“When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about.” – Albert Einstein
This is about self-reflection or, in non-technical terms, navel gazing.
I began with a quote from Al because, in general, Al <which is what he was called by his closest nerd friends> was a pretty sharp guy <with bad hair>.
And while I have never seen his navel I would imagine that on the occasion he actually did gaze at it … that even he reflected for a moment or so … but not too long into the navel fixation … he then decided that maybe there were bigger and better things to think about.
And went out and did it.
Everyone needs periods of self-reflection and evaluation. It helps understanding better who you are, where you want to be, what you want to do and all that <important> garbage. It is healthy to take some time to think things over with the intent to better understand yourself and see things clearer.
Someone said ‘an unexamined life is not worth living and an unexplored life is not worth examining.’
A trite thought but … well … wherever you go … there you are.
The key word in all of this is “some” <time>.
Not gobs <of time> just some <time>.
Wherever you are … the odds are that when you do some navel gazing … inevitably you think about someone else’s navel <and wonder> … okay … okay … it would be weird to think about and compare with someone else’s navel … so let’s make it grass.
As in green grass. You inevitably wonder about someone else’s grass. And inevitably that somewhere you are gazing at something that may appear to be greener grass.
And that is where navel gazing can get you in some trouble.
“There is nothing in the world sadder than green green grass on an autumn afternoon. A tree, crops in the field, animals … everything else alive knows this is the season to prepare for the worst. But grass? Hoping against hope that the sunshine won’t ever go away. Or maybe too dumb to realize what is coming. “– inspector O
Greener grass is tantalizing.
And maybe we dwell upon green grass too dumb to realize it is autumn and what is coming.
Or maybe it is that we are the dumb ones.
So navel gaze personally at some peril.
That green grass is always around you … and it is tempting to think it is greener than yours <or there is more of it or it lasts longer or … or … or …> but in the end … it is some one else’s grass. Just like it is someone else’s navel.
You have what you have.
You are where you are.
You can reflect as much as you want about what you have and where you are but there are bigger and better things out there to be pondering <trust me … and Al … on this>.
Beyond personal stuff … how about business?
The grass is greener thing takes on an entirely different <and absurd> hue. In fact … this may be one of the biggest issues affecting slowed growth/progress impediment facing businesses today. While some leaders focus too far inside their business cocooning themselves from the reality <saying ‘we is what we is’ at the expense of some common sense>. Far more leaders peer enviously into other’s yards gazing at their green grass <or what they perceive as green grass>.
And here is where it gets slightly absurd.
In personal life it is about that green patch. The waving blades of grass.
In business … it is not only about the green grass … they are envious of the grass <of which the cell configuration of each individual blade of grass may come under scrutiny>, the fertilizer, the landscaping, the maintenance schedule, the landscaper/maintenance people themselves … heck … even the ground it is in <the geography in other words>.
And, because it is business, someone can even get hired to grade the greenness of other people’s grass against your own <typically with some awesome computer generated colored graphs and charts>.
So it isn’t as simple as the green grass … it is all aspects .
Talk about not keeping things in perspective. It makes my head hurt even thinking about this topic <and it is actually physically painful if you experience it in real business situations>.
Business or personal … we tend to lose perspective <despite the objective to gain perspective – ouch>.
And another thing is about keeping things in perspective … how you use your time & energy.
We can all be prone to spending far too much time dicking around thinking about grass whether it be green, growing, dying or simply a random tuft of grass in a desert.
Research certainly suggests that it might be prudent to avoid excessive self-reflection or at least the wrong sort of reflection. Some research has shown that nearly 45% of respondents in the more wealthy nations globally seem to dread the holidays … at times when you take stock of your life and reflect.
How crazy is that?
In our quest to improve we even fuck up our free time because instead f relaxing we self reflect, become dissatisfied, grumpy … and depressed.
What’s up with that?
We get all caught up with excessive inwardness or self-centeredness and unrealistic expectations. And, inevitably, we seek blame … the innate inadequacies of life driven by some comparison with other seemingly lucky or more fortunate or smarter or harder working or ‘whatever’ individuals.
Some self-help guy called it our ‘false self.’
“Nothing is more discontented than our lower nature, the false self. It is always unhappy with one thing or another. If there is one weed in the field of roses, you can bet that is what it will see. Since it has no real life of its own, it must endlessly create stimulating thoughts and feelings of one kind or another in order to give it the sensation of being alive.
