“There are two things to aim at in life: first to get what you want; and after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.”
— Pearsal Smith, Afterthoughts
The ambitious individual who wants to have it all must pay a steep price in terms of time and energy. He becomes intensely immersed in work to the exclusion of all else. However much he loves what he does, pressure and stress build up. Without a sense of balance and spirituality in his life, he becomes a compulsive workaholic.
Different things motivate people. Many are driven by the desire for material wealth or power. Others seek recognition and fame. Some idealists have noble dreams to save the world.
In the pre-pandemic corporate setting, the work addict ran on a precarious treadmill. The ambitious rising executive maintained a punishing pace that required total concentration. He avoided external distractions such as demanding personal commitments, complicated relationships, and frivolous leisure activities. Sports and socials were strictly for networking. He was productive but not balanced.
Determined and tenacious, he spent maximum energy on the job as long days stretched into nights and weekends. All work and no play to the point of exhaustion.
The daily grind continued until he attained the goal, the prize.
On the way to the top, he had to make sacrifices, postpone some family and personal recreational activities. And when he made it, he discovered that life at the top can be lonely and disappointing.
Despite all the perks of success, essential intangible things were missing: quality time for oneself and the ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s hard work. Along the way, there were a few broken relationships or issues with one’s wellbeing.
The prolonged lockdown for more than two years shifted many gears in one’s priorities and mindset.
Suddenly, there was time but not much to do. Adjusting to official restrictions was very difficult and disorienting.
Most of the small and medium enterprises have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Only those in certain industries or sectors were able to thrive.
There have been countless bouts of anxiety and depression due to the loss of income, jobs, and lives.
Mental health became a continuing major issue for people of all socio-economic levels and age brackets. There were multiple problems of child abuse in many homes.
Now that the economy has opened, people are still struggling with the new normal rules. Inflation is rising. People try to work, make a living, while trying to stay safe and healthy.
It is a tough balancing act.
Resilience is the quality we should develop in ourselves and the next generations. To grow and survive, we must change our attitudes and the way we do things.
On another level, the arts are becoming vibrant again. After being confined and limited to virtual shows, the performing artists and musicians are back on centerstage. The visual artists are mountings exhibits to express their joie de vivre and angst.
The path ahead is thorny, uncertain.
The teachers, priests, physicians, nurses, therapists, humanitarians, and social workers have the vocation and mission — to teach, heal, serve, and help others. They continue in their quiet yet effective ways. They have the non-quantifiable psychic income such as appreciation and fulfillment. These are more important than money and material wealth. Yet artists, priests, teachers must rely on sponsors and benefactors for support.
In Meditations from The Road, M. Scott Peck M.D. wrote, “We are often most in the dark when we are most certain, and the most enlightened when we are most confused.”
December is a time of reflection and introspection. We are at the brink of the unknown. There are wars, disasters, crises.
Time passes and we cannot stop it. We feel somewhat helpless in some overwhelming situations.
We assess the challenges, weigh the losses and the gains. We make risk shifts and try to deal with stressful realities. We think of innovative ways to resolve issues. We should be creative and transform ourselves.
When we have hope and courage in our hearts — we can move forward.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.