Ambition vs. Happiness
As of two years ago, I quit voluntarily reading fiction. I have, instead, consumed books about creativity, how the mind functions, people known for standing for unconventional things (i.e., Margaret Sanger), and my latest – “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.
Unlike my other library finds, I discovered “The Happiness Project” on a shelf in the school room. After reading “A Note To The Reader”, I decided to take it slow on this book. I have read a chapter a day (occasionally two), taking notes and scribbling down quotes. As of now, I am only half way through – but Rubin shared something with her audience I would like to share with you:
“March’s focus on work and happiness highlighted a tricky issue: the relationship between ambition and happiness. There’s a belief happiness and ambition are incompatible. Many ambitious people I’ve known seem eager to claim that they aren’t happy, almost as a way to emphasize their zeal, in echo of Andrew Carnegie’s observation ‘show me a contented man and I’ll show you a failure’” (pg. 88).
She continues to elaborate on studies observing “influential people in arts and public life”; the majority of which are prone to neuroticism (predisposition towards experiencing negative emotions). The state of mind gives them a yearning to achieve higher goals and as a typical result, success.
“I realized that for my own part, I was much more likely to take risks, reach out to others, and expose myself to rejection and failure when I felt happy. When I felt unhappy, I felt defensive, touchy, and self-conscious.” (pg. 88).
In this, I feel I can identify with Rubin, and it encourages my senior year resolution to be a fulfilled individual. I want to be happy. I want to be prosperous and achieving.
Instead of directly targeting happiness, I collected objectives I felt would result in happiness:
+ To be organized/”schedule it out” (Sept.)
+ To be a better part of my family (Oct.)
+ To live healthy (Nov.)
+ To manage electronic use (Dec.)
+ To be honest (Jan.)
+ To maintain healthy relationships (Feb.)
+ To be a better communicator (March)
+ To have my own time (April)
+ To recognize inspiration in everything (May)
+ To manage daily positivity (June) to be silent (July)
+ To be mindful (Aug.)
I record daily progress with a simple check or x-mark and I occasionally write myself a note (like getting to bed earlier or not waking up late for math). I have never maintained a calendar or effective to-do lists in my entire life, but my calendar app is now well-used and I set myself personal deadlines constantly.
There isn’t much to feel uptight about when everything is laid out neatly in front of me. There is no need to feel stressed when I have a generously allotted amount of time to accomplish things. Though most importantly, there is less tension between family members when I establish and confirm plans days prior to an event.
I am stepping far outside of what is familiar ground, and I enjoy the personal challenge.