I have known this gentleman for a very long period through almost our entire professional life of more than thirty years. Only recently he superannuated after more than thirtyfive years service as a senior ranking official in the Government. While in service, I recall whenever we met I mostly found him unhappy with the people complaining, often bitterly, about the entire (rotten!) system. He would always put himself at a very high pedestal, morally and ethically, and mostly talk about corrupt practices of serving officers around him, his own endeavour to set things right, and consequent failures due to lack of support from the system besides a terrible shortage of quality time left for own family. He would not forget to narrate incidents of serious misdemeanours or irregularities of some people and how his efforts to do right things were scuttled by the corrupt system.
Despite knowing each other for such a long period and living in the vicinity, we seldom see each other socially. So the other day, when we met by chance while gone out to purchase certain essential commodities from a common retail outlet, after customary exchange of pleasantries, I enthusiastically inquired if he is happy now by spending quality time with the family after long years of his onerous office routine. He responded with a sigh of relief yet bitterly complaining how he had wasted decades of his valuable time in the rotten government job. I tried to pacify him saying that perhaps he may not have been very happy due to his high ethical and moral norms while dealing with a majority comprising of mediocre or below mediocre people but, quite obviously, I was unsuccessful which was apparent from his even more vehementally vocal and regretful criticism of people dealt with while in service.
While back at home, I wondered why this gentleman was so dissatisfied, unhappy and critical about everything in life even after retirement. Going by a comparison, I find I had less physical achievements compared to him in terms of securing positions in bureaucratic career yet a higher degree of satisfaction with hardly any ill-will or complaint against the people or environment having worked with. I recall in almost every assignment, apart from the routine duties and responsibilities, I successfully tried to pursue and implement certain innovations, mostly technological, for the larger good and systemic improvement. Some of these initiatives had wide scope with all India implication. All this I did without seeking any publicity or expecting any reward from the system but the solace and satisfaction of having done something good while is service still rests with me. One has to realize that you can easily change yourself, if you so desire, but you cannot force the system to follow your footprints. Besides you cannot be your own judge - like you try to evaluate others according to your way of thinking, same others too are free to frame opinion about you.
The question is why some people are never happy or satisfied in life despite having achieved high position with a lot of name and fame in terms of personal achievement. One can make it complicated but perhaps the answer is very simple and it relates to how you look at the life. In fact, in life nothing is absolute and every event or situation has its own positive and negative points, and it is up to you whether you want to focus on positive or score on negative aspects. While working in a system, you can pick up things in your area of responsibility and try to do what is right for the systemic improvement through your contribution and by mustering all possible support from your superiors, colleagues and subordinates. Of course the other option is that presumably standing at a higher pedestal without taking responsibility, you start finding faults with every approach and person, frequently pursue unrealistic goals and faulty lines leading to obvious failures and, in turn, remain ever critical and dissatisfied.
The person must cease attributing his personal problems, worries and failures to the environment, and instead learn to take personal responsibility to carry out his chosen mission and vision at work place and in life at large. People in the position of authority should try to lead from the front. It may appear painful to realize that you yourself and no one else is responsible for the most of your mess or miseries but it is still worth for your own good in the long term. Last but not the least, if you are unable to work or contribute constructively and find yourself out of place all the time, it is better to quit for your own good and mental peace rather than continuing and living with unhappiness and illwill for long.
In fact, it is a sign of wisdom and maturity when you come to terms with the realization that your decisions cause your rewards and consequences. You must also need to realize that only you are responsible for your life, and ultimate success and consequent self-satisfaction will depend on the choices made. Despite empowerment, when someone starts blaming others for all the mess created, he (or she) also abdicates own power and opportunity to improve or change. Not taking responsibility to lead from the front is indeed less demanding and brings temporary comfort to the person but there is always a heavy price to pay for it. In the long term, such people fall prey to the habit of blaming everyone else while giving away personal power and remaining unhappy all the time in life as non-achievers.