7 Old, Dirty Myths That Are Suffocating Your Potential


Lies are all around us.

No, I’m not some paranoid conspiracy theorist. I am, however, addicted to knowing the truth. And guess what? People are lying to you. All day, every day. TV shows are lying to you. Politicians are lying to you. Music artists are lying to you. Advertisements are lying to you. You’re lying to yourself.

I’m not talking about “lies” in the sense of a whopper story conjured up by an 8-year-old to get out of trouble. I’m talking about the perpetuation of myths.

Myths are destroying your potential.

For thousands of years, humans have used mythology as a way of teaching tradition and values. Telling stories proved to be an effective way to educate people.

While myths were invented to serve a beneficial purpose, they’re also a dangerous force in creating inflexible attitudes. As the world evolves, our systems of belief must change with it. Yet, people are often so engrained in one way of thinking that they cease to learn and adapt to change. When we refuse to evaluate what we believe, we lose the opportunity to capitalize on the advantages of progressive, innovative ideas.

When we cling too tightly to what we think we know is true, we risk being controlled by damaging, outdated ways of thinking.

And in the modern world, damaging myths are more alive than ever.

Myths take the form of stories, norms, axioms, and paradigms. The most powerful myths are the ones believed by the greatest number of people. These ultra-popular myths establish the status quo. And while some widely held ideas are good, many are not. Here are 7 nasty myths that are stifling you. Absorb them, mull them over, and stop believing in them.

1. Learning is a boring, annoying thing they force you to do in school.

Tons of folks feel this way. The largest culprit is our antiquated, standardized test-based education system, but I’ll save that rant for another time.

Schools teach us to despise learning by making it a chore. A chore that you’re probably not as good at as some of the other kids. The truth is that we’re hardwired to enjoy learning, but our natural curiosity and creativity are buried in the regimented classroom environment. Because of this, we often have to recover our long lost love for learning. You can do this by:

  1. Exploring and reading about what actually interests you.
  2. Learning in diverse ways that suit your unique mind.
  3. Realizing it isn’t a competition.

Knowledge is power. If you never stop learning, success becomes inevitable. That means learning not only in school, but everywhere and constantly. It means observing and analyzing everything, devouring books, and acquiring new skills.

Trust me. Cultivate a lifestyle of learning, and things will start to jive. 

2. Comfort is happiness.

Comfort embodies the “American Dream”. Comfort is what money can buy. Comfort consists of a luxurious home, nice furnishings, and a high-quality automobile.

People have sacrificed self-respect, family, happiness, and years of their time and energy in pursuit of comfort. Don’t get me wrong. I still want some degree of comfort, but I don’t need more than a modest living space, the necessities, and a few toys.

As a rule of thumb, the less shit you have, the better. The less shit you have, the more you can focus on what actually creates happiness — appreciating yourself and life.

Comfort can also mean avoiding risks.

People get so used to their ‘comfort zone’ that they never take a chance to pursue something more meaningful. Fear of the ‘discomfort zone’ keeps people from traveling the world, starting their dream business, or getting in shape. The comfort zone is the enemy. Embrace the discomfort zone. You will discover so much more fulfillment and satisfaction by doing what you are afraid to do.

3. You need to know “what you’re going to do with your life”.

“What are you going to do after blah-blah-blah?”

It seems like everyone’s favorite question. From an early age, we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. We take career aptitude tests in middle school, and we usually select our college major with a specific career path in mind. This teaches us that everyone figures out exactly what they want to be for the rest of their life by the time they’re about 20 years old.

This is incorrect, and it causes problems.

It leads to enormous anxiety for indecisive college students. It pressures people to stick with a major they hate or a job they despise. In actuality, the average person changes careers 7 times in their life nowadays. Countless jobs that don’t even exist today will be prominent in 10 years.

People have more career mobility than ever.

This makes it perfectly okay to bounce around a little bit, dabble in different areas, chase opportunities, quit jobs, and tweak your mission. The experimentation process will teach you who you are and who you aren’t, and it will lead you to a more rewarding path.

4. “Failure” is evil and to be avoided at all costs.

In our society, “failure” is framed as the ultimate no-no, the last thing you’d ever want. “Failures” are shamed, slandered, and mocked. The worst part about this is that it teaches us to avoid anything we may not totally rock at. It teaches us to stick with only what we know we can do, to run away from anything potentially risky.

Failure is only feedback, and feedback is essential to finding success.

It turns out that “failure” only exists in the way we choose to see our experiences. When things don’t go as we’d expected, we often call it a failure and crucify ourselves. Rather than thinking in this way, it’s much less stressful and more productive to simply view everything as a form of feedback. Our “failures” often give us the most useful feedback, so long as we focus on what can be learned.

5. Work isn’t supposed to be enjoyable.

This may have been true for centuries prior to the modern age. However, things have changed.

Work no longer needs to consist of drudgery. Sure, it can’t all be exciting, but there is opportunity now more than ever to do work you’re passionate about.

The problem is that we’re pressured from all angles — by our parents, by naysayers, by societal norms, and by the little voice in our heads — to land a safe job. And many people do. The only problem with a job that feels safe is that it probably isn’t going to spark your enthusiasm. Because doing something you truly care about doesn’t feel safe. It’s terrifying. The stakes are high, and you don’t want to disappoint yourself.

So most people stay in their safe jobs, even when every day feels like wading through a swamp of soul suck.  And they hate themselves for it. Don’t settle. A job is waiting that will challenge and captivate you.

6. You aren’t ____________  enough to  ____________.

This is more of a widely held limiting belief than a myth, but I’m including it anyways because it’s such a powerfully negative force.

We’re too damn good at making excuses. We can rationalize anything away as something that just isn’t for us.

Back in the stone ages, this was an advantage. It was a good idea not to do anything that seemed daring or difficult because you might get killed in the process. Yet, nowadays, our fear and quickness to discount ourselves only holds us back. Trying new things, especially when they challenge us, builds our confidence and allows us to imagine greater possibilities for ourselves. And guess what? You really are creative enough to write, resourceful enough to travel, worthy enough to ask her out, etc. Or at least you can be, if you stop self-sabotaging.

7. Your lifestyle should be based purely upon how you will benefit.

Messages to be self-centered are perhaps the most overbearing form of media signal in our materialistic culture. Buy this skin cream for a new you. Go to college, so you can make a lot of money. Achieve something notable, so you can gain prestige. In our culture, it’s difficult not to become focused on how I look, how I’ll benefit, or what other people think of me. And yet, thinking in this way leads only to scrutinizing my life and identifying all sorts of shortcomings.

On the other hand, when I consider other people and how I can share my talents to help them, I stop being the center of attention. I become a part of a global community, and my unfulfilled desires and insecurities fade to the background because they are insignificant compared to everyone else’s collective needs. I’m not saying everyone should sell all of their possessions to become a missionary.

However, I do think everyone can promote the general spread of good feeling. As a general rule, the less focused on yourself you are, the happier you’ll be.

Sayonara, Myth-busters

So to re-cap, you’ve learned 7 of the most common self-defeating myths.

We’ve only scratched the surface of status quo myths that blind us to what is real, but hopefully this list will empower you to think more for yourself. Examine the world around you, and question why you believe what you believe. The answers won’t always be simple or comfortable, but they’ll lead you to realize more opportunity and satisfaction.

Keep your eyes open, and don’t be afraid to be the exception to the rule.

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image – KeirMB