Tag Archives: quotation

A Happiness Reminder from Charles Darwin: “I Have Worked as Well as I Could.”

“Whenever I have found out that I have blundered, or that my work has been imperfect, and when I have been contemptuously criticized, and even when I have been overpraised, so that I have felt mortified, it has been my greatest comfort to say hundreds of times to myself that ‘I have worked as hard and as well as I could, and no man can do more than this.’”

–Charles Darwin, The Autobiography

I often comfort myself with the same thought — and often, in advance. When I’m preparing for some challenge — say, one of my books getting published — I think, “I should do everything I possibly can, because that way, if things don’t go as well as I hope, I can comfort myself with the thought that there just wasn’t anything else I might have done.”

Does this reminder strike a chord with you?

“My Highest Ambition Is To Be What I Already Am.”

“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself–and if I accept myself fully in the right way I will already have surpassed myself.

–Thomas Merton, Journal, October 2, 1958

I love this quotation so much that the first line of this passage is the epigraph for my forthcoming book The Four Tendencies. (Choosing the epigraph is probably my favorite part of writing a book. How I love quotations!)

I’ve spent a lot of time studying Merton, because as a Trappist monk and definite Rebel, he was a fascinating case study. He kept voluminous journals, as well as writing essays and memoirs, so it was possible for me to have true insight into his thinking.

When I first started studying the Four Tendencies, I was puzzled by the not-infrequent pattern of Rebels being attracted to areas of high regulation, like the clergy, the military, and big corporations. Now it makes sense to me. It’s a whole section in my book.

If you’re intrigued by the book The Four Tendencies, you can pre-order it here (pre-orders really help me, so if you’re inclined to buy the book, I very much appreciate a pre-order).

If you don’t know which of the Four Tendencies describes you — whether you’re an  Upholder (like me), Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel (like Merton), you can take the quiz here.

I also love the way writer Flannery O’Connor put it: “Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.”

These quotations remind me of one of the paradoxes of my happiness project: I want to accept myself, but also expect more from myself.

This tension between “accepting myself’ and “surpassing myself” — how we must accept ourselves in order to surpass ourselves — is something I think about often. What is self-acceptance, really? Or self-knowledge? A mystery.

How do you think about self-acceptance and self-knowledge?

“How Does One Bring One’s Mind and Body Back Together? The Best Means Is ___”

In The Awakened Eye, Ross Parmenter writes, “How does one bring one’s mind and body back together? The best means is a vacation.”

Hmmmm…I think there are many ways a person could answer the question, “How does one bring one’s mind and body back together?”

I think some people would say “Meditation.” As I write about in Better Than Before, meditation wasn’t helpful for me, but many people do find it useful.

For me, I’ve found, I can bring my body and mind together by mindfully enjoying the experience of my body. Which is delightful.

For instance, I take a moment to enjoy my sense of smell. We can enjoy beautiful scents without any time, energy, or money; a scent ties us to the present moment, because we can’t bookmark it, or save it for later, or even continue to experience it for very long. In my book Happier at Home, I write about the power of the sense of smell, and all I did to try to get more good smells into my life (and also get rid of bad smells, very helpful!)

I also deliberately notice the colors around me. I’ve become obsessed with color. So many beautiful colors, so many fascinating aspects of seeing color.

Do you agree that a vacation is a good way to bring your mind and body back together?

How would you fill in the blank?

Do You Feel that You’re Growing in Mastery as You Grow Older?

“From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking in to account. At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants. And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvelous and divine. When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own.”

–Katsushika Hokusai

I love this description of continuous growth and increasing mastery. Do you feel that in some aspect of your life, you’re doing a better job with time?

For happiness, an “atmosphere of growth” is crucial — of the Eight Splendid Truths, that’s part of #1.

How Do We See the Living Soul of the World? Through Color.

“Light, that first phenomenon of the world, reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors.”

–Johannes Itten, The Elements of Color

My color obsession continues! What a beautiful, fascinating subject. I just finished a book about green–that’s right, a whole book about green. I recently finished a book about black. Next up, blue.

Do you have a signature color? I was vexed by my inability to commit, but I’ve realized that the color wheel is my signature colorscape.