Sunday, April 21, 2013

The guilt of feeling satisfied

I previously mentioned that I wanted to spend some time thinking about who I want to be - my ideal self.  This isn't the first time I've considered this.  A few years ago I could've readily identified the areas in my life in need of improvement.  Even now there are things I try to be mindful of: to refrain from snapping at people (especially my husband) just because I'm tired or in a bad mood; to spend more time attending to and interacting with my stepdaughter when she's with us; to call two or three close friends on a regular basis (time passes quickly and it's easy to lose touch, even with people you care about); to spend time playing (or at least attempting to play) with my nieces when we're together; and to stop what I'm doing and give my full attention when someone is trying to have a conversation with me.  There are some other things I can't recall at the moment.

So I do make a conscious effort to cultivate particular ways of being.  There are also things I would like to do in theory (such as doing volunteer work in my spare time) but I know myself well enough to recognize I will never muster the motivation to do them.  I am not perfect; my life is not perfect.  For the most part, however, I am happy and content with myself and my life. 

It seems that this is both a blessing and a curse.  I have not always been content in life, so I appreciate what a blessing it is just to wake up most days feeling good.  I do not take this for granted.  On the other hand, I have absolutely no drive or ambition.  I had both of these when I was younger.  I was intensely focused on my educational and career goals.  I successfully achieved these, and within the timeframe I'd set for myself.  I finished my bachelors and masters degrees.  I bought a house in my early twenties.  (Unfortunately, I am now unable to get rid of this house because housing values have fallen so much since the recession).  I like my job; right now, it's exactly what I want to be doing.  I am naturally curious, so I'm constantly learning new techniques and ideas.  Still, I see little need to pursue additional training in any particular technique or strategy. 

I knew when I entered my profession that I'd never be rich.  Currently, I have a good idea of how much others of my profession living in the same geographical area earn and my salary is comprable.  I haven't had a raise in three years, but I suspect that this is due to the nation's economic problems and not specific to my employer.  Do I want to make more money?  Sure.  Do I want to find another job?  Not at all.  Even if I could make a little more money (probably no more than $10,000 a year more than I make now) somewhere else I don't really want to work anywhere else, at least not right now.
I do have one concrete goal right now: for my husband and I to buy a bigger house so we can expand our family.  Starting this month, I'm going to start paying extra towards the principal on my mortgage.  I've also been saving a few hundred dollars each month for the past several years.  (And I think I've saved every tax return I've gotten since I started working).  Hopefully these efforts will eventually help me achieve my goal.  I suppose I could get a second job to accumulate money at a faster rate, but it would make me unhappy.  (I know this from previous experience - I don't have enough free time when I have a second job and it makes me unhappy). 

In summary, I have no interest in pursuing additional education (at least not formally; on an informal basis, I will never stop learning new things).  There are no "promotions" at my current job; my colleagues and I each practice as independent clinicians.  Our supervisor is a military public health officer.  Unless I plan on joining the military (I don't), there is no room for advancement.  Going by past experience, I will probably get a modest raise at some point in the next several years.  I'm okay with this.  I am not actively looking for a better paying job.  The only concrete goal I am working towards (excluding my general aim to be a good person and to spend as much time as possible with the people I love) is buying a bigger house.  For these reasons, I have been told that I lack ambition.

Ambition is "the earnest drive for achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment."  If this is an accurate definition then I cannot deny it: I have very little ambition.  I possess no drive, earnest or otherwise, to achieve any particular goal.  It is obviously not possible to strive for the attainment of goals that do not exist. 

At this point in my life I am the happiest I have ever been.  Beneath my contentment, however, lies a kernel of guilt.  Lately I wonder if I should be doing more.  Am I selling myself short?  Am I using my talents to the best of my ability?  Do I lack ambition because I am content with life?  Or is it because I've grown lazy? 


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  2. Is it more about the money, than contentment about life...perhaps influenced by others and advertising to compare with....examine closely the root motivation for dissatisfaction. Lazy is not the problem, when you know you could earn more with a longer commute, or in a worse environment. Deep down you know this. We, in America, are never content with ...what is.
    (Totally opinion)


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