Can Contentment and Ambition Co-Exist?

In the modern world, we are more likely to encounter people who are always busy and on-the-go, than those without much to do and content. However, there is a paradox that exists in our society, because as much as we all want to be ambitious, “successful” and make money, we also WISH we could slow down. Well, can we? It is possible to be content and ambitious at the same time?

Let us first consider the root of our “busy,” problem. The root of this problem is our incessant search for fulfillment. We are running away from insecurities by keeping ourselves busy, motivated to get a promotion or make more money. But, what if we had found fulfillment without having to do all of this running around? Would we then be considered unambitious, unmotivated and lazy? To some, perhaps.

Contentment is the other end of the spectrum, where one might find themselves totally at peace with where they are and feeling like they have everything they could ever want in this moment without promotion, monetary bonus or achievement of a higher status.

Unfortunately, we will continue to battle this paradoxical wanting to have ambition yet be content, but we most definitely can find a common ground if we choose to. I believe the sweet spot between the two is detachment.

In being content with where you are and what you have in the moment, it already sets you up to solve for the challenge of ambition. With being content, ambition acts as a hobby or sport in our already fulfilling lives. When we think of it as a sport we can relate to the want for friendly competition, accomplishment and play but we do not take it so seriously. You know that winning in that game of pickup basketball with a friend will not add lasting fulfillment your life (hopefully for most of us), but it is a fun addition to the day.

Similarly, living life with contentment allows for us to find pleasures in the small things, remain humble in great accomplishments and most important, and always remain grateful for where we are whether our ambitions grows or diminishes.

To answer the initial question whether contentment and ambition can co-exist, I would argue, yes, but in order for this to be achieved, it is important for our mindset to remain in contentment and pursue our ambitions with a detached approach to its role in the fulfillment in our lives.

Today, take a moment from the “busy” day to appreciate all you have. And, isn’t it enough? It’s beautiful! 🙂

26 Years… What I Know for Sure- 10 THINGS

So, today marks my 26th birthday, and in honor of that occasion, I thought it would be fun to reflect on some of the lessons I have learned over my 26 years of life thus far. We all evolve so much throughout the years that it is strange thinking back to different beliefs, habits, attitudes you may have held in adolescence or even just a year ago, which might differ completely now.

With inspiration from Oprah Winfrey’s book, What I Know for Sure. Here are the top 10 things that I know for sure (thus far). Hope someone else is able to get something out of it. Enjoy!

1.       It’s not what happens to you in life, it is how you CHOOSE to react to it.

We have a lot more control over our experiences in life than we give ourselves credit for. It is easy to blame “bad luck” or pity ourselves over a certain circumstance we most likely cannot control. So, instead of succumbing to the series of unfortunate events, perhaps, CHOOSE to be positive, own your circumstances, and move forward!

2.       You are always exactly where you are supposed to be.

This is a big lesson I have especially learned over the past year or so. Being in a career I am not super passionate about can make one feel anxious and stuck. But, having adopted this new mentality about where I am vs. where I want to be. I know I am taking small actions towards where I see myself, and in that we much ACCEPT where we are right now because NOW is all we truly have. We must let go of angst and let life guide us patiently through our course.

3.      Want only what you already have.

Many of us live our lives wanting more, more money, more status, more power, more things, and lose sight of all we already have. Being grateful for what we already have and wanting only that and nothing more is extremely humbling. We being to recognize that we have much more than most, and that is enough.

4.       The power of gratitude

I have been journaling what I am grateful for every day for a couple of years now, and I will tell you that it truly does put things in perspective. Having a gratitude journal forces you to reflect on all we have and all of the blessings in our life every day. It can be the smallest little things such as just waking up, having a moment to yourself, having the sun come out today, etc. Many of these small things we can take for granted, and writing them down every day prevents us from overlooking them.

