The meeting seemed to drag on, only serving to heighten my sense of anticipation. Finally, the end was in sight. I had divided my attention between listening to others and going over in my head what I was going to say so I was ready for my big moment. It is customary to announce any achievements just before the meeting comes to a close and even though we had a substitute for the regular leader of the group, this was standard procedure. Any second now, she would look at her list of the information she had been handed by the person manning the reception desk and see my name as someone who had reached another milestone. Did she hand the leader the list? I must have missed it, but surely it had been placed on the shelves behind the flip chart. Any minute now, she’d pick it up and read the results.
Things began to wrap up and I inched forward in my chair. How had I done it? What helped me hit the mark? I had even surpassed the goal and I was prepared and willing to tell the group exactly how this occurred. My mindset, the steps I took to make it happen and how I was looking forward to achieving my next goal. Afterall, this was all about setting goals and building a dream. Hearing from others in the group talk about what they were doing to make those dreams reality was important to the process.
Yes, we had all these tools to help, but if we didn’t use them and use them in a way that worked for us as individuals they were nothing more than handouts and gadgets. The psychology that helped to create these tools and the method used to put them in place was important. Our feedback was a pivotal part of the implementation of the program. What didn’t work would be revamped or scrapped and replaced by something new and innovative. After all, achievement was the reason we gathered here every week.
We all wanted to reach the top of the mountain and for those who did, sharing with everyone else on the journey the small steps they made to get there was vital. If it was not for the success of others, the belief would arise that it simply could not be done and that alone would make each obstacle insurmountable. We’d send the sherpa home, break up base camp and tramp back over any ground we had disrupted on the ascent thus far, echoing the battle cry, “to hell with it”.
What’s this? People were putting on their coats, flinging their purses over their shoulders and heading for the door. No announcements had been made, no ‘achievers’ had been asked to share their stories and it was too late to do anything about it. I had worked long and hard for this and I wanted my moment in the spotlight. I wanted my chance to make a difference to someone who might be struggling and to assure them that they could make their dream a reality too.
I imagine the look on my face was the reason the sea of people parted in front of me as I made my way out of the building and did my best rendition of the Sherman stomp to my vehicle. I got in, slammed the door behind me and began to blast the CD in the player. Skillet’s “Monster” was appropriately cued up.
The secret side of me
I never let you see
I keep it caged
But I can’t control it
So stay away from me
The beast is ugly
I feel the rage
And I just can’t hold it
It’s scratching on the walls
In the closet, in the halls
It comes awake
And I can’t control it
Hiding under the bed
In my body, in my head
Why won’t somebody come and save me from this?
Make it end!
All the way home, I chastised myself for reacting this way. I had achieved something major to me, whether that fact had been recognized publicly or not. Was I doing this for me or for others so that they could marvel at what I was doing and making happen? Was my success any less important because it wasn’t recognized in a way that I felt it should have been?
Anytime we allow our expectations of others determine our level of happiness we need to be prepared for disappointment. How can other people be expected to meet and exceed our standards when, most often, we cannot meet and achieve those standards ourselves? Why empower others with the ability to effect our joy? Does joy come from within? After all, the image we hold in our minds of the expected reactions of others helped to shape our emotions, whether those emotions be joyful or sad…or in this case, painful.
If I could react emotionally to the image of what I expected, I could simply project a different image onto the high-definition monster screen in my head and change how I felt. In theory, I know this works because all the self-help motivational gurus I admire and follow say so. I was about to find out how this plays out in practice.
By the time I got home, reason had once again stood at the podium in my mind and was directing the music. This time, a different song. The rage in the cage was gone along with my desire to turn the meeting leader into something slimy and I just decided that the following week, when our regular facilitator was back, I’d tell her about my achievement and receive my reward then. Even if she just hands me my ‘gold star’ without the ceremony and the applause from my fellow sojourners, I’ll accept it with pride. It won’t affect my success. I know what I have done and how hard I fought to do it.
I am far from over and the finish line is just a speck on the horizon, but I have no doubt that I will cross it down the road. There will be setbacks and disapointments…I know now to expect them. I also know to limit those expectations to things I can effect and control.
So, with that, I lay down the sticks that hold the strings and will stop trying to make the puppets dance and cheer for me and simply jump for joy myself.