Social Question

ninjacolin's avatar

Assertion: "You can do anything you want." Do you believe it?

Asked by ninjacolin (14238points) July 4th, 2014
38 responses
“Great Question” (8points)

It’s a common motivational assertion. It sounds like these:
“You can do anything in the world that you want.”
“You can do anything you put your mind to it.”
“Any goal you set for yourself can be achieved.”

What do you think of these assertions. Do you think they are true? Do you consider them unrealistic?
Do you really believe this for yourself?
What does it mean that you can do anything at all?
What does it mean for you that you can do anything at all?

if you really can do anything you put your mind to.. are you doing it?

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dina_didi's avatar

I don’t believe it. It is good to feel that we can do many things but everybody has a limit in what he can achieve. There are also some limits to make our lives in modern society better and possible to live with other people. Law, different religions and our abilities are making it impossible.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Yes, I believe it. The power of Positive Mental Attitude is incredibly immense.

ucme's avatar

Yeah but shut the fuck up with cheesy chants, just do it.

CWMcCall's avatar

Yes and I have. Some things are easy some take a huge amount of effort and it is always worth it.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I believe that hard work does pay off, but I’m also a realist.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Nope, not as easy as than. There ARE limits.

gailcalled's avatar

Some things I can not and probably never could do.

Become a Navy Seal
Sing a lead part at the Metropolitan Opera
Beat either of the Williams sisters (thank you,@ucme) on the tennis court.
Bench press 200 lbs.

Paradox25's avatar

I think you need to have motivation before confidence can ever be a factor, because if the motivation isn’t there you simply aren’t going to be inclined to accomplish something. I feel that many times lack of motivation is mistaken for lack of confidence. I also think that most people whom are deemed as being ‘less confident’ simply hold themselves to much higher standards than their more confident counterparts.

My opinion is that adequate motivation will breed confidence, which in turn will make it more likely you’ll succeed. However, too much confidence can make it difficult to achieve your goals too, because if you never subject yourself to any scrutiny you’ll be less likely to correct mistakes and make improvements. Motivation, confidence and practice is what brings success, not positive thinking by itself.

Personally I disagree with most self-help babble and confidence brigade prevalent in most cultures today. Deduction creates, and fear is a necessary part of this deduction of all possible mindsets. Each state of mind serves a purpose, so the key is to not be overwhelmed with fear, and the lack of it (believe it or not). It amazes me how many new age gurus get wealthy by preying on the vulnerable by simply repeating talking points throughout their books, and one’s which we’re already aware of. In the end only we can decide what’s best for us, not the positive bullies.

ucme's avatar

Venus & Serena Williams are not twins
Anytime @gailcalled

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

– “You can do anything in the world that you want.”

You can’t predict what I might want, so it’s wrong to make an a priori assertion about the possibility of what I want. What if I want to not want anything? Since that leads to paradox, I can’t very well do it. That’s only an example, and the most obvious one I could think of; there are many other possible paradoxes which invalidate this assertion.

– “You can do anything you put your mind to it.”

You can’t do anything by merely putting your mind to it. You have to understand what’s possible, how you can use what’s possible to achieve your goal, and how to organize your goals so as not to interfere with one another. Then you have to actually go ahead and do stuff.

– “Any goal you set for yourself can be achieved.”

If I set a goal for myself to travel back in time and kill my grandfather before he has kids, then I will fail in that goal. Again, there’s a paradox involved. If I set a goal to grow until I’m 7 feet tall, I will fail in that goal as well; there is no known mechanism to make me grow any talller than I already have (which is quite enough, thanks!) Even without paradox, many things are just not possible as far as we know.

It’s ok for a person to attempt the impossible, but a person shouldn’t plan yer life around it. That will lead to a failed life and a miserable. That’s why I’m against saying stuff like this to children, because they might take that horsepucky seriously and start planning their lives around some Quixotic optimization. Let’s not keep “inspiring” young folks with visions of impossible ideals when we could be showing them what’s good in life.

Remember: “Aim for the Stars- even if you miss, you’ll die alone in the cold emptiness of space.”

elbanditoroso's avatar

I think it’s silly. Yes, you can do a lot of what you want with hard work and study, but there’s no way I am ever going to be a NFL quarterback (or for that matter, a cardiologist). no matter how much I work out or study.

That kind of expression (you can do what you set your mind to) is brainwashing that parents or other authority figures use to try and motivate people to do things. But the expressions are full of hot air – they simply aren’t true. As motivators they might work for a little while, but not in the long term.

Berserker's avatar

A lot is possible if you want it, but you’ll have to work at it. Just believing and hoping won’t cut it. If it did, the world would be very different.

cookieman's avatar

Yes, within reason of course.

I always say, “Nothing is impossible. The hard stuff just takes longer.”

What I really mean is “Nothing within reason is impossible…”

non_omnis_moriar's avatar

It puts the blame on the lowest common denominators in society. These are con games.

We are supposed to be equal under the law but that doesn’t mean we are all born with same opportunities or abilities.

Kardamom's avatar

Of course not.

Here’s a good example. Say you and I and everybody else on Fluther want to become the next female Olympic pairs skating Gold Medalist. Everyone wants it just as badly, everyone trains their hardest. What’s the problem? There can only be one person who fills that position, no matter how much anybody else wanted it, no matter how hard they tried.

Some Jellies don’t know how to skate and are past their prime, age-wise, to be able to compete with the current crop of elite skaters, which for pairs skating females, they’re usually around 18 to 20 years old. Some Jellies have physical disabilities, and no matter how much they might want to be a pairs skater, if your body doesn’t work the way it needs to, there’s absolutely no chance. Some Jellies don’t have the money to pay for the training that is necessary to become an Olympic pairs skater. Some Jellies are not physically coordinated, and some would not be able to take the grueling physical commitments that it would take, even if they wanted it with all their hearts and gave it their all. Some Jellies are men. Men are not, by Olympic standards and laws, allowed to be female pairs skaters.

