Ambitious people are often at war with their present selves.
Within ambition comes a constant feeling of not being in the right spot in life. You want to achieve goals and get things done. Achieving these goals will net future happiness. Sacrificing current happiness in order to achieve this future happiness becomes justifiable.
Attacking our current state is not a necessity to achieve future success, however.
The war of self-development — and no, this is not a dramatic way of phrasing it; it is a war — is a challenging one (like any other kind of war). In order to reach a higher level of ourselves, stepping on our current self becomes a natural course of action. We are not happy with our current place in life and would like to improve in certain areas.
Declaring war on today’s self will not necessarily help tomorrow’s self, however.
While being able to recognize areas of weakness is necessary for self-improvement, willingly putting our current selves through hell — emotional or physical — to become better in the future may not work out the way it is intended to.
Hating on our current self may become a habitual practice no matter how much success we have achieved.
In society, achievement always seems to be relative. We compare ourselves to our peers, whether it be people in our school, field of work, or just other people close to us in age. Our peers become competitors and we won’t stop seeking achievement until we surpass what they have accomplished.
Overachieving is Not a Necessity
Success doesn’t have to be defined by the number of things you’ve achieved
You should only be focusing on beating one competitor, though: your past self.
Your past self is someone that you can no longer hurt. Hating your past self can be healthy; hating your current self for what your past self has or hasn’t done is not healthy.
You can challenge your current self to beat your past self, but you should not drag your current self down to help your future self.
Success should be about building up rather than tearing down. Take what your past self fell short on and build upon that. Your future self will do the same to your current self, but you don’t need to worry about that now.
One way of maintaining a healthy frame of mind while seeking achievement is gratitude. Gratitude was a large theme in Tim Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors, a book of collective interviews of some of the world’s most successful people.
Appreciation goes a long way in the search for happiness and success. A successful person that is lacking gratitude will never be happy. If they are more focused on what they can have in the future rather than what they have now, they will always be stuck chasing rather than catching.
In order to be successful and happy at the same time, gratitude goes a long way. If you fail to achieve your goals, you can always fall back on what you have already done. You appreciate what you have and what you get in the future does not dictate how you feel about your current self.
It is understandable that someone could see gratefulness as a form of complacency. Appreciating what you currently have does not mean you are 100% OK with your situation, though. It just helps you realize that your life isn’t a complete mess and you have the ability to do good things.
Happiness is a topic that is constantly documented and discussed because there are so many factors that go into achieving it. A recent discussion I saw on happiness — which was the motivation for this story — was from the YouTube channel “Better Ideas.”
In this video, entitled “Why it’s so hard to be happy,” YouTuber Joey Schweitzer discusses this idea of sacrificing current happiness for future success.
There was an interesting anecdote in the video in which Schweitzer discusses how his mother overcame weeks of suffering from insomnia. Her cure was not medicinal; it was gratitude.
Before going to sleep, instead of agonizing on her prospects of sleeping that night, she noted her gratefulness in these three questions:
- What made me smile today?
- What am I grateful for?
- What did I do well today?
Schweitzer followed this story up with an important quote: “If you are never happy with what you have, you will never be happy with what you get.”
Instead of making our ambition a weapon against our current selves, we should look at what our ambition has earned us to this point in our lives and be thankful for it.
Constantly challenging ourselves to improve is objectively good, but what comes with it can be detrimental. To achieve the best version of our future selves, we should appreciate what we currently have. We’re doing better than we think.