Why is it so hard to achieve our goals?

by Nick on October 10, 2015

It seems that one of the most difficult things for humans to achieve, individually or collectively, is long term success with our projects, desired goals, and deeply held resolutions. On the geopolitical stage it seems also to be the case for strategic policy. For our personal and professional development the same holds true as well.


Often it’s lack of clarity, rigour, and determination. But deeper than that is an inability to see the necessary step by step development of a new born process from dependency through to autonomy. Such a journey needs both time and attentive sponsors who can hold and embody the transformational space in which autonomy can develop stage by stage from dependence through independence to inter-independence …

In early Christian days people didn’t pray as they do now with palms demurely pressed together in front of their faces. They prayed on their knees with their arms flung wide, palms up, the better to receive energy, spirit, and inspiration. So it was that one day the Irish monk, Saint Kefyn, chose to pray for one of his flock who had difficulty seeing things through to a satisfactory conclusion.

He had no idea what might emerge so he prayed for the gifts of insight, watchfulness and awareness. He prayed with deep attention and he stayed very still so that he could listen carefully without anything getting in the way. And when at last he stopped praying and listening, he noticed a bird sitting on his right hand.

Not wanting to disturb it he went back to his active contemplation. And when he had finished he found that the bird had made a nest. And not wanting to disturb the bird and its nest he went back to his inner work again.

When he opened his eyes, he saw that eggs had been laid in the nest. And feeling protective but not wanting to disturb them, he returned to his active inquiry. When he finally stopped praying and listening and observing he noticed that the eggs had hatched into seven little hungry nestlings. So in order to give them protection and allow them space to grow in their own good time he continued to deepen the quality of his watchfulness.

As he finished his inquiry the little birds were learning to fly and fend for themselves. It was only when the monk was absolutely sure that the growing birds were able to look after themselves, fly in the world unaided, and engage with the complex reality of the world’s competing yet interconnected agendas that he dropped his arms, stood up, and went home for his supper.

The story of St Kevyn is adapted from Nick Owen, The Salmon of Knowledge, Stories for Work, Life, The Dark Shadow, and OneSelf, Crownhouse Publishing

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

nick October 14, 2015 at 21:53

It’s been a long wait!


nick November 21, 2015 at 11:08

Just checking


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