Sunday, 16 March 2014

A life of Compromise

We all want  a life of balance, balancing the difficult responsibilities of profession and personal, but invariably erring on both sides.
The term ‘compromise’ is open to many meanings and understandings.
 When we compromise in a relationship, the connotation is that we are prepared to sacrifice certain personal preferences in favour of maintaining good will with others. It may be regarding trivialities such as movie or restaurant preferences, or perhaps even more complex issues such as where to live. In this context ‘compromise’ is seen as the mature and positive road of action, where the ‘relationship’ takes precedence over personal likes and dislikes.
There are times where the term ‘compromise’ is used in the pejorative. It means to fold on certain issues, to sacrifice not your personal preferences, but rather your core values. You compromise who you are, often to satisfy superficial social and societal demands. We compromise our integrity for popularity, our core values for financial gain.
A life of balance is one of compromise- but which kind of compromise are we referring to?
We would prefer that it be the former, but perhaps it’s the later.
Throughout history we see our greatest leaders, entertainers, sportsmen often fall short in other areas of their life. On the other hand the best family men and women seldom make the headlines.
Even Nelson Mandela, by his own admission, failed as a father and a husband.

These cases are not ones of coincidence, but rather of design. 

Compromise in life necessitates that we accept the principle, that in order to reach our full potential in one area of life demands that we capitulate in another. Our professional success and impact cannot be coupled with communal leadership and parental excellence.

Something has to give.

I am not suggesting that you can’t be good at all of the above, rather that you can’t be YOUR best at all of them. Every hour at the office is an hour less at home and vice versa.
What is balance? It is accepting defeat in one area of life in order to maximise success in another.
Perfect balance is mediocrity and perhaps mediocrity is OK. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that balance is the best of both worlds. It’s the acceptance of defeat.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Happiness is (only) for the undeserving

Whenever someone returns from a lengthy journey, recovers from an illness or survives a life-threatening situation, it is customary for the individual to make the following blessing:
הגומל לחייבים טובות שגמלני כל טוב
“Who causes good things to happen to those liable and causes only good to happen for me”
The blessing is often recited together when receiving an Aliya and always in front of a minyan. The crux of the blessing is that “I realise that I am undeserving of the kindness that I have been the recipient of.”
The blessing is a replacement of the original Thanksgiving offering that features in this week’s Parsha, where an individual, feeling a great sense of appreciation to Hashem, would offer a sacrifice as a token of that appreciation.
In the world of positive psychology, the correlation between appreciation and happiness is almost the main thrust in the study of the science of happiness.
The concept of appreciation is NOT saying thank you! It is a sense of being an undeserving recipient of kindness. The need for the term ‘undeserving’ is crucial, because as long as we believe that we deserve or are entitled to something, we will struggle to show any real sense of appreciation − because we believe we have earned it.
In truth, there is very little that we deserve in life. We didn’t do anything to ‘deserve’ to be born. We didn’t do more than others to ‘deserve’ our good fortune of health, love, family or prosperity. They are gifts.
We live in an age of entitlement. People talk of rights, not privileges; expectations, not responsibilities; demands, not allowances. Misery, in contrast, is the sense of not getting what we believe we deserve, of life not living up to our expectations.

The Thanksgiving offering, or blessing, is coming to the realisation that we are undeserving of the kindness we’ve received − and that should make us truly happy.