level) I’m inclined to disagree.

    People tend to stumble through life. They tend to go day to day, without stepping back and thinking about what kind of person they really want to be.

    The concept of “potential” is a small call to take that step back and think about what kind of person you could be, if you weren’t so busy being who you are.

    It can be what makes you take stock and change all those things about your life that keep you from being who you want to be.

    In my case, I spent years working in big offices in big organizations in big tall buildings. Not infrequently, I would remember the words of a Joni Mitchell song, “you could have been more – than a name on a door – in the 33rd floor – in the air.”

    After a while, the thought of being more – of potential, as it is – made me pretty much upend my life and have a go at being someone different.

    Did I achieve my potential? Did I achieve superlativeness? Am I wonderful and full of cosmic energy? Not even close. All the same, I think I am a bit better off for having been pushed to try to be more what I dreamed of being.

  10. Graham
    Graham says:

    I think we might be missing the point by concerning ourselves with the meaning of “nice” vs “kind.” If we get walked on for being either nice or kind, then we probably don’t quite have it yet.

    I’m just guessing, but I think the author is trying to tell us that we shouldn’t blame others, ourselves, or even our parents for our lack of success in the workplace. When we bad-mouth the inmates, we create enemies who reciprocate in kind (pardon my pun).

    And while we should own our own mistakes (getting defensive in the workplace is never well received), we should do it with an attitude of trying to fix the problem and avoid its recurrence.

    By taking proactive steps to improve every situation, they won’t be talking about your potential. They will be trying to get you on their team. And if they aren’t, by all means find a less dysfunctional employer and start enjoying your life.

  11. Theresa Quintanilla
    Theresa Quintanilla says:

    I don’t worry about people’s unused potential, but I do worry about them (and myself) not using their strengths. So much capability wasted but … it’s not possible to be 100% productive, effective, etc. … but first you have to be at peace with yourself …

    Don’t forget…
    Elwood P. Dowd: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

  12. VT
    VT says:

    very well written…. especially the second point about the world not being a race.

    Penelope.. you are the best! :)

  13. Margaret W
    Margaret W says:

    Best. Post. Ever. At least for me. I often beat myself up about not being in a ‘more successful’ place. (But I’m very nice, really! Always quite popular (though not with management)). Aha! AHA!… : )

  14. Kristina Summers
    Kristina Summers says:

    Great post. It really got me to thinking because I was that kid who did great in school (mainly because my parents would have disowned me if I hadn’t) but never developed great social skills. I am now taking the baby steps to overcoming that hurdle and wish I focused a little more on making friends rather than making straight A’s.

    I do think that we are all born with a purpose, but I too hate the idea that we are always racing for the proverbial fruit on a stick. At this point in my life, other than showing my kids how to treat others with respect, patience and tolerance, I have nothing to prove to anyone. I have posted before about the need to really slow down and enjoy my life. It is simply too short to spend worrying about living up to “my potential” which really is just another way to say someone else’s expectations. Well said.

  15. isha akula
    isha akula says:

    lol.. interesting observation that waking up in the morning is an optimistic decision.

    love your sense of humor at chrisB’s comments lol

  16. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    There’s this one guy who jumped off the San Francisco bridge and was one of the .5% who survived. He said that as soon as he jumped he had this clear revelation – that everything that was wrong in his life could be fixed except for what he had just done.

    I think that’s why more of us don’t kill ourselves. It can all be fixed.

  17. J Ga
    J Ga says:

    “When you stop looking at the world as a competition, then you can stop wondering why you're not coming in first place.”

    Thanks for this post. Competition has replaced soulfulness; some of us born into competitive societies are never even aware that there is something else other than competition or one-upmanship. As a result, we cannot help but feel insecure and like a failure no matter what we do. If you run in that race, you just can’t win.

  18. Steve Errey
    Steve Errey says:

    I've been listening to the thread on this one, and have to add another thought or two.

    At the far end of the – €˜realising your potential' scale, why not ask an Olympic medalist whether it was worth realising their potential? You can bet they'll tell you how tough it's been, how bloody hard they've worked and how many sacrifices they've made. But having watched a couple of medalists being interviewed, just look at how alive they are knowing they've nailed it.

