January 25

It is amazing how much
work people can get
done if they do not worry
about who gets the credit.

Sandra Swinney


Today's Meditation:

It's natural, it seems, to want to take credit for something--even things that we didn't do.  It must be natural, for so many of us spend so much time and effort making sure that we get credit for all that we do.  It is a nice feeling, after all, to be able to say, "I did that" when someone sees something positive, something of high quality, that we've done.  But I guess the question that we should ask ourselves is this:  If I were to spend the energy that I spent on making sure people know what I've done on doing something new, what more could I get done?

I notice that my students in middle and high school have learned well the need to take credit, and they've learned it to a new extreme:  they expect to get A's just for finishing an assignment, no matter how mediocre or even average their work is.  I've had many students tell me that they deserve an "A" in a class because they've "done all the assignments."  Unfortunately, I have to explain to them that the "A" is reserved for outstanding work, but the work that they've done shows no sign of being outstanding.

Part of the problem, of course, lies in cultures and structures that offer little to no positive feedback to people.  In companies that do show their appreciation to the people  who work for them, people don't feel nearly as strong a need to make sure that they get credit for individual jobs, for they know that they're appreciated.  And while that can be a good thing, it's still depending on an outside source for a sense of well-being or a sense of accomplishment. 

The trick is to give ourselves credit, to know without doubt that we've done something special, and to be satisfied with that. Then we can turn right to our next task, and do that even better than we did this one.  We'll be putting our energy into something constructive rather than into trying to convince people that we're deserving of the credit that we think they should be giving us. 

Questions to consider:

How much could you get done if you weren't worried about getting credit for something you've already done?

Why is it so important to us that we get credit, that we're recognized for the effort that we've put into something?  In the big picture, is it really all that important?

What would our lives be like if we were able to function without worrying about getting credit for all that we do?  How would we have to change our thought patterns to be able to live this way?

For further thought:

My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success.  She said that "achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you.  Success is being praised by others, and that's nice, too, but not as important or satisfying."  Always aim for achievement and forget about success.

Helen Hayes


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