Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gratitude vs. Ambition

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
I was having a particularly difficult evening with my son and as things were beginning to calm down a conversation started, mostly around things that he was unhappy about.
I suppose my son would rather live here.  Geez.
"Don't you wish we lived in a big house.  Maybe even in LA.  A big, nice house like lots of my friends live in.  Not like this apartment.  A real house.  A nice, big house." His words spat across to room at me.
Of course, I would love to live in a nice house!!! (internal voice)
 "I am choosing to be grateful to live in this apartment.  We have everything we need and we have a great community." I replied, in that calm parent voice, that is likely not hiding how frustrated you actually are.
This basic conversation went back and forth for a few rounds, when he turned it into me saying he shouldn't have dreams.  He began to complain that I was suggesting he shouldn't even try to be a major league ball player when he grows up, that he should just give up now since we already have everything we need.

This is a tough one for me, in life, and as a parent.  Yes, I try to choose to be grateful for what I have, but I also have dreams.  Does having dreams for more inherently disregard your gratitude for what is?  Does drive, ambition and striving for the best mean that you aren't grateful for what you have in the moments before you achieve those goals?

I was looking around the internet for opinions on the matter and a couple ideas stood out to me:
---Gratitude is a feeling of being full, while ambition is a feeling of hunger.  They compliment each other but do not exist at the same time.
---Ambition for gratitude can propel you forward.  And you can feel gratitude for your ambitions and passions and desires.

I started thinking of how I could bring the two close enough to exist in the same moment.  What if the link between gratitude and ambition/dreams is service?  When you are blending the two seemingly opposing ideals of gratitude and ambition, what if the result is that you automatically have a desire to be of service to others?  I've always loved the quote by Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."  If we are working towards our goals through avenues that also help build everyone else up at the same time, won't we, at the end of each day, feel incredibly grateful?  Won't we then, have found our true selves, because we are living in a way that is satisfying? Full, and yet hungry for more?

This dichotomy is brought together, and no longer felt as opposing forces, on my yoga mat.  Everyday.  Every pose.  I want to do the poses better, I want to learn the proper form, I want to build endurance to not fall out of standing bow every single time.  And then, as I lay in savasana in between postures, I work to turn of my mind and just bask in the gratitude of being right where I am.  No judgements about how long I held a pose, or how deep I went into it, just breathing in and breathing out.  When I walk out of yoga, I am better equipped to help others...even when it means standing in my son's doorway at midnight, contemplating life, desperately wishing I were in bed myself, but having to be a mom and help him through life and bedtime.

I asked my son if he had thought much about our conversation that night, to which he replied, "No." I asked him what he thought about being grateful and still wanting more, still working to be a ball player, now that he wasn't as angry.  He just shook his head and said, "Well, of course I'm still gonna try."

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