Sunday, August 16, 2009

On Happiness...and being competitive

I have always been a competitive person, even if the only competition I allow myself to experience is with myself. I strive to do everything not to WIN, but to the BEST of my ability, anything short of 100% is not acceptable. I am very unhappy when I have not put in that effort, and yet I wonder am I happy when I do strive for the top? I have to say, that I think that this drive is part of my nature, my personality, my being, its who I am, and it has nothing to do with happiness. As I read this article "Are You Happy Now?" (Winter, Utne Reader, Oct 2009) I am trying to analyze my own thoughts about happiness or pleasurable, positive emotions.
I think about how, as a teacher, I am often forced to make the best of a great deal of situations. Getting young adults to see the big picture is a required task, and as a professional, whether teaching or coaching, I try to instill a positive motivating outlook on those I interact with. I ask myself, as I read this article however, do I apply this to my own life? I can be by far one of the most intensely critical people on the planet, especially of myself. This morning I found myself in a state of self- pity, frustrated about my battle with a number on the scale, despite everyone around me telling me that I look like have lost weight. I wallowed for about 5 or 10 minutes in private, only to be discovered by Kenny, who reminded me that I was happy to be doing all the hard work I was doing. I found myself lifting my own attitude by chalking things up to being exhausted. Being positive in the face of adversity, maybe this is becoming second nature, or maybe its all part of being a dreamer?
My parents always encouraged us to dream big, you can achieve anything that you can imagine, as long as you are willing to put in the work behind it. I have always seen myself as truly open-minded. I tend to look at life from every angle and see GRANDE possibilities. As I read though I realize that I can also be too intense for my own good as well. Managing emotions boils down to balance. Seeing the big picture often produces and sustains positive emotions for a greater period of time. Narrowing the focus produces more destructively critical emotions (negative). The key is to teach oneself to widen the scope when the blues invade. According to this article, the balance of positive:negative should be 3:1, but ideally 5:1, 6:1, or even as high as 11:1 is best. Feeling content in life is based upon this ratio as well as your outlook on your worthiness to society, are you learning, growing, and contributing? If this is the measure of true happiness, then I can say unequivocally, that yes I am happy. I am recharged by every challenge I take on, every lesson I learn, every contribution I make. I am enlightened by being part of the GLOBAL community. That drive is essential to who I am, and possibly something I learned early in my life as a survival skill growing up as the child of an alcoholic.
Increasing positive outlooks happens not only when you acknowledge others but when you help grow the community (think holistically here) and acknowledge your own kindness. The key is self- efficacy. With this said I find myself returning to the necessity of the big picture and why I keep returning to talking about my plans and the process behind achieving those goals.
I reflect back to a few summers ago when I took a graduate course on building self esteem and positive outcomes in students. The text was a book called Positive Coaching (Thompson, 1995). What I learned was the self advocacy goes a very long way in creating a positive outcome. Not to be selfish or anything, but there is some truth to taking care of oneself first. Creating ownership of emotions is a key to successful outcome. I am told by many that this is the foundation of achieving those pipe dreams and the processes that go along with it. This is the foundation to being successfully competitive.
Where am I going with this? I am not sure, I guess I am really trying to convince my friends that tell me I am an inspiration that training and riding across the country for a charitable cause is not inspiring stuff. This journey is as simple in believing you can do it and acting upon it, without worrying about the overall outcome (flying by the seat of your pants and worrying about the details later). What is important is that I tried, it made me feel good about myself, which in turn made me a happier person. The hope is that this happiness will be contagious and I will be inspiring others to go out and do the same. Think globally, even in terms of your own being. Its healthy!


Alison said...

Very well written and expressed. You truly are on a journey back to yourself:) Remember, happiness, joy and peace are not just gifts to inspire in others or goals to work towards or even the destination. They are God's gifts to us for the journey.
If the drive and determination itself for accomplishing our objectives or goals doesn't bring us joy, happiness and peace on the journey, then is the destination truly worth it?

Michael Looby said...

You put me in mind of that old Teddy Roosevelt line that keeps popping up on fridge magnets, but which to my mind is pretty useful when you try to evaluate the quality of my own effort. "To what you can, with what you have, where you are." Maximum effort exists in time and space, in finding harmony with the surroundings of the moment. I think. Or I try to believe, as an alternative to beating myself up too much.