Thrive!
By Anne Simpkinson

"Limitless" Personal Growth in a Pill? Yeah, Right

What could I have been thinking? When I read a short description of the film Limitless, I was sure it was going to be a cautionary tale about quick fixes and instant gratification. I should have known better.

The movie follows Ed Morra, a down-and-out writer who’s suffering an extreme case of writer’s block and whose girlfriend is moving up the professional ladder and out of his dingy apartment—and his life. Then his ex-brother-in-law offers him a magic pill, a drug that supposedly enhances brain synapses so that he can reach his full potential. Of course, he accepts. Why not? He’s got nothing to lose.  

What happens next is a thriller involving run-ins with a menacing Russian loan shark, corporate barracuda, various female sex partners, the police and a rapprochement with his former girlfriend—not necessarily in that order. It’s a well-conceived storyline with twists and turns and some cool special effects, but the film’s ultimate message is this:  Fulfill your potential and money, sex and power are yours.

Unless you’re a 20-something guy, the movie is pretty depressing. 

Limitless conveys a very different message than The King’s Speech, the British film that walked away with the Academy awards for best actor, best director and best picture. In that movie, a shy, stuttering prince is thrust onto the throne yet manages, through hard work, persistence and courage, to overcome his handicap, effect a positive change and succeed at reaching his potential, that of a king who can inspire and lift the spirits of his countrymen during World War II.

The contrast between the two films got me thinking about the fact that what we feed our minds and hearts affects our lives and shapes our values. Quick fixes and instant gratification don't last and often don't succeed. What’s more fulfilling is the satisfaction from a job well done; achieving your goals—whether they involve spiritual growth, self-knowledge, professional achievement, nourishing friendships and community, or some other form of success—with effort and doggedness. 

Forego the quick fix; go counter to our culture's glorification of material success and its trappings. Instead, dig deep for the love, passion and joy within yourself and apply them to every aspect of your life. Embrace the positive message of movies like The King's Speech and you, too, can inspire yourself and those around you.

Anne Simpkinson is the online managing editor of guideposts.org. She co-authored Soul Work: A Field Guide for Spiritual Seekers and has edited two anthologies entitled Sacred Stories: A Celebration of the Power of Stories to Transform and Heal and Nourishing the Soul: Discovering the Sacred in Everyday Life. A spiritual practice, good friends, lakeside cottage and two lovely feline companions continue to transform and enrich her life.