This summer at my annual meditation intensive, I noticed a deeply ingrained pattern about achievement and expectation, held firmly in place since childhood. Witnessing others achieving and making progress on practice forms, I realized that I am not motivated by achievement, at all. For those familiar with the enneagram assessment typology, I scored only 1 answer within Type 3 (the Achiever). Typed as a 7 (the Enthusiast), I used to consider this amusing. For those familiar with Integral Theory and the Quadrants Lens, I orient from Upper Left, which means that I am motivated by meaning, in order to take action, see broad patterns, or relate with others. Finding meaning before anything else has always made the most sense to me. I mean, why bother with Life – in any way – unless there is a deeper meaning. Right?
Hmm, maybe, but what is here to explore? It sounds good and looks good; and there is more. Delving deeper we find truer meaning; here are a few “pith points” …
- Sitting in open space on my cushion and walking the dry woods, wondering about achievement, I realized that in order to achieve, an expectation of achievement is usually present, preceding the accomplishment. In other words, expectation to realize a goal comes before accomplishing the goal.
- Achievement, the inspiration to generate, is part of all human development. Depending upon our genetic make-up (nature) and the environment we are raised (nurture), our motivation and capacity to achieve comes to life.
- Finances are fueled with expectations: spending within earnings, retiring at a certain age, going to college or sending a child to college, investing within a healthy risk tolerance. Expectations about these objectives drive achievement.
- The body, my body, your body, brings us closest to the truth of expectation and achievement.
As the youngest of four children, each two years apart, my untrained parents had their hands, arms, legs and body filled to the brim with caring for us. As we grew up, the state of the home did not change much. The environment was active and my mother was always tending to dinner, a sick child, an activity, housework – movement of any kind. My father left for work early in the morning and returned in the evening just before dinner. The routine offered little time for anything more than noticing my existence. Reflection, conscious teachings, much less deeper nurturing, were beyond their abilities by the time I was born. My child’s mind interpreted my family’s expectations as the following: 1) Don’t mess up, i.e. don’t go to jail and embarrass us, 2) Don’t become a star or be wildly successful, i.e. don’t shame us by shining too bright, and 3) Just be average, i.e. graduate from high school and college.
If my life achievements are examined, they are sufficient. J Compared to western statistics on education, studies indicate that I am in the 28.8% of Baby Boomers who have earned a college degree. Other achievements that matter to me, relationships, career, health, service have their own metrics. Ultimately how I engage and experience life in my body – heart opened and generous – is my primary metric on achievement. So, I am not complaining about, nor minimizing my accomplishments. Far more interesting for us is exploring expectations of achievement, and what comes before expectations.
My parents did not instill expectations around adult accomplishments; for one reason, they did not see me as an individual but as a part of a group of children. One must be seen fully – individually – in order to have expectations impressed upon them. I’m guessing that most, if not all, of us were not fully seen by our caregivers. Expectations implanted by caregivers may have been inspiring (or not). Your achievements may have come from the environment in which you were raised, or not. But your accomplishments and actions come from some motivation that inspires you to be who you are and do what you do.
At the airport returning home from my retreat, with a renewed sense of the importance of seeing my children as individuals and the power of parental expectations, I called my freshly graduated son who is working full time at a job he loves. I shared my discoveries and stated, “If Dad and I have not impressed upon you that we see your gifts, and we expect you to nurture those gifts and share those gifts with the world, then it is your job to realize the world has these expectations.”
The world expects something from you. The world expects you to shine and share your gifts with others. Why bother having any talents if they are not shared? Gifts hoarded are not gifts. The world shares her gifts with you by teaching 1) recognition of unique abilities, 2) achievement of what is possible and 3) offering generously. The world asks nothing except that you recognize your gifts and share them. Otherwise your gifts become stale, atrophy and are lost forever. (See Be Moved and wisdom from Martha Graham!) Achievement, oriented toward recognition, development and sharing, fulfills the expectation the world asks of you. The beauty and magic of sharing is that when shared, the benefits return ten-fold. This means that our life fulfillment deepens and brightens.
If you are at a loss for how to share your gifts, begin with your motivation. What is, or are, your inner desires? What’s the practice that supports your understanding AND growth? Don’t go to your head. The answers will come from a memory, a “should”, or an idea planted from outside. Do go to your heart. These answers come from an authentic truth of your current motivation. Explore this month’s 5 Minute Try-It as a suggestion. Click this link to view podcast
If you are fully aware of how to share your gifts, keep them coming and expand your capacity for impact. Include impact in your motivation… and watch how your gifts grow. How’s that for achievement?