    Towards the other end of the scale, you've got the people who find getting out of bed each day to be an act of faith, which is probably the majority of people. Should they forget about the arbitrary, amorphous notion of living up to their potential?


    By all means forget about what the self-help industry has preached for too long, and I agree that life isn't about competition and it isn't about achieving goals, but without the idea of realising potential there's a real lack of meaning, and it's by engaging with the things that mean something that we step into whatever potential we have.

    It takes guts, it can be bloody hard and sometimes it just plain sucks, but if we're participating in what matters and what has meaning to us, then living up to your potential most certainly isn't BS.

  19. MJ
    MJ says:

    This is a very wise post, and it sounds like it comes from hard-earned, real life lessons learned. Good for you – if you, and we, let go of this delusional baloney we’ll all be better off. Great post.

    I was thinking about another piece of BS this weekend – the blanket prescription to “get outside of your comfort zone.”

    Great advice if getting out of a particular comfort zone is good for you, what you really want to do, gets you where you want to go, etc. (e.g., I want to be a doctor but am afraid to apply since no one in my family has ever gone beyond college – in that case, stretch and be happy).

    Total flaming BS if the advice is to do this, simply to do this (I don’t want to jump a motorcycle over a burning car, but gosh darn it, I’ve got to get out of my comfort zone).

    More flaming BS is “YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CAREER PLAN” if said by a controlling person not involved in your career… Enough said (warning, warning, invasive control freak on the loose….).

    Rules are for the small minded, and these pieces of advice are the kind of things that our parents used to tell us when they didn’t have any solid advice to give, but knew that they “should” be pushing us around and these seemed like easy, obvious statements.

  20. deepali
    deepali says:

    Raw and honest. I love it. When I think back about people who are no longer in my life, I don’t think about how beautiful and accomplished they were. I think about how kind they were. Because ultimately, my perception of the world revolves around me, and colors my interaction with everyone else.
    So, if you want to leave a lasting impression on someone else – be kind… or be mean. They’ll remember that.

    And the part about why more people don’t kill themselves reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
    “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Krishnamurti

  21. MJ
    MJ says:

    I also appreciate Chris’s addition of of how “living up to potential” is used with kids with disabilities – the use of the concept there makes some sense.

    But with developmentally normal kids, “you better live up to your potential” from family invariably means “you better expletive expletive be a doctor or lawyer, expletive, ’cause I didn’t bring you into this world to waste your life being an expletive [teacher, minister, writer, add any title that isn’t all about the $$$$ and status].” From teachers it just means “don’t give me any problems, kid.”

  22. Danny
    Danny says:

    A pretty good post with a positive message, and it does make me feel a little better about myself however,

    Regarding –

    It's no coincidence that everyone who is walking around bitching that they are not living up to their potential is talking about how they should be more successful at work. Because "living up to potential" is really just code for "not being recognized as the talented genius that I am."

    So many people judge themselves by the job they have or the money they make or the car they drive or the 6000 sq ft house overlooking the peasants of the city. For those people, this post is wonderful advice and totally applies.

    That being said, some of us have fell victim to grading ourselves that way and only recently realize that career success and income is nowhere close to what potential really is. I’m 41 now and if I graded myself by what I have accomplished in Business and in possessions, all while be respectful and kind, I would say “I actually have lived up to my potential.” But what is it that I really wanted in life? Was it to have all these things, live in the burbs in a big house, hold a respectful position in a large corporation?

    No, I have not lived up to my potential because I didn’t follow my dream of earning a living making music. Music was a risky challenge and if I didn’t make it big, I would have been a struggling artist trying to make ends meet. Here’s the sad but true fact. I have more respect for that person that tried their dream and continue to make a living doing what they absolutely love then a person (sadly myself included) that chose the easy route of business and corporate America. Yes I said it, that’s the easy route, if you can’t make it in corporate America you are Stupid and/or Lazy (no offense). You CAN do what you love for a living, but you need to decide just how important “Things” are to you.

    I’m not “bitching that I am not living up to my potential” but I am willing to admit it.

  23. Dave
    Dave says:

    Wow – based on most of the comments so far, I’m very much in the minority, but I’m going to say that I totally disagree with you.

    “First of all, getting up in the morning is very hard. It is fundamentally an act of optimism. Because surely you have already realized that most days are not full of happiness.”

