Is caring too much potentially dangerous? Not in the traditional sense of caring about the welfare of others, although that too can be overdone, but it is when we care too much about what others think of us that caring too much becomes dangerous.
The idea for this blog post came as I was reading A Portrait Of The Scientist As A Young Woman (opens in a new link) by Lindy Elkins-Tanton. In her book she relates an experience she had with an uncle that she admired and trusted. She mentioned to him that she’d been offered the position of CEO at a small aircraft company. To her dismay, he “laughed until he cried.” Consequently, she abandoned an opportunity that excited her.
Caring about what others think
It’s natural for us to want to know what others think of us. Indeed, some of the greatest insights I’ve gained over the years were the result of someone commenting on something that I had said or done that intrigued them. These were things I had done, or said, for decades without fully realizing what impact I was having.
Having said that, we need to filter what we’re being told to assure ourselves that what we’re being told is helpful.
Creating the filter
How do we create a filter that enables us to reap the benefits of others’ perceptions while protecting ourselves from perceptions that limit our potential?
The filter that’s worked for me is “Does this insight help me achieve what I want in life?” If what I’m hearing will help me achieve what I desire, I embrace it and act on it immediately. If it isn’t going to help me achieve my goals, I ignore it.
No one knows what our potential is. We don’t even know what our potential is. Nor can we know how strong a person’s passion is for their stated goals. We learn about our potential by setting our sights beyond prior accomplishments, then pursuing them. We learn about the intensity of our passion by our willingness to do the work required to achieve our goals and our resolve in overcoming the inevitable obstacles we encounter.
Since we, ourselves, don’t know either our potential or the intensity of our passion until we try, why would we allow others to make these determinations for us? We shouldn’t, so let’s see how we can avoid falling into this dangerous trap.
Whenever you receive input from others, whether solicited or not, remind yourself to employ this filter: Will their input help me accomplish my goal? If it will, act upon it immediately. Quick action accelerates your rate of achievement.
If the answer is no, thank the person for their suggestions, for typically they are well intended, then ignore their advice. Continue to pursue what you desire; the pursuit of what we desire is one of the great joys of living.
For our kids
Before offering advice to your child ask yourself: Will they feel that this advice is going to help them achieve their goal? If not, reframe your comments so that they are both encouraging and helpful.
When you kids become despondent because their contemporaries are making fun of them or their goals, tell them that unless what they’re hearing is going to help them achieve their goals they should ignore it.
Tell them that no one knows what their potential is, nor do they know the intensity of their own passion, so how could the people deriding them or their goals possibly know what’s possible. Let them know that the only time that they should embrace and act on others’ perceptions is when those perceptions afford them helpful insights or help them achieve their goals.
You’ll be amazed at quickly they embrace this message and act upon it. In doing so, they avoid a pitfall that too many of us fall into repeatedly throughout their lives. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give the kids in your life.
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Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.
Readers would love to see your thoughts and experiences in a comment.
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