OPINION – Ever notice how some of the unhappiest people in life are those who see everyone else as a potential opponent?
Whether it’s in the workplace, in traffic, or even among family, some folks are determined to treat life as if it were some kind of winner-takes-all game.
When a co-worker does something commendable, an opponent-driven person doesn’t offer congratulations. Instead they try to determine how the other person’s success will either hurt or help their own advancement. When another motorist needs to change lanes, it’s time to shut them down hard, lest they win the contest of getting ahead. When a tragedy befalls someone, the opponent-driven are there to remind us that only stupid people suffer misfortune.
All of the various challenges that make life what it is are viewed through a competitive filter with the presumption that there can only be one winner. If everyone else is nothing more than an opponent, then his or her success can only take place at our expense. Therefore, it is necessary to tear down, malign, and marginalize the happiness of others. We must win at all costs.
But that’s not what life’s challenges are about. We’re not pitted against one another when it comes to finding purpose, happiness, or success in life. If anything, the greatest opponent we’ll ever face is found in ourselves. It turns out that the person in the mirror can be a formidable foe to conquer.
It really doesn’t matter how many other people we think we’ve vanquished when we’re the ones standing in the way of our own happiness.
Too many of us squander the most valuable commodity to which we have access—our time. We spend long hours working at jobs that we don’t really like, to purchase things we may not really need, in order to impress people that we don’t even know. We allow ourselves to prize the security of our pride by not trying to live up to our true potential. Fear of failure keeps us from even trying to address our challenges.
Upon sensing that their lives are lacking something, or when feeling trapped by their circumstances, most people cannot accept the idea that they might be standing in their own way. Instead they blame the economy, the government, their bad luck, or any other scapegoat that allows them to avoid taking responsibility. But none of this addresses the real problem of how they limit themselves.
In truth, each of us comes into this world fully equipped to do great things. We bring with us our own unique gifts and limitations. If we focus on our gifts, including our highest passions and those efforts that bring us the greatest joy, our lives tend to become powerful and productive. If we choose to focus on our limitations, we will speak and act as victims of a particularly cruel fate.
Taking down our greatest opponent starts with the realization that purpose is the single greatest motivator of a well-lived life. Socrates, in defending himself against the charge of corrupting the youth of Athens, is quoted as saying that, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The kind of self-examination he is advocating goes far beyond mere philosophical navel-gazing.
Few people are willing to commit to the kind of long-term effort that real personal excellence requires. As long as we’re relatively comfortable in our current situation, we prefer to suffer in mediocrity instead of risking the rigor of trying something new. It’s only when life gives us a healthy shove out of our comfort zone, that we might even consider trying something unfamiliar.
A person that believes that there is real purpose to his or her life will apply their time and efforts much differently than the individual who is resigned to simply being carried by the current. That person’s life will be filled with service rather than self-aggrandizing conquest. But how does one become such a person?
An excellent book that vividly describes this process of conquering personal limitations and discovering one’s unique purpose is “The Conscious Creator” by Kris Krohn with Stephen Palmer. It’s a brilliant parable that clearly teaches how we must be willing to find our personal purpose, consciously align our lives to that purpose, and then persevere in our efforts to bring it about.
Overcoming our biggest opponent forever changes how we see ourselves. It also changes how we see others.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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