Do the Next Right Thing and Let That Be Enough

“Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things” ~Joe Paterno

This quote turned up in my twitter stream yesterday. It looks benign. It looks helpful. But it is seriously problematic.

Firstly, it implies that not only is it very important to get our ‘beliefs’ right but also that we can chose those beliefs. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a con. We can try really hard to brain wash ourselves. We can repeat positive affirmations over and over. But deep down in our hearts most of us carry a secret  – that we aren’t good enough. That we are too…something. Too selfish, too weak, too loud, too quiet, too greedy, too boring….if you dig around inside yourself and sit with the discomfort for a moment, you will be able to add your own words.

The brainwashing of our society makes the burden of that secret even harder to bear. Because apparently what we should be doing is believing deep down in our hearts that we are destined for something great. So we have failed before we have even started.

The quote also implies that we are all destined to do great things (as long as we get our thoughts stacked up right). And this is madness. What most of us are destined for is a life of ordinariness – raising children, working for a living, loving our family and friends. I think that chasing success and greatness are actually distractions from the challenge of doing the ordinary stuff well. I suspect that we want that distraction because it is actually really hard to do that stuff well.

I think a better quote would go something like:

‘Even on the days when you worry that you are a fool and a failure; be kind and compassionate.  Come back to the present moment and do the next right thing. And let that be enough.’

I am paraphrasing Kelly Wilson here: In Appreciation of Crashing, Bliss Following, Hero’s Journeying, and Practice.

How about it? Will you join me in doing the next right thing and let that be enough?

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