How Oscar Wilde Shows Us the Truth about Goal Setting
Today, the world having for the most part outgrown its prejudices, Oscar has finally taken his place in history as the genius that he was.
What defined Wilde as both an icon and an author was his impeccable wit.
With a flick of the pen he could flip an entire paradigm upon its head, and cause us to think in a completely new way.
A favorite “Wildism” of mine (and a rule by which I try to live my life) is “everything in moderation – including moderation.”
How Wilde Exposed the Flaw in “Success” and “Self Development”
Oscar Wilde served a two year sentence for “gross indecency” after his homosexual encounters were exposed.
As he was incarcerated, he wrote an epic letter to his former lover and one time obsession, the young Lord Alfred Douglas.
He entitled the letter “De Profundis.” You can find the full text of the letter online. It’s a harrowing but enthralling read. Invest the energy and thought and it will help you understand and make the most out of the world much more than any self development fad ever will.
There’s one particular section of this magnificent letter I want to bring to your attention.
Oscar Wilde on The Artistic Life (from De Profundis)
“A man whose desire is to be something separate from himself, to be a member of Parliament, or a successful grocer, or a prominent solicitor, or a judge, or something equally tedious, invariably succeeds in being what he wants to be. That is his punishment. Those who want a mask have to wear it.
But with the dynamic forces of life, and those in whom those dynamic forces become incarnate, it is different. People whose desire is solely for self-realisation never know where they are going. They can’t know.”
Let me phrase this another way:
If you want to be something other than yourself, you may succeed, but that won’t bring happiness. The true path to fulfillment is to focus on self realization.
Let this simmer awhile in your mind, because it’s extremely profound.
Let’s Send Goals to Gaol.
The Western self development industry is goal obsessed. Its focus and drive is on helping you become something. People buy books on how to become a rich businessman or a famous this or successful that.
The trouble with external goals like these is that they don’t give you what you are actually looking for.
If you achieve your goals, you have only given yourself what Wilde calls “your punishment.”
Put all your efforts into becoming rich or successful in your career, and you may become so. However, that does not mean you’ll be happy.
These external labels are alluring and society shapes itself around us to make us wear our uniforms as ourselves, forgetting that self realization and true, fulfilling happiness is a separate quest entirely.
The Dynamic Life
Make a concerted effort from now on to focus not only on your external goals, but also on self realization.
This doesn’t mean you cannot set goals for external gain. Goal setting is extremely useful, but it’s just one step in the journey, not the final destination.
If you have the courage, start consciously asking yourself whether what you are searching for is really what you want, or whether it’s just “fools gold” that won’t help you actually feel fulfilled in the long term.
What Oscar Wilde realized was that if you spend all your time and energy trying to achieve a certain status or title, you may do so, but that’s all you’ll ever be. If however you focus on developing as a person, and fully actualizing the essence of who you are, you can never tell what you will become, but whatever it is, you’ll be sure to enjoy the journey.
There is no road map to self realization. I can’t point you the way. Hopefully this article serves to help you expand your thinking, and break out of the goal setting trap that seems to ensnare most of the world.
I’ll see you soon,
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