Like Sisyphus condemned in Hades to a life of endlessly pushing up a rock uphill, only to have it roll down again, the false self must spin its life tales over and over again. It is desperately afraid of not having the next thing to do.” – guy Finley <self help wackjob … although I do like the Sisyphus reference … adds some credibility>
I am not sure I am buying everything he is selling … but … I do believe there is a fine line in being in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction <those words – which I love – were actually stated by then-CEO of J. Walter Thompson in the 1950’s … ‘we are a company in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction’> and simply being discontent for the sake of being discontent.
It is a fine line because while no one should desire being stagnant they should also never be obsessive with movement. What I mean by that is not all movement is created equal. Moving simply to move, or show movement, is wasted energy.
Push versus pull.
Active versus passive.
Pick your poison. It is a fine line.
This grass is always greener on the other side thing.
It is an illusion.
And not because we should all be “grateful for what you have” but rather because … well … grass is typically grass and as with all grass … from a distance it can look awesome but up close it kind of <typically> looks an awful like the same stuff under your feet.
Here is something to ponder … something which I believe <unfortunately> is a Life truth … the grass will always be greener on the other side <at least in our minds>.
You will never … okay … very rarely … arrive at a point where you will believe you are entirely happy with everything in your life or believe that your grass is just perfect the way it is.
Or it is probably more likely that in our contemporary view of the nonstop quest for Life perfection <ongoing self-development> our grass will never be as green as we want it to be?
That is truly a perpetual state of dissatisfaction.
That is self-reflection passing into self-improvement sinking into the forever unending spiral of desire to be better <and have something better>.
And in this never ending quest to be more than we are today … our tomorrows become hopelessly entangled in the infinite challenge of being more than what we are today.
Sounds simple though.
Because it seems that all navel gazing does … is highlight what you already know and feel … and what you want <in terms of improvement or ‘bettering’>.
You want to improve something … and you also discover <in those moments> it will never be done.
It is a never ending quest.
That makes navel gazing tricky.
Maybe because it is also a microcosm of the contradiction of life.
Planned versus carefree.
Perfection versus beautiful imperfections.
And how all of those things are often defined in the eyes of the beholder.
It all really comes down to a good intention … a desire for things, particular something as important as our Life, to be perfect … or as perfect … as it can be.
And in our quest for that perfection we chafe against our desire for some aspects of carefree freedom … the sometimes whimsical things we want to do … as well as the natural ebbs and flows of life.
Control versus uncontrollable.
Chaos versus planned.
Perhaps we are the ultimate perfectionists, radically aiming for the ever elusive perfection in life <and therefore I assume happiness?> and in doing so justifying the behavior by suggesting we are never accepting mediocrity in its place.
This reminds me to say ‘perfection is shit.’
Anyway … this ideal of perfectionism <or seeking a perfect life> creates an odd contradiction to most people’s desire to be unrestrained carefree folk.
We are even perfectionists about being carefree.
This is the ultimate in planned spontaneity.
We even plan our free time.
And it all sounds painful.
Especially if you invest time navel gazing <because this means your navel is always in conflict with itself>.
I often believe the infamous “what would you do in life if you did not need to work for money?” question is a good one to navel gaze over at some point … but too often we simply discard it <for a good reason … you do have to make some money at some point in life> and for a bad reason <in our pragmatically driven world people drop the thought into ‘dreaming’ which implies unrealistic and unattainable>. But it is a worthwhile question regardless.
I imagine in my own pea like brain that part of the issue with navel gazing is the concept of relative life truths.
Relative because … what is truth to one person may not be true to another.
Life is messy.
We are on a perpetual journey of improvement <until we die which simply means we ran out of time>.
What I mean: Time <our body’s time> is not infinite … yet improvement <our self improvement> is infinite.
Life is a contradiction … one big massive unfathomable bottomless well of contradictions.
And navels are a personal thing <lint and all> not to be compared with others.
I often wonder if navel gazing really can lead to happiness <in business or in Life>. Because as soon as you sort one area of life out … there seems to be something else to work on.
It is a perpetual quest driven by perpetual dissatisfaction <driven by desire for self improvement>.
I imagine if you can maintain a healthy perspective … some sense that you are controlling this messy Life we live in … you can avoid the green grass gazing <and desire for someone else’s grass> and find some solace in some small victories <which are nice feelings and in general feed happiness>.
And while I may be cynical about navel gazing … everyone should go ahead and take a moment <or two> to look.
But keep it simple.
And don’t focus on dissatisfaction but rather the Big 3:
“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”– Joseph Addison
Doing, loving & hope.
One could do worse than focusing on these three things.
The bottom line from Bruce.
Hope is awesome.
Perfection is shit.
Life is gloriously messy.
There are always bigger and better things to think about than yourself.
Here’s to those who find some green grass lurking in your navel.