If necessity is the mother of invention, discontent is the father of progress (David Rockerfeller)
You say you’re not satisfied? Things could be better? Great! You’re well on the road to moving forward. For the seed of progress is the need for improvement. According to Eugene V. Debs, “If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who had not been satisfied with their conditions, you would still be living in caves. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.” Hubert H. Humphrey expressed similar views, “If there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good. If there is ferment, so much the better. If there is restlessness, I am pleased. Then let there be ideas, and hard thought, and hard work. If man feels small, let man make himself bigger.”
Each step we take forward is accompanied by added responsibilities and new problems. And it is in solving these new problems that further progress is made. In other words, problems are the price of and key to progress. Whether it’s personal or societal progress, our concern should be with the direction we are moving in, rather than in the speed we are advancing. Also, although dissatisfaction is necessary for progress, complaining without taking action is futile.
“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” With that and other mighty cries, Martin Luther King Jr. helped to make America a little bit better. The bad news is there’s still much work to be done. The good news is King’s initiative is alive, well, and cannot be stopped. His life illustrates the positive changes we can make to our lives and our country.
“All right, I agree. Progress is desirable. I want to improve. But how do I begin?” Well, we can start by changing our attitude or the way we view the world. Some tips follow.
a) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember, as long as each mistake is a new one, you are making progress.
b) Get into the habit of using the magic word, YET. That is, don’t say, “I can’t do it. I don’t know how to do it. I can’t figure it out.” Instead say, “I can’t do it YET. I don’t know how to do it YET. I can’t figure it out YET.” That simple three letter word has the power to change your negative thinking into possibility thinking.
c) If you have a setback, you don’t have to take a step back. On the contrary, prepare for a comeback. Learn from your setbacks and discover the opportunities they conceal.
d) Don’t be afraid of taking risks. As Mark Twain explains, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
e) Don’t ask, “Do I have what it takes to succeed?” Of course, you do. Rather ask, “Am I willing to pay the price to succeed?” What is the price of success? The four D’s: Desire, Discipline, Determination, and Dedication. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet avoid confrontation, are people who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its waters.” (Frederick Douglass)
f) Look at the big picture. Harold Kushner tells how, “Life is not a spelling bee, where no matter how many words you have gotten right, if you make one mistake you are disqualified. Life is more like a baseball season, where even the best team loses one-third of its games and even the worst team has its days of brilliance. Our goal is not to go all year without ever losing a game. Our goal is to win more than we lose, and if we can do that consistently enough, then when the end comes, we will have won it all.”
g) Remember, no one who has given his best has ever regretted it. Neither will you.
h) Make the right choices. As one poet wrote, “There is a choice you have to make, In everything you do. And you must always keep in mind, The choice you make, makes you.”
i) Don’t make excuses; make progress. Don’t try to shift the blame. “When the archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim – improve yourself.” (Gilbert Arland)
j) “Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.” (Anthony J. D’Angelo)
k) Accept responsibility. W. Page Pitt, former head of the department of journalism at Marshall University, was 97% blind. When he was asked by a student which was the worst, to be blind, deaf, or limbless, he replied, “None of those things! Lethargy, irresponsibility, lack of ambition or desire: They are the real handicaps. If I do not teach you anything but to want to do something with your lives, this course will be a magnificent success.”
l) Don’t be ungrateful. After all, as William A. Ward eloquently writes, “Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellow man, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time, immaturity of thought, and impoliteness to God.”
m) Finally, although we wish to lift ourselves up, we need to avoid getting stuck up. And although we wish to make ourselves better, we need to avoid believing we’re better than others.