A good start isn’t good enough

We all have flashes of insight and bright ideas. But of the countless number of inspirational moments we’ve had and already acted upon, how many of them have we pursued to the end? How many of them have we realized? Ideas are seeds. Locked within them is great potential. Yet, what good are seeds unless we plough, harrow, and fertilize the soil, and follow that by planting, watering, and looking after the seeds until they bloom? Great ideas often lead to good starts and bright beginnings. But good starts are not good enough, for brilliant ideas are no better than poor ones, unless we follow through.

A good idea and follow-through is an explosive combination. It is the material that is used to transform lives and change the world. The detonator of this highly charged package is COMMITMENT. It is also called DETERMINATION. Commitment means NO MATTER WHAT! And determination is a refusal to allow obstacles to stop us. Here is how this idea was expressed by the man named “Coach of the Century” by ESPN, Vince Lombardi (1913 ~ 1970), “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.” Similarly, Victor Hugo (1802 ~ 1885) wrote, “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” In both cases, the word ‘will’ refers to commitment or determination.

Commitment is like an icebreaker going through an ice floe; it is unstoppable. The whole world steps aside when a committed person passes. Such is the power of deciding to follow through. Determination brings freedom and control. No longer buffeted by the winds of fate, committed people are guided by the power of their will. They understand that it is not faith or belief that moves mountains, but determination. “Determine that the thing can and shall be done,” said Abraham Lincoln (1809 ~ 1865), “and then we shall find the way.” The difference between the impossible and the possible, then, lies in commitment. Anything is possible for the determined because they reject the very notion of ‘trying’ and insist on doing.

Despite the jeers and skepticism of their friends, young people move to Hollywood with the dream of becoming a star. Even for those who are committed, however, not everyone will make it. You see, it is not ALWAYS true that “Where there is a will there is a way,” but one thing is certain: where there is no will, there is no way. So, I admire those who set out on grand adventures and wish them well. What is the harm in trying? When shooting for the stars, they may have overreached, and ‘merely’ land on the moon. But isn’t that a lot further than most of us venture? The problem we have is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it. Yes, not ALL the dreams of committed individuals will come true, but rest assured neither will any of their nightmares come true.

When we commit ourselves to a cause, project, or relationship, we embark on an adventure, so how can we lose? A successful outcome is not predicated on the task as much as it is on our character. By remaining determined, we live by design, not by force of habit.

Let’s look at a few things that may prevent us from making a commitment and experiencing the joy we were meant to have.

1. Disappointment. A certain amount of negative feelings are inevitable, even necessary. But don’t repress them or get bogged down in them. Instead, experience them, work through them, and learn from them. For example, don’t allow disappointment to halt your progress. Disappointment is just a message or feedback telling you that things are not going according to plan. So, instead of quitting, find out what went wrong and what changes need to be made.

2. Lack of confidence or low self-esteem. Your experiences in early childhood may have caused you to lose confidence in yourself. If so, that is a FACT, not an EXCUSE. It’s time to let go of the past, acknowledge you are an adult, and accept responsibility for your own actions. Stop chasing after self-esteem because it is not a goal, but a result. It is something you win each time you reach a goal. So, stop refusing to act just because you may fail. Who cares if you fail? You don’t have to win every battle, you just have to win the war. And you do so by remaining determined and plodding ahead, no matter what.

3. Rebellion. Stop rebelling. Stop getting in your own way. Stop fighting yourself. Many of us are stuck in the ‘resistance syndrome.’ That is, when we were forced as children to yield to the will of an adult, we expressed our autonomy by rebelling. Each time you tell yourself you SHOULD be doing something, you remember the commands you received as a child and automatically resist. You need to change your self-talk. Rather than saying, “I SHOULD go to night school to complete my degree,” say “I WANT to go to night school to complete my degree BECAUSE I will be learning new things, making new friends, feeling great about my accomplishments, and improve my chances for future advancement.” Recapping, SHOULD’s create resistance while WANT’s dissolve resistance. Don’t forget to give power to your WANT’s by adding BECAUSE plus the reasons for your choice.

4. Here is another point for us to think about: follow the path of wisdom. Your life is too short to experience and learn everything by yourself. So, learn from the wisdom passed down to us. For example, consider the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106 ~ 43 BC), “What one has, one ought to use: and whatever he does he should do with all his might.” Are you using what you have, your talents, and using them with all your might? To bring this point home, let’s add the comments of Orison Swett Marden (1850 ~ 1924), “The greatest trouble with most of us is that our demands upon ourselves are so feeble, the call upon the great within us so weak and intermittent that it makes no impression upon the creative energies; it lacks the force that transmutes desires into realities.” If we make only half-hearted efforts, why are we surprised by half-hearted results? If we’re not ready to do our best, someone else is, so we’d better be prepared to be left behind.

“Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men,” said Charles De Gaulle (1890 ~ 1970), “and men are great only if they are determined to be so.” How about us? Are we determined to be great men and women? Are we DETERMINED? Are we COMMITTED?