Monthly Archives: May 2010

Act without Expectation

A few days ago, I was just checking my notebook to see where I had left off in my free-writing sessions from just a week before that (it was from May 21st). It was a strange self-motivational mantra, pressing me to act upon my feelings, with a strong sense of urgency about it. On top of that, these are some stuff I wrote on the same day, which I decided to read fully again today. I normally never let anyone else read anything I free-write. I’m even leaving it completely unedited, as it reflects particularly well how I felt that day:

“After so long, after so much effort, I realize that I’m still the same as before. Even worse, can it be that I am actually regressing? For a while, I really thought that things were going well. Sure, I had my ups and downs, but I felt I was improving. But today… today I just feel bad about myself. Today, I truly believe that I will never be ‘normal’, that I will always be like this. Why? Why do I feel like this? I wish I knew. I wish I knew why I feel like such a loser.”

“Still, I need to believe that things are going to work out in the end. I need to trust myself, trust that I’m a good person, and trust that the fact I’m really trying that in the end I will succeed. Even if I feel like it’s never going to happen, I need to dig deep and find that hope.”

“I don’t understand. Why do I feel so bad today? I just want to tell her that I like her, without feeling scared, or feeling stupid.”

Of course, this is always how I feel, but on that specific day, it was much stronger than normal, and there was an unusual sense of panic and foreboding gnawing away at me, which I was unable to explain with my usual self-negativity. It was weird; I couldn’t get rid of the feeling no matter what. It prompted me to scribble down the above words hastily, and to reassure myself through that self-motivational mantra. I tried to convince myself that that there was hope still. Unfortunately, the sense of dread turned out to be prophetic. Since then, it seems like I have gone through a lot of different emotions, and when I read it again, I was truly surprised that it had only been little more than a week ago. It felt like ages ago.

I already knew beforehand that my chances were low, but the moment you actually realize that she had chosen someone else still hurts a lot. I felt sad, depressed and lonely, and for a while I seriously thought it might be better if I stopped seeing her entirely. In the days after that however, I realized that it wasn’t true; I still care about her no matter what, and not being able to see her at all is something I am not willing to think about yet. Strangely enough, it was when I saw her again that I felt more strongly about this; I was afraid that I would be bitter and unfriendly. It was as if I was able to focus again on what is important for me personally, instead of dwelling on the negative thoughts. Maybe I’m just being naïve or maybe I am just deceiving myself, and maybe it will turn out that I have made a terrible decision, but this is what I believe at the moment.

This is the situation I was referring to in a previous post about the Tao Te Ching, when I mentioned that I was struck by the phrase ‘Act without expectation’. I have tried to adhere to this principle, but it is difficult to act without expectations for different reasons. Firstly, I believe it is a part of human nature to always expect something in return, no matter how noble your intentions you believe them to be. Secondly, when you act without expecting anything in return, doesn’t it provide other people the opportunity to take advantage of you? Lastly, it is also easy to confuse hope with expectation. You can have hope, should always have hope, or else you’ll fall into a spiral of negativity. But expecting something in return is altogether different. It is when we expect something in return that our selfishness starts taking precedence over any altruistic motives we may have had initially. In the end however, perhaps none of the reasons truly matter, and it may boil down to this one single question: if for some reason I can know absolutely for sure that there is no hope at all, what would I do? And that is a question which I have to answer for myself. Do I choose for what I believe in, or do I choose for what I think is the ‘rational’ choice?

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Special Achiever Award

I won a Special Achiever award during the Vodafone Sales Challenge last Wednesday, together with my direct colleague Michiel. It is a sort of recognition for the work you’ve done, and it comes with a trip to Marrakech. Of course, I always said that I hated this kind of public recognition, and in a sense it is partly true, because I always feel awkward when people compliment me. But in another more psychological sense, it is also very much false. I am a master of self-deception, you see, and if there who needs constant reassurance that he is doing a good job, if there is someone who yearns to be recognized and accepted, it’s me. Normally, I am not willing to admit this, as I view this pathological need for confirmation as a sign of weakness, and more importantly as contradictory to my values and beliefs (the awkwardness I feel is very real though, although it has nothing to do with not wanting recognition). And so I hide it behind a mask of indifference or even loathing. Surely I am above something as petty as recognition.

It reminded me of what the trainer Francine said during the ‘Self-Management’ course I followed about half a year ago. She said that I was maybe too smart for my own good sometimes, as I’ve already analyzed and figured out my own inner patterns long ago. With other people, she had to work hard to help them identify their patterns in the first place. With me, it’s more about convincing me to let go of those patterns who have been my companions for my entire life. I believe she is right, and paradoxical as it may sound, it is precisely that I know myself so well in some aspects, that I am able to deceive myself so easily. The cynical part of me is much more adept at playing the deception game however, but I’d like to believe that the idealistic part of me is becoming more aware of it, which I believe is the most important progress I booked with all those self-improvement stuff I did.

