We all need healthy aspirations. We should aspire to continually grow in areas that are important to us, such as being a better mother, learning to eat healthier, or becoming more competent in our profession. But not all aspirations are healthy, because sometimes we aspire to excel in an area that isn’t part of our calling, or to become somebody we were never meant to be. Such false aspirations weigh us down, or hold us back from being the best version of ourselves.
Remember back in high school when you tried to act or dress a certain way in order to impress the cool kids—or whichever group you aspired to be part of? You probably aren’t so obvious or desperate anymore, but not-so-healthy aspirations may still lurk in your life.
For example, books are one of my passions. Therefore I might aspire to be a “serious and discerning reader.” If so, the internet is filled with helpful lists of “must-read” I should be reading. But to be honest, many of those “must-read” books are not titles I want to read. While I may aspire to be the kind of person who reads the sort of weighty novels approved by the serious critics, that is not really who I am. I might decide to read a “must-read” book now and then, to stretch myself, but I will be much happier giving up my aspiration to enjoy literary books and let myself read the not-so-serious-but-much-more-fun books I like instead.
What unhelpful aspirations are cluttering up your life? Do you have shelves full of books you don’t want to read? Hobby supplies you don’t use because you’re no longer into it? (Or maybe you never were, but your sister-in-law made such beautiful handmade gifts that you felt compelled to try.) Closets full of clothing in styles that just aren’t “you”?
If so, you may need to let go of false aspirations.
When might aspirations be a hindrance rather than a help?
- When they stifle your joy
- When they define your self-worth.
- When they conflict with your values
- When they draw you away from your God-given passions or purpose
- When they apply to a previous chapter of your life
- When they tempt you to spend more money than is wise in order to keep up
How to fight false aspirations
- Identify them. Look through your house for things that don’t love or that you know deep inside don’t jive with who you are. Ask yourself why. You may discover you keep that item because you are secretly aspiring to a style, reputation, or interest that isn’t who you really are.
- Let them go. Admit to yourself that to be your most authentic self, you don’t need that aspiration.
- Eliminate the junk they’ve left behind. Look for unnecessary stuff, goals, or activities cluttering your life as a result of unhelpful aspirations:
- It might be stuff, such as books, hobby supplies, or clothes.
- It might be a ministry you volunteered to join, but have discovered is more drudgery than joy. (There are tons of volunteer opportunities out there. Find ones that coincide with your passions rather than persisting in tasks you secretly hate.)
- It might be a certain activity everyone said you “must” do in order to succeed. If you hate it, there is probably another way to achieve what you want.
- It might be a goal that you now realize doesn’t mesh with who you are and want to become. Maybe you’ve been slogging after a goal (like you’re part-way through a college degree) but your life now makes more sense heading in a different direction. Sometimes the better part of wisdom is to quit—even when you’ve invested considerable time, effort, and money. On a smaller scale, maybe you used to have a goal to train for a marathon, but now realize that competing in a marathon doesn’t belong on your bucket list. Be brave and let it go.
You were born an original. Don’t die a copy. ~ John Mason