It is amazing how much stress and pain we take for ego, reputation, creation and maintenance of personal image. We continue to claim that the stress and pain are there since we need to make a living and make ends meet. But that is not entirely true. One of simpler mistakes we do is take on loans and expenses which we probably do not need, but we take them on to show off since we want to look cool in front of others. We create a certain image of being successful, being rich, being beautiful, having that big car and a big house. Even regarding corporate jobs or our own businesses, we continue to look for more success, bigger positions, more money, being covered in media and ability to showcase that on our social handles.
Achievement is first personal, then professional and then it’s materialistic. First, you get a degree from a college, then get a rock star job and finally buy that big car and a big house — that is the success path carved out for all of us.
“It is a wretched thing that the young men of today are so contriving and so proud of their material possessions. Men with contriving hearts are lacking in duty. Lacking in duty, they will have no self-respect.” — Yamamoto Tsunetomo
This quote by Yamamoto Tsunetomo is over 300 years old. If the focus is material possessions, which comes from the fact, that the respect is probably derived from material things — respect for the self will be diluted. Although Yamamoto is hinting towards a much deeper concept, he is saying that if you are clever and focus is on material things, you will lack in commitment and integrity and then you will not have any self-respect. Connecting the dots on “being clever” and “no self-respect” is actually a very deep analysis. I understood this after a lot of analysis, you also may like to meditate upon it.
But in my personal view, the more focus one has on material possessions, the less one is confidence about oneself. If there is greater respect for material possessions than the respect of the self, then self-respect will be lost and only respect for material possessions will be left.
Without self-respect, there will be little self-confidence. The issue here is that there will be a lot of pain and stress since now the whole purpose of life becomes to maintain material possessions. A life focused on material possessions and limited self-respect and self-confidence, will not be a positive life.
Now let’s understand “material possessions”, I took the term from Yamamoto’s quote, but I am using it for cars, houses, gadgets, clothes, professional reputation, job title, attention you are getting in media or social media, physical beauty, reputation among professional colleagues, relatives, within family and similar things. Now all these items have become components of my respect, my achievement, my reputation, my ego and my well being. If these things are working out for me, then I feel ok, if they are not working out, I am not ok. This causes an amazing amount of pain in our lives.
The essential phrase is “Prove to”:
1. Prove to yourself
2. Prove to the whole world (family, relatives, friends, social media and media, and the whole wide world)
3. Prove by having bigger car, bigger house, bigger job title, as an entrepreneur — building a bigger company, raising more money, look my best all the time, wear great clothes, showcase things on social media, constantly looking for recognition
Now as the wise-sounding person, who is writing these words, I am no better! I want to confess that.
I am writing this using my experience, I think you probably never need to “prove to yourself or others”, but in my view, you may do in short term just as an exercise. But if this becomes your long-term life goal, then it is going to be a lot of pain and stress. Rather you will start failing since the pain will keep rising, as you will be worried about more and more things and less confident about your own abilities. You will develop entitlement mentality, which is another painful thing.
Maybe it’s ok to chase some of these goals in the short term, but never lose focus from yourself, the real deal. You are the most important part of your life, not your car, not your house, not your job title, not your clothes, not the likes you generated on your post and not the TV news interview you got. That probably comes from integrity and commitment, and as Yamamoto says, it comes from a “clear and clean heart”. With the “clean and clear heart” you will commit to a cause, which he calls as “duty”, and since you are committed, you will get self-respect, which will come from inside.
The practical strategy in my view is to give more than 100%, as you can give 100% and there is always something more(I have been able to do it and so can you)! With a “clean and clear heart”, give 100% attention to the task at hand, single-mindedness is critical. All this Yamamoto refers to as “duty”. With this in place, you will achieve self-respect, positivity, and peace. Another quote of Yamamoto may help us understand this:
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.” — Yamamoto Tsunetomo
I am not saying do not buy that car, good clothes, big house or stop posting on social media — but all this for your own happiness, your own enjoyment. Not for show-off, creating and maintaining self-image, not for reputation and not for ego. The material possessions are to serve us, not our ego, not our reputation, not something to show off.
If we do a job, we should give more than 100% to it. All outcomes are transitory, success or failure is short-lived, it’s a result which requires further action. Every result or outcome is temporary, success as a temporary outcome needs consolidation and institutionalization, failure as a temporary outcome needs course correction and trying out newer things. This process continues.
With these processes, wealth is created which enables us to do things, buy things which we like.
This simple process is better than “Prove to”, which may be done for ego and reputation. That can be very painful. We must focus on pleasure and avoid pain, hard work without any pressure of result is pleasure. Results are temporary. At a physical level, so are we, let’s make best of our lives.
“One must know the so-called ‘lesson of a downpour.’ A man, caught in a sudden rain en route, dashes along the road not to get wet or drenched. Once one takes it for granted that in rain he naturally gets wet, he can be in a tranquil frame of mind even when soaked to the skin. This lesson applies to everything.” — Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Originally published at medium.com