We aim high. The thresholds, to which we tend to reach, whether determined for us by ourselves or by others, are not, ordinarily, low-hanging fruit. There’s something about the nature of most individuals that makes us strive for “success.”
Nonetheless, such reliance on external points of validation is not healthy. Not only ought we not to judge ourselves, and not to judge other folks, but we ought not, as well, to allow others’ assessment of us, in general, and of our goals and of achievements relative to our goals, more specifically, guide our perception of our worth.
First, Hashem is the True Judge. Second, we fail in our avodas Hashem when we defer to human opinion.
Even so, it tends to be the case that we human beings, even those among us who have successfully, nearly completely, escaped the urge to prove personal worth visa via measurements of others’ respect, still sometimes look outside to see how well we are proceeding. To wit, the ends toward which any of us endeavor might, on occasion, be considered immodest.
What’s tragic in this equation is not our human fallibility. We’ve been designed to be imperfect, in part because such a lack in our makeup means we are more inspired to engage in mitzvot bein adom l’Makom and in mitzvot adom l’chaveiro, and in part because such a lack in our makeup leaves room for us to choose to grow. Rather, the heartrending quality of this reality is that we erroneously suppose that living in a down-to-earth manner has faded from fashion or we erroneously suppose that by doing so we will fail to get the notice that we think we crave.
The inverse is true. Humility never stopped being utilitarian. What’s more, The Boss does See, Hear and Record all of our goings on. He Knows and Cares about all of our behaviors.
Be that as it may, we nevertheless construct scenarios in which we “enable” ourselves to avoid working through our dilemmas, i.e. in which we subconsciously cause ourselves to skip over personal growth opportunities. Simply, when we insist on embracing goals that are palpably impossible, we shoot ourselves in the foot.
For instance, we persons who are out of shape (a common problem in this span between Purim and Pesach), are better advised to begin with light dumbbells and short repetitions of exercises that with heavy weights and unmanageable repetitions of sets. Our immediate fitness goals, looked at judiciously, are: strength, health, and learning to be disciplined about exercise. Our ambitions ought not to be to transform magically, and erroneously, into bulked up, or into suddenly becoming anorexic looking. Revision takes time.
Correspondingly, those of us who are writers are well directed, especially as we move from a nascent, emerging stage to a more established one, to seek plain and simple, rather than elite, publishing venues and to invest much effort into: integrate the elements of literature into our texts, rewriting and then rewriting some more, networking, visa via gracious communication, and learning to integrate rejection into our expectations. Feelings of entitlement will rarely bring us the professional results more ordinarily yielded by hard work and an unassuming nature.
As well, first time parents could benefit from seeking four consecutive hours of sleep per night and one hot meal per day. It’s sad to see so many newbie moms and dads frustrated that they are failing to get “normal” shut eye or angry that they are not getting their three squares. Life events necessarily cause us to have to adjust our outlook. If we can make peaces with getting “some” of our experiences of fulfillment realized, no matter how mundane those instances might be, instead of kvetching that our needs are going unmet, we will find our passages through life’s various trials offer less resistance.
Similarly, in our interpersonal exchanges, when we manage to accomplish a small amount of good, we are attaining a great amount of virtue. It’s invaluable if we cheer up, for half of an hour, a dear one faced with a marital crisis, if we babysit the kids of a friend juggling health challenges, if just for an afternoon, or if we process a few loads of laundry for a pal with an important career-building deadline. Unexceptional input can be extremely meaningful.
Likewise, when we offer aid in the form of tools rather than in the form of solutions to children, to students, to subordinates, and to anyone else in our lives that are less socially empowered than are we, we are fashioning positive results. Teaching a person to fish, per se, is a much higher level of giving than is sticking a filet into his or her hand.
There are small acts of kindness, which we can direct toward ourselves, as well, that can make a big difference in the quality of our lives. We can gift ourselves with ten extra minutes of sleep one morning, a microwaved cup of tea rather than a cold glass of juice on another day, and an extra session of jogging on a third. It might behoove us, as well, even when we are not especially troubled, to decide to wear the nicer of two sweaters, to use the more expensive cologne in our collection, or to say a few extra passages of Tehillim. Too many folks have saved their “shiny things” only to have them go unused during their lifetimes.
Whereas it might seem admirable to want to climb to great heights, and whereas others in our lives report to us that it’s commendable for us to stretch as far as we can extend ourselves, such attempts to exceed personal limits rots both in the short term and in the long term. It’s better to take small steps. It’s in the regulating of our goals that we achieve sagacity. Our actions do not have to and usually ought not to be monumental.