    If your life is like this, then you are doing something wrong. You’ve been saying all this BS about how GenX, GenY, Gen XYZ, etc. are taking cahrge of their lifes and making meaningful choices, instead of being stuck as a 9-5 drone, and how all of that is making their lifes wonderful. Seems to me that this directly contradicts today’s posting. Personally, I think the various generation labels are mostly BS, but that’s a different discussion. PT, you of all people, ought to be living a very satisfied life. You are practicing what you preach, aren’t you? How is it that your days aren’t filled with happiness then?

  24. Angie
    Angie says:

    On a personal level, I can agree with the importance of being kind. But for me it was as simple as this: I asked myself one day what I would like people to remember about me when I’m gone, and the answer was that I want them to remember someone who was truly kind, and who touched their lives with kindness. I try to keep that goal before me always. It’s amazing how it melts anger sometimes!

  25. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Ahh, Penelope, you’ve been watching the Olympics and the beach volleyball, haven’t you? It’s ok that you moved on…forgive yourself. Forgiveness is letting go of the wish for a better Past.

  26. MJ
    MJ says:

    God, I love this post. I disagree with much, maybe most, of PT’s advice but this is wise and dead-on accurate.

    Once, when I was still drinking the ‘A student good child’ Kool Aid I made myself miserable because I worried that I wasn’t living up to my potential – I was not simultaneously a senator, CEO and millionaire. Never mind that what I excel at and love have nothing to do with those… what are feelings but things that we stomp on anyway? I still remember calling my parents from work one night at 8 pm, crying and begging them to forgive me and love me “despite” my failures (my failure of not being a senator, CEO and millionaire at 31).

    F___ living up to your potential. That’s a “make a lot of cash to impress the Jonses and your relatives” motivation. He who dies after closing the most M&A acquisitions – dies after closing the most acquisition. Da dum dum, the end. Not so impressive any more, is it?

    Excel at who and what you are. Being kind is a nice start. Conforming is a tripwire.

  27. Editormum
    Editormum says:

    Okay, some good points here. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, shall we? (Because then all you have is a wet, badly injured baby.)

    While “living up to your potential” is sometimes over-rated or used abusively, it’s NOT total BS. It’s a good concept frequently misused.

    When I review my son’s homeschool assignments and say, “Son, you can do better work than this. You are not living up to your potential” it’s because we BOTH know that he was goofing off, distracted, unfocused, or unengaged with his homework, so he’s made sloppy, careless mistakes. (We both know that he knows that 3x+2x=5x, not 6x, or that “exaggerated” has two Gs in it, for example.) When used in this way, “not living up to your potential” is a warning that means, “we both know you can do better, and I expect you to focus more on your work.”

    That does not negate the fact that there are abusive bosses out there who will use that phrase to scare the bejeebers out of a less-than-assertive employee, so that the employer can squeeze more and more work out of an increasingly overwhelmed, burnt out employee. I’ve had a few of those. And it was a wonderful feeling to LEAVE.

    As for being kind, sometimes it works, sometimes not. Sometimes you have to throw kind out the window and be hard as nails mean. But not nearly as often as some people think. “Nice” will almost always get you trod on by people who take advantage. “Kind” knows when to pull off the velvet gloves and start using some iron fist.

  28. Dave
    Dave says:

    @MJ “Once, when I was still drinking the – €˜A student good child' Kool Aid I made myself miserable because I worried that I wasn't living up to my potential – I was not simultaneously a senator, CEO and millionaire.”

    I think you are making the same sort of mistake as those commentors who equated being nice with being a pushover. Maybe folks just need to redefine what their potential is. MJ, I think you said it very well when you said “Excel at who and what you are. Being kind is a nice start.” That’s certainly closer to my definition of “potential”. Am I doing something that makes a difference to somebody, somewhere? Am I doing the best that I can within my limits? If I’m not, then I’m not living up to my potential. It’s up to me to define what I consier to be success. My definition doesn’t include things like CEO, senator or millionaire. I think I could have been any or all of those had those goals been important to me, but they weren’t. I’ve seen and done things that are important to me, and that is success – for me. The replicant in the movie BladeRunner said “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.” I can’t claim the same, but I can certainly understand the sentiment.