5.       Acceptance is Love

For years I always wondered why I did not feel comfortable around most people, whether it was family, friends or random social settings. I always felt like there was something wrong with me because I was not the type to “click” with many people or make instant friends. I am a self-proclaimed introvert and for years I tried to force myself into a position as an extrovert and fit it. As I grew up I started to understand why the only people I felt genuinely comfortable around was my immediate family, and it was because I trusted that they accepted me. Since I was not yet in a position of fully accepting myself, there was no way I could feel like someone else could be so accepting of me even if they were. On the flip side of this realization, I began to truly be accepting of others in my life, whether they had strange quirks or annoyances, I would still without judgment to my best ability because all they truly want is what I want, acceptance. Then, I began to understand this acceptance as love. It is the most powerful thing we yearn for in life, to be loved, but put even more simply, to be accepted.

6.       The story we tell ourselves RUNS our life, so monitor that story and change the plot if it does not serve you.

Understanding our truth is not an overnight processes. We must recognize the various beliefs and identities we have held throughout the years and assess whether they are moving us forward or holding us back. These beliefs and identities run our lives, so it is important to check in to see what is serving us and what is not. Perhaps you have always identified as being “someone who doesn’t take risks,” so you move through life without ever taking a risk because “that’s not who you are.” Can we maybe question this identity to see if this is good enough reason to never take risks in life? Perhaps we miss out on a good opportunity because we hold this identity so dearly, and holds us back from making a positive change.

7.       Develop the habit of reading even if you don’t love it. Stay curious!

Growing up I was never a big reader, and even today, I don’t love reading books more than 300 pages. But, developing reading into a daily practice is beneficial for the present and future you. Reading allows us to open our minds up into new information and even brings to life a new mindset. As we grow older, we must continue to expand and grow our minds through activities such as reading in order to prevent the deterioration of the brain. In a world where mindless television and internet scrolling in the norm (I am guilty of it to) we need to implement a practice to at least somewhat offset these mindless moment through mindful practices.

8.       Meditation works.

The meditation and mindfulness movement has been growing tremendously over the years, and its benefits have been proven effective for hundreds of years, yet there is some doubt my many (including myself at one time) of its benefits. Over the past year I have been more religious in the adoption of a meditation practice in my own life, and please take it from me, it makes a difference. Overtime, you begin to notice that your mind does not wonder, overthink, dwell or worry about things as it had prior to this practice. Meditation allows for us to train our minds to focus on the present moment and manage distractions during and after the practice.

9.      We experience life through the lens of the mindset we carry.

Perhaps this is similar to the story we tell ourselves, but here I think I am going more for a thought about attitude. If we maintain a positive attitude throughout our days, we had a great day! If we wonder through life thinking the world is against us and everyone is evil, our world will be unpleasant. We can see this sort of idea play out in a circumstance, at work, for example. We might be performing the same job, same task in the same company as another person and they hate their job while you might love it! It’s the same circumstance experienced two completely different ways. Luckily! We have control over our own mindset and can choose to have a good day or not based on that attitude alone.

10.   WE define success, not time, not others, not accolades.

For years I talked about being “successful” “one day,” not fully understanding what success even meant to me. I knew what success meant to other people, having money, cars and status, perhaps, so like many of us, I owned this as my own definition. But was it? How did I define success? What did I want? Is it possible I am already successful? Can’t be! Well, to my surprise, I came to find out that success to me is exactly where I am right now. I might not be in the profession I want to be in, being as financially well-off as I want to be, etc, but in this moment I am success because of the way I define success. I define success as being able to support myself, my friends and my family whether financially (enough) or emotionally. I define success as making progress on personal development, my goals and my skills. I define success as doing the very best I can ALWAYS. Reminding ourselves that everyone is always doing the best they can, may really evoke empathy for one another. Perhaps they do not define success in the same way, but according to your definition, they are successful all the same, whether they know it or not.

Long post and very raw but I hope even one person was able to relate and maybe gain a new perspective from this. What I Know for Sure?… There is more to come. Enjoy!

“What is This Here To Teach Me?”

In life we expect to encounter our share of failures, whether it is as trivial as not being selected for the softball team or having a business deal fall through. No matter the magnitude of failure, they all exist to teach us something as long as we are open enough to listen to the message. The most successful people in the world have all risen from failures of the past, and have adopted them as contributors to their story, not a tarnish.

