You cannot be anyone or anything you want to be . . .

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Quote of the Week

A perspective for you to think about, meditate on, journal on, take action on

“You cannot be anyone you want to be.  Your one and only shot at a fulfilled life is being yourself—whoever that is.”  Stephen Cope, The Great Work of Your Life


“Each of us arrives here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials.  We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as by experiencing our potentials.”  Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Misters Cope and Palmer aren’t arguing against working hard, aiming high, or trying again if at first you don’t succeed.  Rather, they suggest we question the source of our drive or motivation.  Are you doing X:

  • because of an inner desire or need to do it (as Mr. Parker writes  “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling”),
  • because X enables you to do something else that is your life’s work (such as waiting tables so that you can write, a lá Elizabeth Gilbert),
  • or are you doing it because you think you should, because it’s expected and respected (by society, your parents, your partner, your religious/spiritual beliefs. . . )?

Whose voice or longing is pushing you—your own or someone else’s?  If it’s your own voice, is it coming from your heart–a desire or longing– or from your head– a should or must?

I also like these quotes because they remove shame from failure.  “Success” isn’t always a matter of pushing more and trying harder.  Even Michael Jordan, an extraordinary basketball player, couldn’t hustle his way into becoming a professional-caliber baseball player. It’s quite okay, in fact, it’s quite healthy and useful, to accept limits and acknowledge we don’t have the skills or abilities/capabilities for certain things.  As Mr. Palmer explains, “way closing” –the nos, the failures, the brick walls– can be as helpful as “way opening” –the successes, yeses, and open doors– when it comes to living authentically.

Our greatest successes come from honoring ourselves –our strengths, weaknesses, interests, preferences, and work styles– rather than trying to force ourselves into the paths, shapes, and ways demanded by others or that we think we “should” follow.  From personal experience, I know it leads to greater joy, happiness, fulfillment, and ease, even as I work hard and am uncertain of the results.  When I worked as a lawyer and consultant, I was FRIED by the end of the day and week; I was skilled at research, analysis, synthesis, and writing, but the work drained me.  On the other hand, my work as a life/leadership coach leaves me energized.  I feel BETTER after working with clients, no matter how tired or grumpy I was beforehand.  I was trained to be a lawyer, but I was born to be a coach; the difference is monumental.

What about you?  Are you living from the heart, or from “should,” “must” and “ought to”?   Are you living your life, or someone else’s vision for your life?

If you’d like a few more excerpts from The Great Work of Your Life or Let Your Life Speak, please email me through the Contact page.  I’m happy to share in order to whet your appetite for the books.

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Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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