I was listening to a leadership talk by an amazing couple named Frank and Kortney Cox and I heard a poem that really struck a chord with my soul.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– Author unknown –
The last stanza was particularly important to me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I first got involved in LIFE Leadership, it’s that I am a natural quitter. We all are. Things seem too hard because we are instinctively afraid of the pain that always comes with change. No matter how good the change is, we have to grow, and adapt, and become new, and it necessitates a form of death–the death of who you were, so you can be born again as a new person. It’s a process that takes time, much as a caterpillar needs time to metamorphose, much as a butterfly needs time to make its way out of the confines of the chrysalis that sheltered it during its weakest moments.
All of this equals pain. We are programmed to hate pain, to shy away from it. We don’t seek it out. We value comfort above all else, almost worshiping any source of it that we can find in life.
What so many of us fail to realize is that there is pain in staying the same.
Nobody makes it to the end of his life without experiencing failure, without experiencing the horrible crushing sensation of being trapped in one place with no obvious way out. We all know how it feels to lack freedom, to feel powerless and chained and imprisoned. When we neglect our personal growth, our personal development, we become enslaved by the bad habits we’ve created and by the limited knowledge we possess. Nothing ever changes, so every poor result we find will be duplicated endlessly each time we come around to the same problem. It never ends, and we become hamsters on a wheel. Running as fast as we can and going nowhere new.
Because we feel pain in our daily lives and face the prospect of pain through changing, the easiest solution is to reframe our mindset to accept that there is nothing TO be changed. By refusing to believe there’s anything better than what we have, we allow ourselves to accept the rut we’re in and create an illusion of contentment. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we’re content in our misery. It’s not the worst misery, and there’s nothing better, so clearly we’re just not looking at it properly. If we were, we wouldn’t consider it unpleasant at all.
The key to breaking out of this cycle is to expand your mind. Rekindle the dreams of your youth, before you were beaten down by the daily grind. Look around and see the better things you could have for yourself if you only decide you’re done staying in one place.
You will only feel that hunger and drive to win when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.
I am infinitely grateful to have been introduced to this concept. I have an especial lack of stick-to-it-iveness, and it’s something I have a fierce desire to turn into a skill. I can no longer imagine my life staying the same, and I absolutely hate it when I run into a wall or get knocked back a few steps by some enemy in my path. But it is so easy to give up, to decide that the bruises and bumps, the scars, aren’t a worthwhile sacrifice in the end. It’s so tempting to let the obstacle loom over me and obscure my vision of what I aim for in life. I want so badly to be a coward and turn away, slinking back to my hole with tail between my legs.
But every time I feel that desire, I think of how close I may be to my goal. Maybe the enemy got a good blow in, but perhaps the next time I strike it will be the last time I need to. Maybe there’s fog all around me and I’m feeling lost and scared, and I want to sit down and cry or try turning back to certain safety. But that next step could carry me out of the gloom, into sunlight and warm weather.
You simply cannot know how close you are to success. Every time you fail, there is a lesson to learn that will carry you even closer to your goal. Every step you take forward, no matter how many you may be forced to take backward, strengthens your legs to carry you farther and faster the next time you advance.
Don’t quit. Don’t you dare let the threat of pain hold you back from becoming the best person you can be. Don’t let a boulder in your path, or even a mountain, stand forever between you and your happiness.
You’re closer than you know.