Better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow

How ARE you? The next time someone asks, you may want to reply, “Better than yesterday, but worse than tomorrow!” Did you get it? That simply means that every day is better than the previous one. That’s the way we should live. Rather than growing older with each passing day, we should grow better. And we grow better by becoming MORE, by realizing MORE of our potential each day. But how do we do that?

Begin by FEELING your potential. See how the soft grass pushes itself through the cracks in the concrete, stretching its blades to embrace the sun. See how the migrating monarch butterfly flies 1,800 miles, from Ontario to Mexico, without a map or compass. See how the giant sequoia tree draws water from beneath the soil, raising it 200 feet or more to nourish each of its countless leaves. Imagine the power that resides in every organism that makes such incredible feats possible. That power is the life force and it is throbbing within you. We can also call it your potential. It is eager to express itself. It wants you to stretch out and embrace life; it wants you to soar and travel to the distant destinations known as your dreams; it wants you to tap into the unlimited power of the universe to nurture your every hope. FEEL your potential. Draw it into every fiber of your being. Let it inspire you to take action. Now, begin.

Begin what? Begin to make a plan. Did you ever wonder why so many slack off and fail to reach their potential? Their ship remains in the harbor simply because they haven’t decided on a destination. How can they set sail for an unknown territory? The first thing we need to do, then, is decide on what we wish to accomplish. The second is to list all the steps we need to take to reach our goal. The third is to build an action plan by indicating the dates we will carry out each step. The fourth is to begin following the steps in our plan. The goal you decide on is your compass. The plan you design is your map. The action you take is the wind in your sails. So, you see, you have the potential and the tools to set sail.

Your compass and map point out what you would LIKE to do. Your actions suggest what you WANT to do. There is often a difference between the two. For example, Connie works in the accounting department and dreams about furthering her career by eventually attending night school and becoming a certified accountant. That’s what she would LIKE to do. The trouble is, after a hectic day at the office, all she WANTS to do is go out with the girls, unwind, and have a good time. If we find ourselves in a position like Connie, we have to ask ourselves, “Who’s in control here? Do I want to be led around by whatever feels good or do I want to take charge of my life and map out my future?”

Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that anything worthwhile is difficult to attain. Life is a struggle, but it’s a rewarding struggle. We soon learn that the more we put into life the more we will get out. Success doesn’t come without a fight, but the sweetness of victory makes the effort worthwhile. It is also helpful to remain focused on our goals and ever mindful of our potential. When you pick up an acorn in the park, it is easy to forget you are holding a tree. When you look in the mirror, don’t see an acorn; see a tree. Be ever mindful of your potential and let it energize you.

Is it worth the risk we have to take to follow our dream? Theodore Roosevelt believed so: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Nobody wants to die, but how many of us want to live? George H. Allen explains: “Only winners are truly alive. Winning is living. Every time you win, you’re reborn. When you lose, you die a little.” And when do we win? When we follow our dream. When do we lose? When we drift through life without a compass and map!

After a rough start, Mary Groda-Lewis created her compass and map. As a youngster she couldn’t read because of dyslexia, which was misdiagnosed. The frustration she experienced led to behavioral problems. Instead of receiving sympathy, she received a sentence to a reformatory. But it was there she learned to read by studying as long as sixteen hours a day. At eighteen, she passed her high school equivalency exam and was named Oregon’s outstanding Upward Bound student. Not long after being released she became a single mother. First surviving on welfare, then on any odd job she could find. After many sacrifices, she enrolled in college. Encouraged by her success, she then decided to become a doctor. After receiving fifteen rejections from medical schools, she was finally accepted by Albany Medical College.

She graduated with honors in 1984 at age 35 and set up a practice devoted to helping the poor and needy, providing more than a $100,000 worth of free health care each year. In 1986, her heroic story was made into a TV movie called, “Love, Mary.” Her story also appears in the book series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” She closed her practice on April 28, 2000 among the tears and warm embraces of her patients and colleagues. Yes, she couldn’t read, was sent to a reformatory, became a single parent, and lived on welfare, but all along Mary knew she wasn’t an acorn, but a tree. So, armed with her compass and map, she reached her dream and made a difference in the lives of all those she touched. Can’t we do the same?

Recently I read about a homeless man that froze to death in the winter. When the body was taken to the mortuary, $100,000 was discovered in the lining of his trench coat. He can be excused for ignoring his potential and hidden treasure, for he was mentally ill. But what about us who have sound minds? How can we ignore the treasure hidden in the lining of our soul? To ignore our potential is to ignore life. I’ll rest my case by calling on two enlightened poets to testify:

“To be what we are and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

“I had an almost intolerable awareness that every morning began with infinite promise. Any book may be read, any idea thought, any action taken. Anything that has ever been possible to human beings is possible to most of us every time the clock says six in the morning. On a day no different from the one now breaking, Shakespeare sat down to begin Hamlet.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)