  29. Jim Bell
    Jim Bell says:

    This phrase of “living up to ones potential” doesn’t even make sense from the grammatical. It gives me no additional insight about myself, nor the world around me. In science, we learn the concepts of potential & kinetic energy. (The rock sitting on the top of the hill represents potential energy) It has great potential to roll fast down the hill, thereby reaching its kinetic state. However, unless a force pushes it, it will never reach it’s kinetic state. Humans are much like the rock on top of the hill. We sit and wait for a force to move us, to motivate us. The people who move and shake this world don’t wait. They spend time on creating kinetic situations. They seem characteristically impatient, busy and, full of more ideas than they know what to do with. I appreciate people like this. We should all concentrate more on “living in our own kinetic state” rather than constantly examining the endless variety of potentials. Good post Penelope ! Jim B

  30. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    Well said! I am one of those “nice” people who is a serious underachiever and not living up to my potential. I have an inability to say no to a project even though I’m already stressed out beyone comprenhension trying to keep my head above water and make a buck for the company. So all I’m really accomplishing “up to my potential” is being stressed out and shorting my clients who deserve better. I am working on saying “no” nicely to get myself out of this mess but it’s tough if it goes against everything you were ever taught. Rock on sister!

  31. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Gotta disagree with you on this one. I’m going to go out on a limb and defend the Jim’s of the world (top of post string) — being kind is a good way to live, but don’t expect to be recognized and/or not be taken advantage of when you are kind at work.

    A *lot* of people here are splitting hairs on the definitions of Nice vs. Kind. I don’t think the verbiage makes any difference. What I think stops many people from feeling that they are doing something worthy of their talents is the inability to stand up for themselves and ask for what they want, early and often.

    I have put myself in Jim’s position many times, always thinking that I was “doing the right thing”, working hard, treating others with respect, going above and beyond the call of duty to make someone else’s job and life easier, etc., etc. Someone’s bound to notice, right? Yes, they did in fact notice. But when push came to shove, although every person I’ve ever worked with says I’m a team player and I was a phenomenal employee, I was passed over for promotions and big salary increases every time.

    Lesson learned: No one will take care of you but you. So this “being kind” business is only one part of a very large and complicated equation. Yes, maybe some of your readers need the reminder to treat others with humanity and respect, but I would venture that the vast majority of people who read career advice columns are already too “kind” for their own good.

  32. Ellen Hart
    Ellen Hart says:

    As always, great advice! One of the lessons that has helped me most, both professionally and personally, is to ‘be kind to myself.’ This bit of wisdom echoes your point of not buying into delusional notions of “your potential.”

    Thanks, again!

  33. Michael
    Michael says:

    Jennifer – I believe there is a difference between kindness and being a pushover.

    People might not openly reward you for your act of kindness, but unless they’re an absolute asshole, I guarentee they’ll remember an act of kindness for a long time to come.

    And when you really need a helping hand…

  34. isha akula
    isha akula says:

    Being kind in itself is necessary that your not selfish about it. some of the people that have commented on here have been going on and on about being kind as being a doormat. Im sure that wasnt the author’s intention. Be kind for the sanity of your conscience. Be a good person.

  35. Chris Bauman
    Chris Bauman says:

    Being kind will draw two kinds of people to you….those that you want to call friends and collegues and those that take advantage. Still, what goes around comes around. Learn from both the negative influences as well as the positive and enjoy the journey.

    I once had a teacher that got us to write our own headstones as speach titles….He said, “How do you wish to be remembered?”

  36. chris
    chris says:

    Kindness becomes more 3-D for me when I turn the lens a quarter turn to reveal generosity and altruism. I know better what to do when I expand the definition in this way: I know to do acts of kindness, generosity and altruism because I think of myself/I am a generous/kind/altrustic person–NOT because I expect to get anything back. Not because I may some day need to call in a favor. Not because I want to teach my children these virtures . . . but only because I AM KIND . . . I only have control of myself, and I am satisfied that I AM KIND.

    Interesting, the degree to which we have settled upon kindness as the most important/popular of the 4 elements that PT suggests . . . She also suggested Optimism, Engagement and Connectedness for our consideration, as pivotal . . .

    Freud said that there are two elements: love and work. PT writes her blog about the intersection of love and work. If balance is possible. If bringing love and work together is possible and desirable . . .

