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How to Stop Aspiration from Becoming Toxic Desperation

Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

I’m not sure the masses are quietly desperate. But maybe you know what Thoreau was writing about.

Any dream you can’t act-toward today is exhausting.

Toxic aspiration:

#1. Toxic aspiration requires perfect timing.

Any aspiration you can’t act-toward today is a fantasy that drains the life from your heart.

Aspiration – apart from action – leads to quiet desperation.

If you can’t act-toward your dream today, find a new dream.

Acting-toward might be as simple as learning from those who are achieving what you aspire to accomplish. (I use ‘achieving’, not ‘achieved’ intentionally.)

One thing is sure. Life tumbles downward until you do something.

#2. Toxic aspiration needs others to act first.

Expectation that others need to do this-or-that before you pursue your aspiration is an excuse for inaction.

Waiting for others to act turns dreamers into manipulators.

Big dreams are poison when they freeze you in your tracks. Suppose you want to be a professional volleyball player. Set a small actionable goal. Play High School volleyball, for example.

#3. Toxic aspiration waits for the perfect step forward.

The future is built one imperfect step at a time.

You can’t build anything in the future unless you’re a time traveler. The future is always built in the imperfect present.

The only way to change the future is to act today!


  1. Small actionable goals are better than dramatic goals that freeze you in your steps.
  2. Strive for continual innovation, not instant perfection.
  3. Perfectionists are mediocre. Forget about radical change if imperfection is intolerable. Perfectionism is stagnation. Everyone who pursues excellence is NOT a perfectionist.
  4. Failure and falling short enable aspiration. Failure is an option.

Thoreau was at least partially right. Anyone who doesn’t rise to their aspiration lives a life of quiet desperation.

What makes an aspiration toxic?

How are you navigating aspiration?

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