There are limitations to what all of us can do, no matter how much we might want to achieve certain goals.

Pachy's avatar

No. But you can always try.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Yes, I believe them to be true.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Given the right circumstances (age, policy, physique and raw talent), many things are achievable. For instance, @gailcalled said she couldn’t be a navy seal etc. but if she’d had that desire as a young person and the policy at the time had allowed it, perhaps she could have achieved that goal or come close to it. Similarly, if @gailcalled had some raw talent and started young enough, perhaps she could have become a lead opera singer. We’ll never know.

I’m quite sure the saying isn’t meant to be taken literally but rather to dispel the ‘I could never do that’ attitude some people seem to have. You don’t know what you can achieve unless you try. Not everything is going to be achievable but you can probably go quite a way to achieving most goals which is preferable to having never tried.

gailcalled's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit: We do know about those two goals.. I developed a mild scoliosis as a teen-ager snd I was barely able to csrry a tune. No amount of wishing or yearning would have changed that. I wouldn’t have even been allowed onstage with a spear in the chorus.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

… within reason.

Let’s be reasonable please.

MarvinPowell's avatar

No. It’s bullshit. Positive thinking is real and can lead to better success in life, but like anything else, it is quite limited. Things I can – and will – never be:

- Tall
– A White Guy
– Considered “sexy” by women (plural)
– Be a master in the bedroom
– Otherwise improve my genetics in any way
– Win an Olympic Gold Metal
– Dunk a basketball
– Travel back in time
– Be born into a rich family
– Get straight A’s in grade school
– Lose my virginity at age 12
– Turn myself into a shark and back
– Become president
– Be Superman or otherwise have awesome superpowers
– Conquer planet Earth
– Travel all over the galaxy
– Live real life like a Grand Theft Auto game
– Put my brain into a cybernetic Terminator body
– Be worth a trillion dollars
– Be worth a billion dollars

And so on… So no. “You can do anything you want” is akin to saying willpower is literally the only thing you need to achieve anything and everything in life. If we were talking imagination, then yes. It is true. However, most of us live in reality. And reality, sadly, sucks.

gailcalled's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: Precisely. But that was omitted from the OP’s three assertions, wasn’t it?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Unrealistic folie a deux, for the person who says it and the hearer who believes it.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@MarvinPowell I agree with you completely on this.

Haleth's avatar

Well, if you don’t at least try you will certainly never get there.

Coloma's avatar

No, agree with accepting ones limitations.
Like everything in life, anything is possible but is it probable?
Take Marywn the goose for example, he may float like a boat but he will never soar with the Eagles. haha

funkdaddy's avatar

I think it’s one of those things that everyone should at least sit down and think through as it applies to them. Imagine that the limits you have weren’t there, what would you really do? That’s the train of thought the sayings are meant to kick off.

The part that isn’t said is that you have to want the goal and everything it entails, or you need to correct the goal.

If you say you want to be President of the US, you need to understand the reality that some people will hate you, someone will die because of your decisions, and your entire life and family will be up for scrutiny. If you do not want that, then maybe look a the goal again and correct it to something you truly want. Maybe you want to make a difference or maybe you want to be recognizable, find a way to do those things that fits with who you are.

We all accept limitations put on us by expected behavior and average abilities in areas where we are exceptional. It’s just a reminder to look beyond common wisdom of what is possible for you personally every now and then.

Unbroken's avatar

I think there is a fine line. I know everything is not possible. But if I limit myself by having a defeatist attitude I will never try. Then again if I set my goal too high I will get overwhelmed. Still it is much better to be positive as opposed to negative.

jca's avatar

No. I can’t do anything I want and I don’t believe I can. It’s wonderful to be enthusiastic and have a positive outlook but there are limits in life and we have to be realistic.

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (4points)
Dan_Lyons's avatar

Argue for your limitations and surely they will be yours.

From Illusions

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

It’s a fact of neurology that people in stressful situations see fewer possibilities for solutions than do people outside those situations. I disremember what this phenomenon is called, but it’s related to that of Learned Helplessness. As a human being, you should be aware that your scope for action is broader than you will usually tend to think it is. At the same time, you should be aware of other cognitive biases, like the Dunning-Krueger effect, which can skew your perception of your abilities in the opposite direction.
It’s odious to tell people, especially children, that “you can do anything you want”, because then any possible failure becomes their fault: they didn’t want it hard enough, or something. It’s something people say when they want to sound “positive” without actually engaging with the person with whom they’re talking, or make any effort to help.

funkdaddy's avatar

On the other side, what is the advantage of always setting realistic expectations and goals that you can surely reach?

Look at the “unrealistic” goals listed above. Of those that are possible for anyone, wouldn’t getting even halfway be better than never trying, if the goal is something you truly want?

If @gailcalled wants to be stronger and sets out to bench 200 pounds, but only ends up achieving 150 pounds, isn’t she still better for it? As opposed to deciding her goal was unrealistic and never trying.

Great goals have the ability to motivate where mundane goals might not.

gailcalled's avatar

@gailcalled would be thrilled to bench Milo, currently at 13lbs, 7 ounces

funkdaddy's avatar

remember, elbows in @gailcalled

gailcalled's avatar

In what?@funkdaddy

jca's avatar

“Bench Milo” – hilarious!

jca (36054points)“Great Answer” (0points)
gailcalled's avatar

Milo here: Not so funny from my position…four feet off the ground.

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