What makes us do what we are doing, apart from maybe earning money by doing it? Why are people creative? Why do we plant gardens? Why do we learn languages, exercise, acquire skills? Why do we try to get to know about topics, to understand things?
I have been pondering a lot these past months where these ambitions come from and why others seem to be fine with what they have. Why there is a standstill with the latter and constant “movement” with the former. And mind, this is a piece of pondering, and you might have a totally different opinion. Which is fine. Mankind was never supposed to be uniform – we all have our individual, natural skill sets, minds, fingerprints. Which leads to individual footprints in the history of mankind.
Think pride. We know where we are standing. We have reached a point of contentment. Now, it is our decision whether this is our state of mind or whether we turn it into something that should even be surpassed.
We are proud of who we are. We don’t want change. We are fine. Such a state of mind might feel safe. But it is not. If pride is our state of mind, we make ourselves inflexible. And we are blinding ourselves against what happens outside our comfort zone. We are proud to be, not proud to do. We have become monuments to ourselves. Pride to be comes close to vanity. Pride goes before the fall.
What keeps us moving is ambition. And ambition is the daughter of humility. Because we know there is more to know, to achieve, to do. We know that we will never be perfect at anything, but we can strive to fill our minds with as much knowledge, our muscles with as much strength, our skills with as much precision as possible. We will always look to a point in the distance. And this might sound disturbing: The distance might decrease, but it will never be bridged.
This is probably why I was never proud to be of a specific nationality. It was none of my doing. It was no accomplishment but just a matter of coincidence. In my case, I have been blessed twice – I was born German and I’m a naturalized American. Okay, I worked on the latter. But if I let it rest there, I’d sit squat over here and twiddle my thumbs. Goal achieved. Great.
Instead, I keep thinking of the opportunities that have been thrust into my lap in being an American, in living in this country. I try to make the most of it in experiencing what’s around me. In learning new skills. In pursuing new activities. In trying to improve my English skills while not losing my knowledge of other foreign languages. I know I’ll never get to the point where I can say that what I’m doing or who I am is perfect.
Perfection means a standstill. And standstills are boring. Anybody who doesn’t want to be bored, will be moving – physically and mentally. Going in circles will not do. Humility has a directive – ambition. So, whatever we are doing can be done better – which might sound daunting. But if we want to change our world to a better place, we need to be ambitious in our will to achieve, not proud in who we are.
Joseph Boyle says
Your column is thought provoking. I agree with you. That is why I continue to be on the move exploring new adventures and attempting to accomplish new achievements.
Life is an adventure.
Joseph Boyle – Former Lakewood Resident 51 years.
Susanne Bacon says
Thank you so much, Joe! And life is a one-way ticket – one better pack it with the best we can do.