    So I have put the 4 elements, Optimism, Engagement, Connectedness and Kindness to the test–do they apply to love AND work? Do they apply to everything? For me, they do. In the old catechism, I was taught about the necessity of faith and hope–which may be found within Optimism. Likewise, Connectedness and Kindness are associated with Love, Loving-kindness. And to me, Engagement is staying-with-it, the hard work of perseverance, the mark of an indomitable spirit. So this value system works for me, past and present.

    PT, you should run for president or pope–you’ve come up with the all-inclusive value system!


  37. ciol
    ciol says:

    Cant agree with you on this, I would rather live up to my potential in my own terms. You seem to have made this too complicated to be true for me.

  38. Rob Lewis
    Rob Lewis says:

    Whose potential? Whose standards?

    So many writers from different areas of life concur with you. Sylvia Browne, Brian Tracy and many others.

    I always remember what Steven Covey said:

    “We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

    Surely figuring out why we are here, you know, the meaning of life thing, has to have some bearing on our life choices. Although climbing the corporate ladder may be it for a few, for many others there has to be something more.

    How many people on their death beds have wished that they had put more hours in at the office?

  39. Maurice
    Maurice says:

    of course where as in School and Uni marking/grading people is used to rank them at work its 99% of the time abused to manage down the pay budget.

  40. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    I had to laugh a little at getting up in the morning being used as a metaphor for optimism.

    If you’ve been in bed for more than 4 or 5 hours, you will HAVE TO GO when you wake up. If you stay in bed too long, it just gets more urgent.

    No matter how much life sucks, it will suck more if you don’t get out of the sack and head for the bathroom.

  41. Danny
    Danny says:

    I’ve already posted a comment earlier but for some reason this post – latest Blog entry from Penelope has been on my mind. Probably because of the one little comment she snuck in there… “I spend a lot of time wondering why more of us don't kill ourselves, and I never come up with a great answer.”

    Anyway, I heard an Alanis Moressette song today that, for me, anwers that question. We are good, it is good to be kind, it is even more important that you are kind to yourself. Here are the lyrics, but you need to listen to the song to experience the feeling of what she is saying.

    “That I Would Be Good”

    that I would be good even if I did nothing
    that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
    that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
    that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

    that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
    that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
    that I would be great if I was no longer queen
    that I would be grand if I was not all knowing

    that I would be loved even when I numb myself
    that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
    that I would be loved even when I was fuming
    that I would be good even if I was clingy

    that I would be good even if I lost sanity
    that I would be good
    whether with or without you

  42. cjbk
    cjbk says:

    How does this fit in with the Gen X and Yers who job hop? I started to change my career path significantly by completing a grad program in education and now I’m somewhere similar to where I was when I started my program. I did not change careers but I’ve changed jobs at least four times since 2003.

    I often wonder if I should try teaching again, if I should pursue a whole different avenue or if I should stay in pr/communications/editing. Since this is a career blog, I was hoping to get some advice that could help me.

    As far as I can tell I’ve been nice all along. But I don’t often get very close to many people and I feel lacking because I don’t have the money or the type of home that allows me to entertain people. I think people want to be entertained by others more than they want to be treated kindly by others.

    I’m often bored, overworked and poor. I would like to be rich and appropriately challenged but I would even take poor and appropriately challenged. Maybe I could be nicer to myself. I truly don’t believe I’m living up to my potential and simply the thought that I’m not living up to my potential shames me. I feel embarrassed to be myself.

  43. cjbk
    cjbk says:

    I also want to say that if there were more kind patient mentors and kind patient parents, we would all be more well adjusted. I think it’s worthwhile to be happy and positive but when you are the only optimistic person around, you begin to question yourself and you begin to lose your positive energy.

    A good subject has been broached with this post.

  44. Todd Rhoad
    Todd Rhoad says:

    We measure others using our own yardstick, biasing the results with our own limitations. Unfortunately, that’s not a fair measure. The best method is to develop your own standard. People will certainly let you know when your standard is below theirs, providing you the opportunity to improve your standard.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Insights by Career Counselors Blog says:

    Why Spelling Remains in Style…

    Back in April, the Brazen Careerist (aka Penelope Trunk) made the assertion that writing without typos is totally outdated. I’ve been thinking about the post ever since, particularly given that we are living in a shorthand, emoticon-filled world and….

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