Typical me; turning a blog post about winning an award at work into a psychological profile. I definitely think too much sometimes, but then again, I hope I will never lose that part of me completely. Let me end by saying that I am truly happy with my award, and that I am really looking forward to the trip. Although I don’t do it a lot, I love traveling and visiting new places. It’s great that Michiel is going as well, so at least there is a familiar face, or else I might run the risk of completely zoning out and retreating into my shell during those few days.

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Tao Te Ching – 道德經

When Eastern scholars explore a philosophical classic, they look for a subjective experience that might stimulate their intuitive understanding of the work. Perhaps they will open the book at random in order to select the next passage to contemplate. Using chance and synchronicity in their approach they can then contemplate, too, why that particular passage appeared in their lives in that particular moment.

In nature, a snowflake is a snowflake – until we take a closer look and see no two snowflakes are formed in the same way. So too, in human nature, no two individuals are informed in the same way. Those who would like nature to determine their intellectual path through the Tao Te Ching may find that a random approach will help trigger the spirit of the moment and open their mind to self-discovery.

I started reading the Tao Te Ching a couple of days ago, and I decided to follow the above advice from the introductory chapters about using a random approach to choose which passages to read. The passage I came up with was the following:

 

10 – INNER HARMONY

In managing your instincts and embracing Oneness,

Can you be undivided?

In focusing your Influence,

Can you yield as a newborn child?

In clearing your insight,

Can you become free of error?

In loving people and leading the organization,

Can you take no action?

In opening and closing the gateway to nature,

Can you not weaken?

 

Produce things, cultivate things;

Produce but do not possess.

Act without expectation.

Advance without dominating.

These are called the subtle Powers.

 

I was particularly struck by the phrase ‘Act without expectation’. It was a concept I was struggling with personally due to some recent events. Is this a principle that I myself should stick by, regardless of my feelings, or is doing so just being naïve? I was undecided about what to do, and I was leaning more toward the cynical view. After reading this passage however, I’d like to believe that it did not turn up without reason, and that it actually serves as a reminder of what I personally believe in. Who knows, perhaps this will turn out to be nothing more than some spiritual nonsense, but for now I have made my decision.

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A New Beginning

I decided to start a new blog, because I felt I needed a fresh start. It’s not the first time I’m trying to pick up writing in my blog again, and every time I say that I hope I will keep on updating it. With the risk of sounding too repetitive, I’m going to promise again that this time I will be more diligent in updating my blog. Anyway I have a couple of topics in my head, so hopefully that will last me a couple of weeks at least.

As you may have noticed already, I kept the same name for my blog: “The Musings of a Dreamer”. I truly think that that title suits my character really well, and I’ve decided that I’m going to live up more to it in my new blog. So expect a lot more musings instead of merely a dry exposition of my life. As such, I hope my blog will acquire a more, dare I say it, philosophical character. Hmm, I don’t really know if anyone actually wants to read my thoughts and musings at all; a lot of it is probably just a bunch of nonsense… Oh well, I’ll just write about it and we’ll see if anyone enjoys it. The important thing is that I have to make sure that I enjoy writing it.

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written anything in my blog, but it doesn’t mean that I had stopped writing completely. In fact, I’ve probably written more in the last 3 months than in the last 3 years combined. The writing workshop “Simply Writing II: Completing It On The Page” I followed back in March really did have a positive effect. It helped me to relax a little, and just allow myself to write freely without thinking too much. I’m even starting to enjoy myself more now when I’m writing. It used to be such a chore, so much so that I would sometimes stop writing a single word for months. It’s funny how I am now able to write more freely and enjoyably, and in my opinion also better, just because I’ve learnt to let go of the desire and the obsessive need to write something profound and meaningful.

Hmm, I just realized that I deviated from my writing method of the last few months. Normally I would start free-writing with pen and paper when I have something to write about, without stopping or thinking, and only later I would work it out on my laptop. Come to think of it, writing with pen and paper is probably one of the reasons why I enjoy writing more. There’s something about the feel of the tip of the pen touching a piece of paper that is just more satisfying than typing away on a laptop. Also, there is no Backspace button when writing on paper, so I can’t easily delete anything I have written, so it kind of forces me to keep writing. Oh well, since I finished this post already, I’m just going to leave it as it is and post it.

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