This is one of many in my lifelong series on finding truth, solace, peace, direction, etc. somewhere in the middle of (and typically directly in between) two often competing, sometimes opposite, and sometimes otherwise seemingly unrelated concepts. Finding that small nook or cranny where truth, success, and happiness lies directly between two things you might think are distinct choices is probably the most challenging and most rewarding experience of life itself.

In this instance, we look at being “right” vs. being “happy”, or rather, finding truth directly between the pursuit and journey in seeking out one or the other, or both. The reason I find these to be interesting is — like all of my “truth in the middle” series — I have experienced and witnessed the highly magnetic pull each of these has first hand. And in this particular instance, it also happens to be related to the core concepts of the Bhagavad Gita.

It should first be noted that the pursuit of ensuring you are right is very different from the pursuit of ensuring others validate that you are right. I find it fair to assume one’s normal pursuit of being right in today’s world is generally some sort of external validation that they are indeed right. And, not surprisingly, the thoughts and actions related to gaining acceptance of one’s ideas from others (being right) is often confused for the more sincere righteousness of thoughts and actions related to gaining acceptance of one’s ideas from your own conscience. And indeed, it is hard to separate one’s consciousness from the influences of others in your surroundings, therefore the line in the sand is very hard to draw. None-the-less, this pursuit to be right indeed has its valid attractions. And the pursuit of happiness is of course something we all look to achieve as well (see Content vs Motivated). As the Gita and surely other philosophies preach however, duty — or actions that must be done in the name of good/right — should far outweigh one’s ambitions for happiness. This based on an underlying notion that happiness achieves short term results for the mind/body while duty/right-ness achieves long term results for the soul. Again, however, perhaps especially in our modern American society, a pursuit of happiness is a fundamental part of being human.

In my experiences, some especially more recent (hence my putting this to virtual paper), I have seen myself and others around me get drawn into the pull from both sides.

  1. In one case, I see people on projects eager to push their own ideas in a desperate effort to be right, an effort that sometimes — even often — trumps an effort to achieve happiness (or success) on an initiative. The result is the appearance of selfishness. And often, the passion for being right comes with the price of a poor perception from colleagues, managers, subordinates, and others.
  2. Yet, in another case, I see people clearly being misled and even blatantly deceived. Though they want so badly to right a very clear wrong and to introduce a good into a bad, they continue to choose to avoid the conflict that would come with pursuing making things right, where making things right would be an effort that would almost certainly ensure failure on an initiative and certainly ruin personal relationships. The result is an internal struggle for those pursuing happiness and an emboldening from the wrong-doers where they continue to take more and more from those leaning too far on being happy instead of being right.

These are always very difficult choices and decisions. And the proper balance can be extremely difficult for one to grasp. There is almost never a clear winning choice, nor is there ever a clear winner/loser. In these examples, interestingly, being right was a pursuit in making one happy (more selfish) and being happy was a pursuit in making one right in the eyes of others (more selfless). Indeed, the game itself changes. And teams’ as well as society’s collective views change/evolve as well. Recognizing that truth is likely stuck somewhere directly in the middle is the key.