Why the “Can Do” Spirit is Ruining Us

by | Nov 25, 2014 | Encouragement


On Sunday morning, in the midst of brushing my teeth, finding shoes, waking the kids from slumber and reheating cups of tea in the microwave, I listen to an interview on television with Dr. Wayne Dyer on motivational speaking. One glance at the screen shot of the book that made him famous, Your Erroneous Zones, and it all comes back to me.

That wily man in the V-neck on the cover lays on the coffee table among ashtrays full of cigarette butts, empty beer bottles and horoscope books in my childhood house.

Think good thoughts and good things will surely follow is the basic message that made Dr. Dyer the Father of Motivation. Somehow his theory didn’t work for a little girl thinking good thoughts about her mother conquering alcoholism.

According to Author, Jonathan Black, also interviewed for the story, Americans are more receptive to motivational messages than other cultures. Why? Because of “the impulse we have to improve ourselves and at the same time remain constantly disgruntled. We Americans always want something better.”

I look in the mirror at the new creases around my eyes and mouth, the extra skin around my mid-section and I want something better instead of being thankful for a healthy body. Assess Facebook likes and Twitter followers wanting more because I dream of writing a book that reaches more people and this is what it requires.

What number is high enough to fill the ravenous hunger we have for approval, meaning and purpose?


While staring at the television pondering motivation, holding the mirror of an interview to my heart and take inventory, the unspoken question I ponder comes in the next minutes of the interview.

“If it’s so self-evident, why are people still hungry for the message of motivational speeches?”

“Because you don’t have to be sick to get better,” Dyer responds with a smirk on his face.

Wanting to be better is the sickness of our culture. A soul sickness that longs for recovery only found with tight-focus on Jesus.

Wanting to be better is lofty until it becomes our own prescription for success.

The “can do” spirit fueled by discontent is what is ruining us.

Frozen like an ice sculpture in my bedroom, I am haunted by the deception of a more lifestyle; what seems noble and true about wanting to be better until motivation becomes a subtle addiction to self-reliance.

How does a Savior fit into a lifestyle crammed with words that begin with self?


This is how my Rwandan friends can be authentically joyful when their cupboards and feet are bare of what we take for granted. How they can laugh after carrying heavy water jugs for miles up a mountain. Or smile with welcome after sleeping on a dirt floor without blankets or pillows.

They are content with today; thankful for what is provided.

Where we have an insatiable appetite for tomorrow; my African friends illustrate contentment with each moment given.

An experience of true joy isn’t a result of wanting to be better but an outcome of believing God truly loves you. Long lasting, steadfast, unwavering joy is found in a Person, not in what He does for us.

Think the thoughts Jesus has about you and become the person He created. Goodness will surely follow.

As we approach the season of more, improve and wanting better, how are you experiencing contentment and joy this week?


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Mary Gemmill

    Shelly, I hear you. The same is true for most Western cultures I think. I feel healed of this constant need for approval now.,…but it took years for the deep inner healing to take place. One writer who has been instrumental in my healing and in the lives of several friends is Brenda Craig, who writes at Journals of the Heart. Her writing is similar to that of Sarah Young in Jesus Calling, but much more in depth and Word based.
    May you have a blessed week with the family..your last American Thanksgiving for a while ~!

    • Lark Fiore

      For many years I sought recovery from my misery by paying an embarrassing amount of money for books and tapes written by the motivational gurus. I tried time after time to reach for the stars and realize my potential, become self-actualized. When I began my relationship with Jesus, when that came when I knew Him and fully surrendered I became enamored of Christians who taught that same old self approach only using Jesus, twisting His words and drawing people like me into their web of deceit. Through a series of events my eyes were opened and my heart was broken and Jesus became my
      Lord. You are so right on. Self is worshipped in our culture and that is indeed an empty and desolate pursuit. Yet, so difficult to resist. I must cling to Jesus or I am easily entranced.

      • Jillie

        Dear Lark…I get what you’re saying here. I too, filled my shelves with Christian self-help books and tapes. Very well-known authors and speakers who I ‘could’ name, but maybe that would not be right of me to do. Yet, I must mention one. His name begins with ‘J’ and ends with ‘oel’–so many people I know are caught up in his web of ‘self’-improvement. Every week he expounds on his ideas of ‘relating to God’ in order to get what WE ‘think’ we need in this life. To be the kind of people WE want to be, while seeing every material ‘blessing’ fulfilled. Now I know what it means to want to spew someone out of my mouth, as Christ says to the church of Laodicea in Rev. 3. This man is nothing more than a motivational speaker. He is open about his lack of biblical knowledge, and it certainly shows. There is nothing about death to self, sacrifice, the long & narrow road to Christ. It truly sickens me. Give me a man who delves deep into the Word and teaches the truths contained therein…the good AND the bad. Not just the ‘milk’ of the Word, but the ‘meat’!

  2. Jillie

    Dear Shelly, this is an excellent piece you’ve written. How am I experiencing contentment and joy this week? By keeping my life simple, by not going overboard this year with buying for loved ones. By being happy with what God has provided instead of wanting more, more, more. By working to keep my focus on Him this Christmas, and it IS work when we live in such a never-satisfied, materialistic culture. I hear your wonderful words about the people of Rwanda, and I am ashamed of past offences of living more extravagantly than I should. Such good words today, Shelly!

  3. Laura Boggess

    Hello, beautiful. This is a lesson that you live out so well, Shelly. This Thanksgiving, I am saying a prayer of thanks for you, my friend. You are a blessing to me and to this hurting world that you speak hope into. I love you. Praying a sweet and blessed day of Thanks to you and yours.

  4. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for your wisdom, Shelly, that refines our focus: “Long lasting, steadfast, unwavering joy is found in a Person, not in what He does for us.” Whether our prayers are answered or the delights of our hearts are given, we can take great joy in our loving, caring Savior. We can focus on what He has already provided. Also love this insight: “Become the person Jesus has created and goodness will surely follow.” Amen and hallelujah! Both of these quotes provide useful truths to remember and live by.

  5. pastordt

    Preach it!

Pin It on Pinterest