Ambition, as we have seen this week, can be a mixed blessing. Edison said poignantly, “If I had not had so much ambition and not tried so many things, I probably would have been happier, but less useful.”
Is that the tradeoff: Give up happiness for being useful? Do you think Edison’s ambition was for being useful or for fame, fortune, accomplishment itself, or for the challenge of inventing things to solve problems?
Is your ambition useful or counter-productive? Has ambition ever gotten in the way of your happiness? Again, don’t limit your thinking about ambition to power, money or the like.
As with all things, ask yourself the question: “How does this quality (of ambition) both serve and mis-serve me? The winning approach is balancing out those answers to something that works well for you.
Beating ourselves up is not limited, of course, to individuals. We as a country seem to be engaged in a serious and prolonged syndrome of beating up ourselves and each other.
How much do you feel any sense in the U.S. that we are beating ourselves up over any key issues such as wars, damage to environment, poverty, health care, the political process, consumerism?
John Adams said, “Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war,” and one could extrapolate that many people subscribe to, “Great is the guilt of causing harm to others and to the world.”
Yet, can we fashion a more productive response to difficulty than guilt and beating ourselves up? It feels as though beating ourselves up can become a substitute for meaningful action.
Where do you stand on the question of beating ourselves up and feeling guilty? It’s easy for us to say that we don’t believe in it, but what do our actions indicate? What would it look like and feel like to pour all the energy that has gone into beating ourselves up into moving forward?
Have a great weekend! (and don’t beat yourself up, please!!)
We humans have often beaten ourselves up based on comparisons that we make of ourselves with others. Comparison, skillfully used, can be highly beneficial. Yet, if unskillfully used, comparison causes enormous self-inflicted pain.
Woody Allen said, “My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.”
Have you ever thought that someone else was inherently better than you? More “deserving” of love and happiness? Can you see that beating yourself up, because you had established a set of rules that judged you harshly as compared to someone else, has been needless suffering?
How about cutting yourself a break and giving up beating yourself up once and for all? You can declare it a behavior that no longer works for you. As situations arise that could degenerate into beating yourself up, you can choose differently. What do you have to lose?
There was a very bright woman in my high school French class in senior year who, each time we had a test, would announce dramatically that she was going to fail. Inevitably, she would get an “A,” and usually the best grade in the class. She taught me about what I call “pre-emptive strikes” – attacking ourselves before someone else can.
Most of us have beaten ourselves up pre-emptively. Consider behaviors like apologizing in advance, being “sorry” for delivering bad news that we had no part in creating, or calling ourselves names or using self-deprecating language about our abilities and accomplishments.
What would happen if you cultivated a life where attacking of all kinds was unnecessary? Can you imagine a life without the hierarchy of someone’s being “right” which required someone else to be “wrong”? Often, we’ve beaten ourselves up to avoid what we have feared would be even worse treatment at the hands of another.
The more you lose the perception that you have to be beaten up for some imagined purpose – for example, to “fit in,” to “please,” to “appease” – the happier your life will be. Punishment is unnecessary for emotional issues. Experiment with leading your life with expanding compassion and self-love.
What is your level of commitment to ending the old habits of beating yourself up, especially with “pre-emptive strikes”?
Who among us has not made some huge mistake – or at least a mistake that felt huge at the time? Perhaps a careless comment, a unfortunate traffic matter, or misplacing something so that we cost ourselves or someone else some money.
Often, our response has been to beat ourselves up – and to continue doing so until we feel that we have punished ourselves enough.
Has beating yourself up ever been a habit for you? If so, how much does it continue to this day? What kind of value system do you think self-punishment is based upon; and why have we felt that it was useful or necessary?
What is the difference between feeling genuine remorse and beating oneself up? How much punishment, if any, needs to accompany remorse and sincere regret for having made a mistake? What kinds of responses are kinder and more useful than beating yourself up?