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Could This Rule of Life Impact Your Midlife Journey?

July '17

At midlife I came across a rule of life that jolted me initially and ultimately proved to be a valuable insight moving forward. It all started a number of summers ago when I spent six weeks in the mountains of Colorado attending a training program for certification as an NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) practitioner.

While it took me a few days to adapt to living at an elevation of over 9000’ feet, the fresh air and daily sunshine of the Rockies provided a magnificent setting for learning. After a few days I was able to walk up the five steps to reach the classroom without panting and get down to studying. I’ve participated in many training programs, but hindsight reveals this was the most fascinating and impactful one I ever attended.

One of the payoffs was my introduction to a variety of folks who write about NLP. As I began to follow them over the years, I found one of my favorites was Tom Hoobyar, who sadly is no longer with us.

He almost always surprised me — like the morning I read one of his laws of life, “Obligations Are a Fraud”. Really? I wasn’t sure about this claim. Then he went on to say, “We’ve all been taught that we ‘owe’ other people all sorts of obligations, and that we should expect lots of things from them in return. That idea, in one word, is ‘bullshit.’”

He continued to make me sit up straighter with, “We waste an incredible amount of time either doing things we don’t want and don’t have to do, or feeling guilty because we didn’t do something we ‘should’ have done. We also waste a lot of time and emotion being disappointed when we don’t get what we expect from others. This is all part of the ‘guilt’ thing. It’s good for us to give to others, but ONLY when and how we choose.”

My eyes opened even wider when I read, “ Your life belongs to you and you alone — and not anyone else. Want a formula for unhappiness? Make your welfare dependent upon someone else’s choices. Do you need “support” from those you love? Or approval from a parent or friend? Or permission from anybody to pursue your own path? Don’t look to anyone else for your success or happiness. That’s your job and yours alone. You must tend to your own welfare. No one else will, nor should they.”

These words of wisdom struck home and began to inform my midlife pilgrimage of determining what to do next, as I became more and more discontent with my job and my life. When I examined different options, it was useful to consider whether they were truly paths of my own choice and furthermore to understand that looking to others for support was unwise — not that I didn’t appreciate it when it arrived!

How about you? Do you agree with Tom Hoobyar’s rule of life that “Obligations Are a Fraud?” If not, love to hear from you. If so, I’m eager to learn how it has helped you in the past, or might help you in the future.










  1. debbie barchi said on August 1, 2017:

    I think this message about obligations being a fraud is correct and an eye opener, but it is important not to throw out all obligations. We are all interconnected and interdependent, and this is especially so with our family members, and it seems to be even more so for women. I think it’s hard to feel that life is complete unless we reach out to offer others our skill, our time, our love. But it certainly is easy to over-extend or to over- commit, and when that happens willingness to help turns into resentment.

    For example, if you have an elderly parent who really needs your help, I think it is OK to help, but not to feel you are the only person who can help. If we do too much we feel put upon and resentful, but it helps if we stop and remind ourselves “This is my mother (or father) and I really do WANT to help them, rather than “Well, this is a bummer, but I guess someone has to do it and it looks like, as usual, it’s going to be me.”

    I think the very hardest state to achieve in our lives is balance: balancing time demands; balancing our needs with the needs of others; balancing the spiritual with the quotidian. Without balance we slip and fall-a lot! But like all good tightrope walkers, we need to pick ourselves up and try again!

  2. Roberta Taylor said on August 3, 2017:

    This is a revelation to me. I am a person who takes my chosen obligations seriously. Perhaps the operative word here is “chosen”.
    But I can see that people feel obligated to take care of their parents and their children (especially if they are young children). Frankly,
    I can’t see that an obligation to a parent who has been a good parent as fraudulent or “bullshit”.

  3. Bonnie said on August 5, 2017:

    Hi Debbie!
    What a wonderfully thoughtful and heartfelt comment! I especially appreciated your notion of pausing to become aware that we may WANT to help an ailing parent, for example, so what may initially appear to be an obligation is a choice on our part. And further to understand we are not the only ones who can help. I confess it took me five years to wake up to the possibility that my brothers might help oversee my mother’s health. Once I asked, we set up what we call our “pit crew” for my mother’s well being where we pass the baton every three months — works like a dream!
    Thank you for sharing this wisdom,

  4. Bonnie said on August 5, 2017:

    I had that same reaction too, Roberta, which is why I was surprised initially upon reading it. But then I realized, as you suggest with your word, “chosen’, that I really did choose to take care of my kids, although, in all honesty, I cannot imagine doing otherwise. Perhaps “fraud” is a bit strong when describing what simply feels right. That said, I very much like the way Tom Hoobyar wakes us up to consider that we’re making a choice instead of automatically following an idea of what we “should” do.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts,

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