Great Expectations and The Simple Life

I have read two great posts recently about how it is all right and even good to choose a simple life over a life that is publicly recognized and acclaimed as successful. We all hear so much about what it means to be a success, how to set goals, and not give up on our ambitions. If we haven’t fulfilled those goals and ambitions we can feel guilty and let down. Maybe we just didn’t try hard enough.

It was nice to read these posts about how it is possible to think that living a quieter life, without lofty goals, is perfectly fine. That there are people who have found the quiet life very rewarding and satisfying. The first post is by David Brooks, The Small, Happy LifeBrooks had asked readers to submit essays about how they found their purpose in life. He was surprised with some of the responses. He said, I expected most contributors would follow the commencement-speech clichés of our high-achieving culture: dream big; set ambitious goals; try to change the world.  I will quote from one of the responses he received.

Terence J. Tollaksen responded:

“I have always admired those goal-oriented, stubborn, successful, determined individuals; they make things happen, and the world would be lost without them.” But, he explains, he has always had a “small font purpose.”

“I can say it worked for me. I know it sounds so Midwest, but it’s been wonderful. I have a terrific wife, 5 kids, friends from grade school and high school, college, army, friends locally, and sometimes, best of all, horses, dogs, and cats. Finally, I have a small industrial business that I started and have run for 40 years based on what I now identify as principles of ‘Pope Francis capitalism.’ ”

Oh, for more capitalists like Mr. Tollaksen!

The second post I read was Oh What to Be by Kelly Quirino. In it she describes what is was like for her to be an identified “gifted” child in elementary school at 5 years of age. How the high expectations of her teachers and community created so much stress for her. She would vomit every day before school. Her mother finally withdrew her from the gifted program. Kelly grew up to have a quiet life dedicated to her children. She says:

” I’m not a surgeon, a scientist, a CEO, or a Nobel Prize winner. What I want out of life is to live simply, honestly, and humbly. My ambitions are to show my children that they are loved and to make the world around me a little better, a little more beautiful, and a little more peaceful. In my heart, I feel like this is a worthy way to spend my time in this world.”

Kelly says she still feels guilty at times about her life choices. That she did not fulfill society’s expectations for someone with her abilities. Isn’t it time to redefine success or at least broaden the definition? Can’t there be more than one type of success? I agree we need all those goal-oriented people but we would be lost without all the quiet ones. And we have to allow each of us to chose which life fits us best.

12 thoughts on “Great Expectations and The Simple Life

  1. Kat

    There’s a lot to be said for a simpler life. I think that it’s too easy to get caught up in the idea of big goals and dreams and spending way too much time working towards those thing. It’s fine, if that’s what you really want. I have found that I prefer things to be more simple and quiet. 🙂

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  2. Dan Antion

    No matter what your goals are, being happy should be near the top. Very few people are going to be remembered for their achievements. I remember the things my dad did, but I remember more, the time he and I spent together. I’ve done well in my career. People have told me I could have done better, but not without upsetting a delicate balance. Simple things like being able to have dinner with my family, being able to help with homework or attend school meetings, or (these days) coming home and spending some time with our dog. These are all important things, and they all help (have helped) keep me happy.

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      Yes, Dan, I have thought along the same lines as you. There are trade offs. Sometimes I think that I should have spent more time developing ” a career” but then I don’t think I would have been happy doing that, when I am honest with myself. I think it is wonderful that you have devoted time to your family as well. These are things that don’t get recognition but do mean a lot.

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      1. Dan Antion

        the big thing for us was when my wife quit working to be a full-time mom. It was a great decision but it was hard to make and people told us we were making a huge mistake. No regrets on that one at all.

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      2. Deborah Drucker Post author

        I think a thread in my post is that many people choose to not be in the spotlight and that is ok. Another thread for me is about the gifted woman who chose to stay home with her kids. I think if more credit was given to the importance of the role of stay at home mother people would not criticize the choice. It seems pretty important to me to have a smart mother at home with the kids. We must do what is right for us.

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  3. silentlyheardonce

    Our perception of happiness and success is different for each others. In my opinion each of us should live for our own peace of mind. I think that being happy in our own skin is the richest gift we can accomplish. Nice share Deborah.

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  4. LifestyleswithLia

    Wow, this post really hit home for me…especially Kelly’s comments about feeling sick each day before school because of her enrollment in the gifted program. I must admit that I too had similar experiences in elementary school (I didn’t get ill before school but felt pressured to excel)…Deborah, I really appreciate your enlightening posts that share such important and thought-provoking information. It really makes me think I’m not alone out there!

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      Thank you so much Lia. I appreciate it. ❤ I am really glad that these posts are supportive. That is what I hope for too. I know I am a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and when I was in school I too experienced a lot of stress and can relate to Kelly as well. I hope that some of these words that I quoted will be empowering to people who may have chosen a quieter life.

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