Why “You Can Be Anything You Want to Be” is Bad Advice

Mike Foster

“You can be anything you want to be.”

As I’ve had conversations with members of the Millennial generation, this is a phrase that almost all of them have agreed they’ve heard throughout their childhood.

Photo Credit: amanda tipton, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: amanda tipton, Creative Commons

While it sounds so great and inspirational, it’s actually a lie.

Take me for example.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Michael Jordan. There were three simple steps to accomplishing my goal.

  1. Buy Air Jordans.
  2. Shave my head.
  3. Be 6’6.”

While I did get the height thing down, I didn’t exactly become a baller. That’s not my gift set. You would laugh watching me try out for the NBA. If I would have seriously pursued that dream, I would be lost wondering why life didn’t work out. God had something better in mind for me than I did for me.

The same goes for all of us.


We can’t be anything we want to be because we can only be who God made us to be. Our dreams are important, but God’s desires for us are even greater. 

Adopting His vision for our lives sets us free to be who He wants us to be, rather than who we think we should be.  

So how do we discover what we’re supposed to do with our lives?

Replace the lies we’ve been telling ourselves about who we should be by being honest about our obstacles and opportunities. 

Our lies wear us out by pursuing goals that God never meant us to chase. A pipe-dream life. Unreal and unattainable. Both are not us. The lies have to die so you can finally live. I love what author Paulo Coelho encourages us to do when he says:

“Close some doors today. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because they lead you nowhere.”

What doors are open for you? Do they match up with your skill set?

If yes, these are your opportunities. You were created exactly the way you are for a reason and have a great purpose in being here on this planet. God has put something incredible in your grasp.

Reach out and take it. 

Mike Foster

Mike Foster

This is a post by Mike Foster, one of the Storyline Contributors. Mike is the Co-Founder of People of the Second Chance (www.SecondChance.org) and the author of an innovative small group study called "Freeway: A Not-So-Perfect Guide To Freedom." Make sure to follow along on Twitter (@mikefoster) for regular updates. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • Holly Loftin

    This is truth you have written here. And I am grateful for it. Knowing your limits might be perceived by some as, well, limiting but it is just the opposite. It is freeing! Free to be exactly who we are. Unique, original and by God’s design for a divine purpose. Thank you for sharing this today.

  • I also think there’s a difference between being who/what we truly want to be and being who/what we want to be because we want society to think we are “cool.”

    The first, I would say, is absolutely possible for everyone–if you believe in God, I’d say it’s the desires he’s put in you for a reason. The second, though, is just lying to yourself, which of course isn’t going to work out the way you want it to.

  • Callie Boisture

    I agree that we shouldn’t always be grasping for the dreams that are clearly out of our skill set, but what do you think about the biblical examples of men who were called to things that were clearly not their strengths? Moses and his lack of speaking ability come to mind…I do believe that God’s power is still being made perfect in my weakness, not just my natural ability.

  • Mark

    It is critical to differentiate between genuine limits and limits that culture and tradition place.

  • Your point is biblical if we accept that God gives each of us gifts but those gifts differ.

    However, I think there is some underlying truth to that thought though as often our desires over time will line up with what we are good at. So in that sense it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.