Glossing over our personal victories can be quite easy. In some ways, it seems completely natural. The things we do with ease appear too simple to celebrate. The achievements we’ve made today are still a far cry from all we hope to do tomorrow.
I’m always focused on the future and wake up every morning with thoughts of what needs to be done going forward. No matter how determined I am to be successful at something, when I do attain that success, there’s something else just beyond my reach that is keeping me pushing on. It’s a positive personality trait that I hope my children can emulate.
It’s also a negative personality trait that I hope they don’t.
This unforgiving double-edged sword of determination works both for and against me. I feel a drive deep in my soul that makes me get up and fight on in the face of adversity and even possible contentment. Building a house today only makes you long for the community you want to create tomorrow. Everything is a steppingstone to a greater and often unspecified goal.
There is, however, no final task. For me, the checklist is endless. Even if I do eventually capture that white whale, as they say, I’ll find a bigger one to chase across the ocean. I realized that fact last year, when I was in the midst of my massive life-changing decisions. Someone asked me, “What do you want to do now?” My response was immediate – “Everything.”
So, essentially everything is on the agenda and nothing is a final victory. If it sounds like a lot of work, that’s because It is. However, I’m not unique. Many others share that approach. Anyone with my mindset can and has recognized the pros and cons that comes with a mentality like that.
The issue that I face is that this train of thought sometimes makes even wins feel like losses. No matter how great an achievement is, it’s nothing if you can’t help think of all that’s left to do. All your gains only add to that feeling of wanting. You never stop to smell the roses because you’re thinking of all the seeds left to plant.
For years, I never stopped to smell those roses and my kids didn’t live a life where they saw me rejoice with my garden. Published articles, books, and awards were all treated like another part of the day. We didn’t celebrate anything good. We rarely celebrated anything at all.
Perhaps it’s how my brain was hard-wired since childhood. For most of my life, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. The fear of tempting the hands of fate with a self-congratulatory dinner scared me to the bone. In my head, there was a higher-being watching down, noticing my indulgence, and planning a “down to Earth” hardship as punishment.
I’m trying not to do that anymore. I really am. It’s hard, but I’m trying.
Life is good. I can say that out loud now, but it took a while. Ultimately, I am proud of myself for everything I’ve done professionally and personally. I am proud of the life I built, the decisions I’ve made, and the love I share. Even with things still left to accomplish while I’m on this Earth, I can clap for the things I’ve done leading to them.
Not only is there nothing wrong with saying that, but there’s nothing wrong with simply noticing that. To step back, take full inventory of my life, and give a silent cheer for the work I’ve put in isn’t a sign of conceit. It’s a sign of pride and one that makes these small achievements, on the way to a non-specified final victory, worth it.
My daughter is learning that and I hope my son is too. I can sense her small confusion when I point out great things that are on my, her, or her brother’s horizon, and say that we will be going out to celebrate when those things happen. Good grades deserve a cake. Life skill checkmarks should get a special dinner. Professional accolades get applause.
We’re proud of each other. When these victories occur, we should show it. Families lift each other up and point out the wonderful work we’ve done to achieve them. When that happens, we help one another learn to celebrate ourselves. If my kids know I am proud of them, they can be proud of themselves. If they’re proud of me, I can do the same. I’m teaching that – to them and to myself.