Last weekend was yet another one spent at the swimming pool. I must admit I enjoy weekends like that. My wife and I get to spend time talking with each other and the many other great people supporting those in the water. And we get to see our son push himself to new heights doing something that he loves. In his first year of swimming we defined success as completing each race without a disqualification. Best times were also an important way for him to measure his progress. A legal swim with a personal best time was the epitome of a great swim. Last weekend’s meet was the first of his second long course season. He swam seven events and in each case he met last year’s definition of success. It was a good weekend.

As we left the US Naval Academy, which hosted the meet, my wife and I congratulated him on a great job and his response was less than enthusiastic. In somewhat disbelief, I asked him if he was pleased with finishing at or near the top and qualifying for the State Championship in each event. He replied, “Yes, I am pleased, but I am not satisfied.” I smiled big and could see that he met a significant milestone in his maturation. Some might see those two words as synonyms, and just him knowing that they were different was good enough for me. When we are “pleased”, we are happy with a given situation. When we are “satisfied”, we acknowledge that the conditions are “good enough” and meet our needs/wants. He was pleased with his progress and the result, but now knows he is capable and wanting of even more. He wants to break records and he wants to finish first. In essence, he wants to realize his potential and has become more aware that there is plenty of room for improvement. He’s pleased when he improves, but he will not be satisfied for some time. I find that to be an extremely healthy way to pursue our passions.

As I take stock of various parts of my life, there are areas where I am pleased, others where I am satisfied, and still others where I am neither or both. I find that when I look at things that happened in the past, I am satisfied (in large part because there isn’t much I can do about changing yesterday) . When I look at the now, I migrate toward the (dis)pleased ends of the spectrum. I believe the reason is I feel as though I can influence the outcome in hopes of reaching satisfaction in the future. And when I contemplate the future I am neither.  I am excited and hopeful, and I may even fool myself into feeling a periodic sense of pleasure and satisfaction as I envision what it could be. Since that ride home last weekend, each time my wife or I drop our son off at swim practice, we do so with pride. We know each practice brings him pleasure (he loves the pool) and he is using the opportunity to pursue satisfaction, for satisfaction is essential to success. It was the great Coach Wooden who said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate that which gives us pleasure, and it’s vital that we keep the satisfaction bar high.

  • What aspects of your life are you most pleased about?
  • Are you satisfied with your personal growth and the state of your relationships?
  • What could and should be better? What will you make better?