It is easy to give up after failures, not wanting to face family at holiday parties and admit to the lack of tangible accomplishments. It is easier for us to give the whole thing up and just stop feeling the pressure of others expecting something from us, right? Well, that feeling of embarrassment exists to do just that, to have you give up in order to protect us. Our minds, which were once wired for protection from predator threat in the wild, are still wired for protection but protection from negative emotions. Now that we no longer have to fear the attack of a wild animal, our minds have evolved to protect us from mostly social fears. It is the protective mind that will tell you that you should stop if you don’t want to feel that embarrassment or rejection again. It will stop you if you let it.

Knowing that each failure exists to teach us something is the most powerful thing to get us through the debilitating fears the mind as produced, and have us continue our journey to be great (whatever that may look like for you). Next time you are faced with a failure, ask yourself,

“What is this here to teach me?”

In my own life, I have found that the lesson to cultivate the persistence to continue pursuit after failure, alone has been enough to continue my journey. There are times when I do get discouraged and think things would be easier if I just gave up and throw up the white flag to all of the people who have never understood what I have been moving towards.

Who you are meant to be evolves from where you are right now. So, learning to appreciate your lessons, mistakes and setbacks as stepping stones to the future are clear signs you are moving in the right direction.

~ Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure (2012)

Oftentimes these failures can feel like taking steps backwards, but the fact is that simply taking that action was progress enough because those who never took action could have never failed and learned, or won anyway.

Perhaps the answers are just you need to better equip you for the step in your journey. Keep going!

Finding Purpose in Life

Ask yourself, “What do I believe my purpose is in this life?” When reading this question it is easy for our minds to go straight to work, and list all of the achievements and accomplishments we strive to attain in life. But, after taking a step back from those answers, we may encounter some falsehood in answering this seemingly simple question.

Is PURPOSE in life really to move up the ladder, build wealth, or buy a beach house? These are some examples of what some of us might set goals to have one day, but can we say with confidence they are our purpose? Consider the fact that our goals may not have anything to do with our purpose in life, perhaps.

If our purpose is NOT to attain nice things, go to cool places or have a house on the beach, what is purpose?

Personally, I identified my purpose(s) in life by following my will for meaning (as expressed by Victor Frankl in his novel, Man’s Search for Meaning), or a feeling that I contribution to a certain area in my life. I found much of this purpose had to do with my relationships with people and nothing to do with work or accomplishments at all at the end of the day.

I believe our society may have purpose and goals mixed up to be synonymous. As a result, our professions can truly distract us from our spirituality and understanding our real path in life. In pre-historic times, our lives were surrounded around maintaining existence, our purpose in life being the need to provide food for our family and keep them alive. Now, we take our existence for granted, and since we have less concern about survival, we embark on a search for some greater purpose to our lives through work and checking off goals. But, are we searching too far? Are we trying too hard? Is our true purpose found in our everyday existence after all?

Perhaps our life purpose is simply relieving another of their suffering by being a friend, giving love to another in a time of need, giving purpose to another, or serving as a positive figure in the life of a growing adolescent. Such examples are not necessarily sought, for these are all opportunities to pursue a purposeful life exist in our everyday lives in our experiences with friends, family, and loved ones. We are given opportunity for purpose no matter what our status, occupation or wealth. Dig deep into understanding yourself, and know purpose can be find in the simplest existence. Then ask yourself, “What is my purpose?”

Creating Peace in a Chaotic World

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl speaks of his experience in the Holocaust as a Jewish prisoner. Instead of focusing on the hardships and details of the event, which many of us are aware of, he speaks of the inner experiences of the prisoners who he shared a story with. Frankl speaks of the prisoner’s ability to find peace and joy inside themselves despite the horror and inhumane conditions surrounding them. He describes each prisoners appreciation for the small joys such as a sunset, being delegated one laborious task over another, finding humor in the direst of situations, and, for Frankl especially, the simple thought of a loved one’s presence, which gave him enough reason to survive.

Today, I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have never, and hopefully will never, experience a comparable experience to Frankl’s but we can relate to this idea of being dealt a difficult hand, so to speak, and finding ways to manage our emotions in those times of hardship. Frankl presents a useful lesson on how to cultivate joy in a situation where joy may not be found externally. He speaks of finding this within our inner selves, as he did with the thought of his wife and her love during his time in the camps.

