Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Human Condition

"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."

This quote is often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, but I'm a little skeptical that he said it.  Regardless, there's an awful lot of truth in that humorous little sentence.

We could all do with taking a little more accountability for our actions.  I've met too many people who seem to think that the world is responsible for their problems, without instead looking inward and doing a little self-reflection.  No doubt I'm guilty, too.

Some people are born into dire circumstances, and some are blessed with an exalted station in life from birth onward.  But despite this inequality, we all face adversity at one point or another.  Realizing this, and failing to fall into the victim trap, is key to not only survival, but also personal growth and satisfaction, in my experience.  For if we are responsible for our own failures, we are also responsible for our own successes, and we can take pride in our perseverance.

Every choice we make sets in action a chain of events that extends eternally forward.  Nothing we do is without consequence.  It's like the old adage of the stone tossed into the water, and the ripples continually flowing toward the bank.  We may not be able to foresee the future, but the choices we make today impact it all the choose wisely.

I've met people who are appalled at my lifestyle, wondering how I can toil away day after day, rarely stopping to enjoy life's simpler pleasures.  They don't understand the concept of delayed gratification, and I've watched over the years as some of their lives have turned out drastically differently than they had hoped and planned.  And then, without fail, they raise their fists to the sky and blame the heavens for their misfortune.  Yet, if their younger selves had only been a little more willing to put their noses to the grindstone and work towards the goals they desired, their situations might have turned out much differently.

I'm certainly not suggesting that everyone pursue an ascetic lifestyle and forego all joy in the present day.  That is no way to live, either.  However, if people would pause to consider the ripples they are sending out, and where these may eventually land, they might achieve an even better life in the future--one for which they can be proud, because they earned it through their hard work.

We are our own worst adversaries, but we also have the potential to be our own best supporters.