Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Escaping the Fake Success of Trying to be Better Than Everyone Else

"Happiness depends upon ourselves." ~Aristotle

For as long as I can remember I have concentrated on being successful in all elements of my life. Every commitment I would make I would over exceed the goal because I thought for a long time that was the ingredient for being successful and happy. I remember times from early adolescence where I would exert every element of energy I had to be the “best in class.” Unlike school and athletics nowadays, when I was in school, not everyone got an award… only those deserving (and a few undeserving) received awards and it was my personal mission to receive every award and acknowledgement I could because I knew that was what would please my parents the most.

Recently, I came across a binder with all of the certificates I received through the years, I was not an athlete, and these were all academic achievements. It made me smile to think my mom saved so much of the stuff from when I was younger. What I choose to remember was that the driving force pushing me to excel was my parents. But now I have come to the realization that I was the one who wanted all the awards and recognition, for all of the wrong reasons… Everything I ever did, as much as I kid myself, was all driven by a different force other than to please my parents.

It was all about me.

I was an awkward adolescent with glasses, very tall and larger than most of my classmates, I did not have many friends because I had trouble connecting with others my age, I was uncomfortable with my own self image and had very low self esteem. All of those elements pushed me to prove I was better than everyone else, of course, I could credit my achievements to my parents but the real driving factor was me proving all of those who judged me, had judged me wrong. I was someone they should’ve wanted to be friends with, I was smart and motivated and those were the characteristics I continued to sell into college.

During college, I assisted in the foundation of two honor societies and an academic debate team… none of this was for others, it was again just me, compensating for not being in some sorority where I needed to rush to prove I was worthy of some college girls’ attention.

"Happiness is not a matter of events; it depends upon the tides of the mind." ~Alice Meynell

In fact, most of my life endeavors and accomplishments have been because I overachieved my own goals because I felt like the more awards, recognitions and accomplishments… the happier I would be. This was completely wrong. The happiness I would get out of these awards was just as disposable as the paper they were printed on.

So where does that leave me now?

Well I am still the same over achiever for the same wrong reasons. But, one of my most favorite quotes: “The only thing that is certain is change itself.”

I am changing and I am trying to change my perception of my life, become happier for the right reasons… avoid comparing myself to others and just compare myself to me. I’ve started to identify the things that are real to me.

The realist accomplishments in my life have been my ability to overcome the obstacles placed in my path. Now I find myself in 2012 in a conundrum, what is better “Being all I can be” or “Just being me” or is there a grey area?

I’m just not certain anymore.

Now that I’ve realized that I’m just an ordinary as everyone else I’ve lost a lot of hope in things. But why? Everyone else has hopes and dreams, shouldn’t I? It seems like just when I think things are turning around… they continue the extra 180 degrees and stay the same.

"Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want." ~Margaret Young

Inevitably change will occur and I hope that with it comes new light on perspectives I may not understand but will lead me to true happiness.

"The secret of health for both the mind and the body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, nor to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly." ~Buddha

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Patience and Persistence: Two P’s in a Pod

"A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else." ~George Savile

I will be the first to tell you that my husband has the patience in our family (as him and I are ying and yang). Since I began my Buddhist practice, I have changed my perspective on a lot of things and I am currently working on being more patient. As I have grown older, I have come to realize that patience is really important because otherwise you drive yourself crazy waiting and wanting something big to happen.

Lately, I have found myself becoming less concerned with the ‘where will I be in 5 years’ and more concerned with ‘living happy right here, right now.’ Oddly since I began practicing that perspective things have changed significantly all on their own. But for every ounce I lack in patience, I make up for in persistence. I have spent a lot of my time being persistent about everything. Making sure I am doing my best at all my jobs, being a nicer person, being a healthier person, looking for positive opportunities and all of those actions have resulted in positive events in my life.

I was recently promoted to a specialist position with the Division of Continuing Education, which was a major milestone to me since I lost my previous specialist position to a more tenured colleague. The reason I was chosen… because the college requested me – in fact both the College of Education and Division of Continuing Education requested me. Not too shabby to actually have my efforts and work noticed. I have been overachieving in every way possible when it comes to my work lately because I truly want to be the best at what I do - with the hope that my patience will earn me the perfect job (which will hopefully involve telecommuting).

"As for goals, I don't set myself those anymore [...] I take things as they come and find that patience and persistence tend to win out in the end." ~Paul Kane

Since I have been working on my patience, random positive things have happened to me. Yesterday the healthy café in my building opened and I wanted to go down and try their soup, it was around 9:30am and the woman apologized and said they wouldn’t have soup until tomorrow then proceeded to give me a free lunch card. When I returned to the café in the afternoon, they had soup and I enjoyed a free lunch because I had been patient enough to wait.

This morning I made the same attempt to start my morning off with soup, the girl at the counter said the soup was ready and as I was waiting patiently, the chef came out again and apologized that the daily tomato basil soup wasn’t ready but I could try the tortilla chili soup instead and proceeded to give me another free lunch card. This is just a small sampling of how my persistence and patience have paid off!

"Energy and persistence conquer all things." ~Benjamin Franklin

Even though I may not have the perfect job (yet) or the perfect life situation, I do have everything that matters – so there’s no need to really worry because I know with my Buddhist practice, my persistence and my newfound patience things can only go up from here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Looking for Happiness in 2012

I spent a lot of 2011 looking for happiness in my life. I did a lot of things to try to find it. I read sections of many Buddhist books. I took a step back and tried to change my perspective on many things. First, my job, for example, there has been an extremely low working morale. I believe this didn’t happen over night, in fact many changes came about and more than fifty employees in my department transferred, quit for better opportunities, moved to other cities where other jobs were waiting for them. I sent out over 100 curriculum vitas to try to find a better opportunity myself.

I have tried to overlook the lack of not finding a single full-time job and only scoring less than half a dozen interviews as a sign that there must be some reason - I am not supposed to leave this job. This was one of the most discouraging things to find out. I have found numerous part-time faculty positions, which have brought a lot of light to my situation but at the same time feels more like a tease of what I really want in life.

Despite my lack of success in finding another job, I tried to find positive in what I do daily. I recently helped senior management on a small team, develop core values for our department and I am hoping to help initiate more change but corporate America moves slower than a turtle and my patience is dwindling.

So with my heightened work load and higher income – I have felt a lot more like we should be living a higher quality life but this more expensive lifestyle has not brought me any happiness. Instead, I have found myself more disappointed because I keep comparing my own life to others who have it better than me. What a waste, I know this is completely against how I should be behaving but yet, it’s this hurdle I can’t seem to pass.

“If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey

My relationship with my husband has taken a turn for the better, which is something I have been very happy about – yet I still feel like I’m the flat tire in the relationship… slowing everything down. If I could somehow not let life’s negativities distract me from what really matters I think my perspective of life would be more positive. Overall, what I did manage to learn in 2011 is that while looking for happiness, the things that made me the happiest … weren’t past my own front door.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. ~Frederick Keonig

My resolutions for this year are to focus on becoming more positive through recognizing the gifts that I already have and appreciating them while I still have them.