And don't waste your links by not using the keyphrases that internet users are using on Google, Yahoo and Bing. This is where the power is.
I believe I understand what you're trying to say here and in the broad sense it's correct but it's a little confusing...
It is a good idea to optimize your pages for what people are searching for, these phrases are commonly known as keyword phrases. Once you know what keyword phrases people type into their search engine, you should optimize your pages for them and use in the anchor text of links you place on other people's web sites.
Anchor text is the clickable part of the link you see, it's a query ranking indicator. It tells humans and search bots what's coming next. It's by far the most powerful element of link popularity and one that drives the way a web page ranks.
It's also the one part of the link popularity equation we have clarity on from the search engines, here's a quote from the google blog on anchor text:
In addition, anchor text influences the queries your site ranks for in the search results.
So basically, if you can get links that use your anchor text and point to a page that's been optimized for the phrase, you'll see ranking improvement.
Now - how does this relate to directories? One of the best things about directory submission is the ability to use keyword anchors in your description and/or point to internal pages. I agree you shouldn't only use directories as your sole link buidling tactic but they don't hurt.
Stick to the better directories (BOTW, Joe Ant, Massive Links, etc) and forget about the freebies, they're junk and have little to no algorithmic weight.
Remember...... in order to pass on link popularity, the page your link sits on has to have links pointing to it.