Floating Downstream is Not an Accomplishment

“Tell me something you’ve accomplished.”

A friend said he always has trouble getting an answer to this question.  People think and think, and are unable to come up with an accomplishment.  He probes a little.  He asks if they graduated from high school.  Everyone says yes.  He asks why they didn’t mention that.  “I just didn’t really think of it I guess.”  They didn’t think of it because they didn’t accomplish it.

To accomplish something implies a goal, a series of willful actions, and a resulting effect.  It implies a conscious challenge or obstacle, and conscious effort to overcome it and reach the desired end.  High school is nothing like this for almost everyone who stumbles through.

Most people don’t really choose to go to high school.  It’s just sort of the default.  Most people don’t really fight hard to graduate.  It just sort of happens.  In fact, it requires more conscious effort to not go, or not graduate.  Schooling is, for the student, mostly a passive process.  It’s something that happens to them and around them.  They get poked and prodded and punished and rewarded as they’re corralled through the maze.  Many go through the whole experience half-asleep.  If you don’t actively resist, you get spit out with a diploma at the appointed time.

No wonder people don’t think of graduating high school when asked to share something they’ve accomplished.  The ability to alter your world and drive cause and effect is empowering.  It’s hard to forget when you’ve generated something desired.  Children don’t take any special pleasure in things that just happen to them; they delight in things they cause.  Randomly give a baby a toy and they might enjoy it, but there’s no comparison to the beaming pride on their face when they finally reach a hard-to get object after repeated attempts.

For many, the chances to really accomplish something are few until they are released from the pretend world of schooling and into the wider world.  No wonder many struggle with a low sense of self-worth, or high demand for externally provided direction.