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Explorations and Reflections

on awakening the true self 

  • Writer's pictureMick Scott

The Puppet Strings of Achievement

A friend graduated from Stanford University in Computer Science. She was raised in a family and culture that highly valued academic and professional achievement, and she followed that path for years.

At her recent 20 year college reunion, she saw how successful so many of her peers had continued to be - high-paying jobs and all the great status symbols and common measures of success. She also saw the common drawbacks of an achievement-focused life: stress, depression, sadness, overworking, and hopelessness.

This is achievement without insight.

As my friend pointed out, even if their resumé is impeccable, the best of the best often don't actually feel good about life.

Whether it’s academic, financial, sexual, or otherwise, achievement without insight is living life guided by the invisible strings of a puppeteer.

That puppeteer is cultural, familial, religious, peer, and even self-imposed conditioning. When we’re unaware of the hidden, conditioned values behind our actions, we are likely living at the effect of achievement without insight.

I’m not suggesting that academic, financial, and other achievements are unworthy goals to strive for. I’m suggesting we be clear and intentional about our values and the goals we choose to measure achievement by. And our values and goals must support our well-being and the well-being of others - this is what we constantly crave anyway.

In other words, I’m suggesting that we live intentionally from values and goals chosen from the inside-out.

Though it may not feel like it, one positive outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the growing awareness of the well-being gap for educators - it's not enough for educators to be expected to get the job done; we must get the job done AND maintain our well-being.

The challenge we will eventually come to face as a society is that simply treating the symptoms of this well-being gap is insufficient: we need to begin guiding our children and adults to reliable access to well-being from the inside-out, and we need to start now.

That’s not possible as long as we’re living life guided by the puppet strings of invisible achievement values and goals. As long as we’re living life guided by these puppet strings, well-being and love for life may remain a distant hope.

What are a few goals that would support your sense of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being? I suggest that you prioritize these goals now.

Thank you so much for reading. ❤️

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Let's stop lying to ourselves, and let's get real about what our actions are really aimed toward.

Beautiful and Rare

This isn’t just a philosophical inquiry. It's practical.


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