Are We Ambitious or Greedy?

"You know what is a funny thing about expectations?", my husband asked me last night, "how quickly they don't matter anymore." I looked at him, confused, so he continued: "Look at Kai. He is going to be so excited when he finally pees in the potty. And then few days later, it's going to be expected of him. It's going to be just something he does." He was right. It is especially noticeable in the life of a toddler. They reach new milestones almost every day. There is thrill and cheering and picture taking, and few days later, it's just another old trick. There is the excitement over the first step - and then it's just walking. There is the excitement over first words and sentences - and then it's just talking. Walking and talking, not a big deal.

Interestingly enough, I was having similar thoughts earlier that day. I was thinking about how we strive to get better at what we do, but rarely achieve the feeling of accomplishment for longer than just a fleeting moment. I started running about six months ago. When I started, I could barely finish a 5k. I was spitting my lungs out and my legs hurt for days after. Eventually, I trained myself to run a half marathon. It was wonderful. It was one of my proudest moments - I accomplished something I never thought possible. In order to continue my running (I am a very lazy person), I signed up for another one. But something changed. 5k doesn't count anymore. Five-mile run is a short distance now and if I feel tired, or if my speed suddenly drops, I am frustrated and disheartened. The same distance and the same speed that only a few months ago made me proud now bring me down.

It's the same with writing. I started a blog, then another. At first I was in disbelief that as many as 20 different people from 5 different countries would read it. I was amazed. I was doing a happy dance in the shower (no kidding). When one of my blog posts was featured at, I could suddenly see the numbers of my readers jump up in hundreds each day. It was unbelievable. I got to 3000 hits before it slowed down. Now, I realize that 3000 hits does not mean viral. But it was the biggest accomplishment I have ever achieved with my writing. I have never reached such a large audience before. When featured another one of my posts last week, suddenly those hundreds didn't add up fast enough. Because I wanted more. Now I want viral. The numbers that made me fall asleep with a smile on my face before make me frown now, and I keep refreshing the web page every five minutes hoping to see a bigger jump.

Is this because we strive to get better? Or is this because we are greedy and can't get enough? How thin is the line in between? Can we ever just be happy about our success and not spoil it by hoping for more? On the other hand, shouldn't we keep feeling challenged, so that we can continue to push ourselves and get better and better?

When some time ago I read Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, we had a discussion at home with Peter about how much forcing a child to do something (like piano lessons) is a good thing. I was never forced to do anything I didn't want to - at least when it came to sports and playing musical instruments. Which also means I never got good at any of them. It takes a lot of practice to become good. Amy Chua, the author of the article, describes a grueling piano practice with one of her daughters and in the end says: "As a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't."

I agree with that statement. I just wonder at what point the piano lessons end. Or if they don't, do they ever make us truly satisfied?

I think Peter got it right. He said what we need to do is to enjoy those moments of the "first time". To feel the magic of the moment. To be present when the miracle occurs, because the next day, it won't be a miracle anymore.

1 comment:

  1. First, thanks for sharing your other blog, I really enjoyed it :) second I think sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. When you reach that first milestone, like u did w ur blog, u can't always expect everything to go as quickly or strongly as it did the first time. Being patient, not becoming obsessed and also looking for long term instead of short term growth w certain things is more realistic. We just have to be nicer to ourselves and not expect so much so fast :) yes I've been to therapy where I got a lot of this advice be side apparently like u, I'm too hard on myself!