Slavery to Goals (A Reader’s Story)
Last week we announced we will be sharing more stories from our readers about how TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) has impacted their lives. This is the first story. We received it in response to last week’s “Don’t Let Goals Ruin Your Life” topic.
The recent blog, “Don’t Let Goals Ruin Your Life” resonated with something deep inside me. Here are the thoughts I had after I read it…
For the most part, my life has been about slavery to goals set by “me” at an earlier stage of life. I realized when I was about forty-five, for example, that I was living in a prison erected by a twenty-three-year-old “boy”. The bars were made of “his” goals which, once established, became invisible—though the constraints and restraints they created were nonetheless quite solid.
Some of those goals had benign outcomes. Others were just a burden and, often enough, I pushed them back on, rather than off of, my life’s “to-do” list. Their status as incomplete tasks cropped up in recurring, disturbing dreams.
When successes occurred in my career, I enjoyed them for a fleeting moment before going back to the accursed “to-do” list for more pain and suffering. I missed the full enjoyment of accomplishing things because I was “no good”, because I hadn’t fulfilled all those goals. I was incomplete. The only real outcome I had in mind was to correct or perfect myself so that at some point—“someday”—I would feel I deserved to dream about goals that went beyond merely making myself worthy of dreaming at all.
As I grew into someone who was no longer this guy, my life chaffed against the bars of this prison. I confronted the ridiculous reality that I was enslaved by the goals of someone half my age, who really didn’t know much about the world or about life when “he” formulated them. Even so, I was afraid to break out, fearing the uncertainty of not having them anymore, and not knowing with what I might substitute them.
In February 2006, at a gathering in Carmel, I met David and received an autographed copy of the first edition of The Power of TED*.
As a result of studying and reflecting on its lessons, I began to dare to dream, to create outcomes that I cared about, and just to let life happen, all the while working hard to apply myself to whatever task lay before me—TED*’s “baby steps”—even as I held these outcomes firmly in mind.
It was hard at first. I feared failure. I got around this issue by painting them in broad-brush strokes, so to speak. I avoided making a detailed list with timelines. That was refreshing. When I stopped beating myself up for not working on goals framed by a twenty-something who was no longer “me”, my list of failures shrunk to zero. I celebrated what I had accomplished in life. I slept well at night. I became impervious to the efforts of others to apply standards that, while relevant to them, did not apply to me.
The only measures of “success” I care about now are the issues of whether I did my best at something or did the “right” things in the face of temptation or pressure to do otherwise.
I may or may not live long enough to accomplish the outcomes in the broad-brush portrait of my desired outcomes. And that’s OK. Now that I have shed the illusions—and delusions—associated with other people’s notions of “success”, I am at home and comfortable in my own skin. That is its own reward.
In concluding, I note that sitting on one of my bookshelves in the company of Kant, Hume, Jung, and Freud is another book I regard as a classic: an autographed copy of The Power of TED*.
R.J. – California
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