“You have the right to work only, but not for the results of work. Do not let your motivation for action be influenced by reward, and do not become attached to inaction.
Perform work in this world Arjuna, as a man established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”
--The Bhagavad Gita, 2: 46-47 (translated)
We preach this idea often in our society. Quite famously in several cases. In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final sermon he spoke of not seeing the results of the work he and so many had done.
"I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"
Teddy Roosevelt famously advised, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
And Kipling in “If” told us
"If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same"
But in life we do the opposite. We seek out results. We demand that the businesses in which we own stock meet ever increasing profit projections. We scream at quarterbacks and point guards who don’t lead their teams to victory.
We demand that teachers show mounds of evidence of learning and that principals evaluate said teachers numerically and that all of the adults hold students accountable to show the results that prove they’ve learned.
We think we are taking steps in the right direction by telling children that failure is okay, but still we only tell them that in the context of working toward successful results. We tell them that one must fail to succeed, forever keeping part or even all of the mind on the result, rather than the action.
Is that bad really? Don’t we want to accomplish things? Build things? Grow things?
Don’t we want to be happy?
Because results are fleeting. A+ spelling tests stay on the fridge only so long, and I’ll bet people don’t often ask you day to day what your GPA was. Inventions are obsoleted. Empires crumble and new ones emerge. Results cannot bring us anything lasting. And often, in our results oriented society, the failure to achieve them, leaves us feeling depressed and lesser of a person than we actually are. Sometimes even succeeding in achieving them does.
Working on something we want to because it has meaning to us, can bring us happiness no matter the result. Children don’t get depressed when their towers fall down--they often knock them down for fun. Though falling off the jungle gym may hurt like no other pain before, a child doesn’t become morose about the failure to hang on or make it to top. And adult may run in order to increase stamina or distance or rate of speed, but a child runs simply to run. (or to get away from the giant angry dog.)
With Self-Organized Learning Environments, children are allowed to be children, rather than reapers of results. In a SOLE, children are acting in ways that are meaningful to them. The result does not matter because any perceived result, say joy and learning, is already inherent in the action.