Please Stop Giving Graduates These 'Inspirational' Messages

Students at their graduation ceremony
Students at their graduation ceremony

Every graduation season, parents, professors and commencement speakers shower graduates with pearls of wisdom about life after school. The same "inspirational messages" get recycled and repeated year and after year.

Unfortunately, much of the advice that is meant to be uplifting is downright terrible. When you really think about what these phrases mean, they're inaccurate -- and perhaps even a little insulting.

Here are five pearls of wisdom we should really stop telling graduates:

1. Never Give Up

Staying the course is important in many situations. But, it's equally important to know when to throw in the towel.

If your business is failing -- with little hope of recovery -- by all means, give up before you go bankrupt and waste investor's money. Or, if you decide your goal is no longer worth the effort, it's OK to wave the white flag. Feeling compelled to stick it out when the chips are down can be disastrous.

Better advice: Learn to recognize a sinking ship before it goes under.

2. If You Work Hard You Deserve Success

There's a lot to be said for showing up early and staying late. But just because you put in the most hours, doesn't mean you deserve a pay raise or a promotion.

If money were handed out based on hard work, there's a mother in a third-world country who would out earn you every day. Your hard work won't always be rewarded with fame, glory, or money.

If you surround yourself with talented and intelligent people, it may not matter how many hours you work. You might never become a more valuable employee than those around you. So don't start thinking the world owes you something just because you worked hard.

Better advice: No matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability, but don't expect success to fall into your lap like some type of cosmic reward.

3. You Can Achieve Anything You Set Your Mind To

Did the athlete who missed out on qualifying for the Olympics by a fraction of a second not want it bad enough? Or what about the kid who never reached his dream of being an astronaut? Did he not believe in himself enough?

A positive mindset and sheer determination will get you far in life. But it won't necessarily move mountains. Everyone has limitations. And you can't control your competition. If you're competing against a world champion, you might never shine.

Better advice: When you are comfortable with who you are, and you know you tried your best, you'll be happy with your achievements.

4. Pursue Your Passion

It sounds like a good idea on the surface to monetize your hobby or to find a job in an arena that you deeply care about. But in reality, that's not sound advice. Some passions were meant to remain part-time interests.

The minute you decide to turn your love of cooking into a catering business might be the moment you stop liking what you do. The reality of what it takes to earn an income with your passion, might zap the joy right out of your work.

Just because you're passionate about something, doesn't mean you're going to be good at it. Plenty of people who love music don't make very good musicians.

Better advice: As Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs, says, "Don't follow your passion, but always bring it with you."

5. Always Follow Your Heart

It sounds nice to say follow your heart, but your heart can lead you astray. Your emotions can be irrational.

Making emotional decisions can prevent you from doing the hard work you need to do to reach your goals. So it's important to add some logic into your decision-making.

Better advice: Balance what your head and your heart tell you to do and you'll create a rich and fulfilling life.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of the bestselling book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do. Sign up for her Mental Strength eCourse or watch her TEDx talk on The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong.