I’m all for people doing everything they can to improve their lives, but I worry that for many people, the pursuit of self-improvement (when it becomes an obsession) can lead to a life characterized by struggle, disappointment, and depression.

I’d love for human beings everywhere to live a life full of joy, energy, celebration and fun. I want us all to laugh, enjoy, play, make love, and do all the wonderful things that make life magical and amazing. Every single one of us can live a life that’s a joyous romp through a playground of the spirit — if we take the time to focus on the important things in life.

However, many of us have taken the concept of “self-improvement” into the realm of yet another demanding, high-stress job. We spend months of reading books, attending seminars, taking classes, and doing therapy — in pursuit of making more of ourselves. For a lot of people, that’s a worthy and wonderful pursuit, but for others, it’s destructive and depressing. Some people in our “You can do anything!” society simply cannot accept the fact that there are certain things that they’re probably better off not doing.

It may be that you simply don’t have the body type to be a successful javelin thrower — and you never will. That’s all there is to it. But our society says, “Don’t limit yourself! If you want to be a javelin thrower, simply work harder at it. Take more javelin-throwing seminars, write goals for yourself, say daily affirmations, and before long, you’ll be throwing your way to an Olympic gold medal!”

I say, “Aren’t you better off accepting the fact that you’re probably not cut out for javelin throwing, and instead go toward the things that are your real strengths? Maybe you’re a sprinter, or maybe you’re simply not a gifted athlete, musician or artist, but you can knit a sweater.”

Unrealistic expectations — the sort that would convince us that all we need to do to achieve anything is to just believe in ourselves and never give up — are ridiculous. No matter how much I believe in myself, and no matter how much hard work I put into trying to change things, the fact remains that I’m short, I’m always going to be short.

In the same vein, we also may go out of our way to have relationships with people who don’t serve our best interests. How many of us have pursued someone whose values don’t resonate with our own. Why do we often struggle to achieve something we find daunting, instead of looking at, accepting, and taking pleasure in the things we can do? Those are our gifts to be savored and utilized in our best interests. Use them well and you’ll suffer a lot fewer disappointments.

— Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360. Visit her website at stressed.com.