What Do I Want to Win?
Recently, my family was playing a ring toss game at an amusement park. Over 100 glass bottles were clustered together in the center of the stall, and the players aimed their rings to land around a bottle’s neck.
Our family was given a huge bucket of 30 rings. We divided up the rings and started tossing.
The kids were anxious to win, and I understood because I remembered as a kid winning the ring toss at summer camp one year. The huge plush Taz character I won sat on my bed the rest of the summer, taking up more than half its surface.
Fast-forward many years later to the present scene. There I was, hoping to win again—for nostalgia’s sake, of course. I glanced up and saw a look of determination on my husband’s face, as well.
With each ring that bounced off and fell right through, I became more determined to succeed. But then I looked up at the huge prize hanging from the ceiling and thought, What am I doing? I don’t even want the prize!
You could not pay me enough money to take home an oversized stuffed animal that takes up more than half of a twin-size bed. In fact, if my kids did win, I would be spending half the ride home trying to figure out how I could get rid of it without them getting upset (trinkets disappear after a few days in my house).
Honestly, I would even pay someone to take that prize out of the house. I needed to stop myself and ask, Do I even want what I’m playing for?
So too with life. We get on the “rat race” treadmill, and we never stop to ask ourselves if that’s what we want. If we paused to think, we might even realize we’re going in the wrong direction!
Two Questions to Uncover Your Life’s Purpose
How do you figure out what you want in life? Ask yourself two very specific questions:
- What makes me jealous?
- What makes me angry?
Yes, these things may be uncomfortable to think about. It may even make your skin crawl to admit them out loud. But everyone has feelings of jealousy, and everyone gets angry.
In Pirkei Avot (5:10), the mishnah states: “There are four types of temperaments. One who is easily angered and easily appeased—his virtue cancels his flaw. One whom it is difficult to anger and difficult to appease—his flaw cancels his virtue. One whom it is difficult to anger and is easily appeased is a chassid. One who is easily angered and is difficult to appease is wicked.”
Guess what the text doesn’t mention: A person who doesn’t get angry.
The phrase is written this way purposefully, because everyone gets angry, and everyone gets jealous. It’s part of being human. No one wants to admit to owning either of these feelings, but they are important tools. If we can channel these energies and laser focus them to reach our potential, then we are ultimately fulfilling our purpose here on earth.
Let us delve into these two questions to understand how anger and jealousy can actually help us.
What Makes Me Jealous?
Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project, described a point in her life (before Facebook exploded) when she received alumni emails from her alma mater. These emails extolled the accomplishments of her peers in the same graduating class. When she read that someone became a billionaire, an actor, real estate mogul, or started a thriving business, she was genuinely happy for that person, and felt not a pang of jealousy.
If, however, someone became a bestselling author, or wrote a highly successful movie script, she felt one emotion very strongly—jealousy.
This awareness helped her realize she was meant to be a writer. It also motivated her to write more and to refine her writing as she did.
Ask yourself, What makes me jealous? Perhaps that is an indication of what you want to accomplish, or how you want to live your life.
Jealousy can be a tremendous motivator. In Hebrew, healthy jealousy is called kinat sofer—spiritual jealousy. When we look at others’ accomplishments, it can motivate us to action. However, the key word is spiritual. Looking towards others’ material belongings can paralyze us into inaction. Jealousy can tell us who we want to be, if we allow it to.
What Makes Me Angry?
Anger is our inner teacher. It’s analogous to a timer on an oven, indicating when the food is cooked. It also tells you what’s important to you. What we are willing to get angry about indicates what our values are, and what is of utmost important in our lives.
The movie Inside Out is an animated depiction of a young girl faced with four incarnate emotions: Happiness, Sadness, Anger, and Fear. When Anger comes into the picture, he is introduced as follows: “This is Anger—he likes it when things are fair.”
Our own inner voice of anger shouts, This isn’t fair! Many parts of life are unfair; the aspects that concern us and generate anger within us indicate who we really are.
I once saw a Lululemon bag that had various quotes written on it. One quote said, “Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to.” I would extend that by asserting that both jealousy and anger hurt the person feeling it most. Both are two emotions that may have tremendous potential for destruction but can also be tools of growth. Anger and jealousy can help us find our purpose in the world by understanding what makes us tick, and who we want to be.
Anger and jealousy are teachers, but if not channeled properly, they can utterly destroy—and usually they will destroy the person with the feelings, not the focus of the emotion.
Ultimately, it’s not a plush toy at the amusement park that we want, but something deeper. When we ask ourselves what makes us angry and what makes us jealous, we gain clarity regarding what we really want out of life. Rather than getting caught up in the superficial, we must dig deeper to uncover our true purpose in life. That choice to aim higher is ours, and the first step is figuring out what it is we really want to win.