Frankl’s point throughout the book is to prove the power of finding meaning for our lives and how it can give us the physical strength to rise above seemingly helpless situations. By giving our lives meaning and focusing our minds on that purpose, we cultivate our own reality and will to continue on our journey, no matter the circumstance. Frankl does not fully credit his salvation to his own luck, but rather, to his mentality and his ability to create peace within himself throughout his time in the camps.

This story proves the power of the mind, and its ability to give us the strength in times we may feel hopeless or physically powerless, as Frankl was living off of watery soup and a rationed piece of bread every day in freezing, inhumane living conditions. So, in our own lives, we can carry Frankl’s lesson with us in times we feel without hope, envision the things that bring you joy and that give meaning to your life, and know that you are capable of rising above it all.

Be Careful Not to Inherit the Conditionings of Others

I have spoken much about conditioning in this blog so I will not go on and on about the importance of recognizing our own conditionings, but the main objective of this post is to understand the conditionings of OTHERS before allowing for their conditioning to impact our own. We must begin to understand where people are coming from when they provide us with their own opinions before accepting them as fact.

Why do we take advice from others who are not in where we want to be in life? Unless we wish to live a similar life as the one providing advice, we must question its relevance to ourselves and what we are looking to accomplish. It is similar in questioning whether we would take financial advice from someone who has filed for bankruptcy a number of times. We simply would not do so. There are people in our lives who serve as resources for a variety of challenges, but not for all.

Many people who provide us with advice are sourcing their words straight from their conditionings. Their beliefs may have been handed down to them by their parents, by community, by friends and neighbors, who more than likely ended up in the same place. Now, these same individuals are making the effort to influence you with these same conditionings. By understanding their conditioned fears and how they played out in their lives, we can be empowered to make the choice to own this condition or not.

For example, if my father has always had a fear of losing his job, belief that working at a big corporation was the best career and was an extremely religious person, what would you expect of my beliefs? Without the awareness of these beliefs being HIS conditionings and not my own (YET), I am likely to inherit his same fears, lack of aspiration, and narrow-mindedness towards other religious beliefs or ideas other than his, and now my, own.

We will inherit conditionings inevitably without our knowledge, for many of them had been engrained at a young age, but as we grow older and gain an awareness of the origin of these conditionings and who/where/what they are coming from, we can take the power back to reject or accept them as we see fit.

Appreciation > Expectation

I previously wrote a post about freeing ourselves of expectation, which did not encourage having “low” expectation, but to rather have none at all. In this post I want to take a deeper dive into the dangers of having expectations and how it can sabotage our friendships, romantic relationships and work relationships. The appropriate word for this challenge is indeed, “sabotage,” because we place this danger upon OURSELVES with expectations.

The main danger of expectation is its capability of overlooking appreciation as a result, in all scenarios in life. For example, perhaps your significant other took out the garbage without you asking but left the bottles in the bin in the kitchen. You expected him or her to take BOTH the garbage and bottles out without you asking, so what does this typically lead to? This leads to the overlooking of what your significant other DID do and focus on what he or she did not do. Now, is this fair to your partner who thought he or she was helping out? I’m not sure that it is. Rather, if we were free from all expectation in this scenario, we might be more likely to see what our partner had done and appreciate him or her for doing the task at all.

Another example might be the expectation of getting something in return for doing a friend a favor. Your friend asks you to drive them to the airport often, asked for help on a new move or asks for a money loan. As a result, you are keeping score of these favors you are doing for this friend and expecting them to repay you for all the things you have done for them, and when they don’t return the favor, resentment builds.

The true destroyer at the end of the day is this resentment that has resulted from expectation over appreciation. Perhaps you can relate to a time when you had a friend or significant other who did things to show their appreciation of you but also omitted from doing other things that you had expected of them to further show their appreciation. It just wasn’t enough in your book. How did this relationship work out? Most likely, after continuing the cycle of expecting and not getting, while overlooking things to appreciate, resentment built and most likely tarnished this relationship till it could no longer be repaired.

So, now I ask you whether it was, in fact, them, who was the problem in the relationship for not having obeyed your expected (and often unexpressed) request, or was it you, overlooking what they did do any rather focused on what they did not? I encourage us to work on freeing ourselves of expectation or at least communicate our expectations to another. Conversely, focus on the good and appreciate what this other person HAS given you. Is it worth losing over expectation?