“Better to Aim for the Stars and Miss…”

Sep 9, 2011 by

“…than to aim for a pile of dung and hit!”:

 (A practical piece opposing pessimism and promoting progress)

British author G.K. Chesterton once wrote:

“Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.”

I doubt that many of us could plead “not guilty” to this accusation–both in our political and personal lives!

I recently overheard an acquaintance of mine touting a very interesting viewpoint. It was her brilliant theory to combat dissatisfaction. Well, more than a theory, it was just one word—pessimism. It seems quite obvious to her (and no doubt to many others!) that having low expectations will yield satisfying results. If you don’t expect much, you can’t be disappointed. This may seem very sensible at first—I confess that I might’ve adopted this little idea for a year or two without giving it much thought. After having a bit of a think, it became clear that this kind of viewpoint seemed to invite mediocrity. It taught us to shave our sky-high ambitions down into more readily attained, so-called “practical” ones. Despite what pessimism’s devotees might like to believe, selling oneself short is actually less satisfying. Indeed, a recent study shows that big dreamers are often more satisfied than their less-ambitious counterparts*—most likely because the former are not tormented with that nagging question: ‘What could I have done had I tried harder?’

            Now onto Mr. Chesterton’s lovely quote! What would cause a nation to change course from the divinely-inspired to the mundane? A loss of ambition. And how would a country loose ambition? When her citizens declare that mediocrity is an easier route to happiness than is excellence. Ignoring our true goals and compromising even when we could push further forward is real mediocrity; a country cannot become great when she is populated with people who underrate their own abilities. How can  we ever achieve greatness—on a personal or national level—if we change our lofty visions into easier goals? This is especially true if we give up after these small things are accomplished without ever achieving the original objective. So don’t be afraid to dream big—rather, “be the change you want to see in the world!”


*According Sean Nelson’s “Ambition=Happiness” (http://newsroom.ucr.edu/2708)



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