Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lesson 3: It’s not really about you


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of the that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
Scientists are generally happier than artists, since they’re commonly lost in objective tasks and not examining their own navels.
—Bertrand Russell
One of the great ironies of life is that the only way to be personally fulfilled is to place your focus outside of yourself.
Consider the sad cases of any number of celebrities and professional athletes. Paris Hilton. Britney Spears. Lindsay Lohan. Marilyn Monroe. Judy Garland. Michael Jackson. Michael Vick. O.J. Simpson.  The list goes on and on and on.
What does this unfortunate but diverse group have in common? From a very early age, they were taught that they were special. All parents try to instill this thought in their children, but in these cases there was no accompanying sense of humility, no understanding of their need to fit into and improve the world around them. These young people were so special that the normal rules of behavior and obligation did not apply. Their goal in life was to show the world how beautiful, talented, and special they were, not to make a contribution to society.
In short, it was all about them.
I don’t know about you, but I have always felt deeply sorry for these sad individuals. What a miserable existence it must be to spend one’s entire life in the vacuum of self. But they are smart people; they must instinctively have known that this was not right, even though their so-called friends assured them that it was. Too often, the ironic result of this conflict is secret, agonizing insecurity and a futile search for meaning.
What does this have to do with you? Children are naturally and unavoidably self-centered creatures, and adults, in an effort to instill self-esteem, often magnify this mindset through their words and actions. As you approached adulthood yourself, you most likely came to realize that the world does not actually revolve around you. In that respect, you’re already several steps ahead of the group we’ve been discussing.
But here’s the kicker: true happiness, real fulfillment, and successful personal relationships can only be achieved when you shift your focus from yourself to others. That’s not to say that you should ignore or deny the things that make you special—quite the opposite. Cherish and develop them. Use those gifts to make a positive impact on the world around you. That is the way to real self-esteem.

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