Success Is Not About Who Wins the Race, It's About Who Finishes.
"The road to success leads through the valley of humility, and the path is up the ladder of patience and across the wide barren plains of perseverance. As yet, no shortcut has been discovered." -- Joseph. J. Lamb
Can you feel the energy of the new year calling you to prepare for the launch into 365 days of great possibilities? Much like spirited race horses, many of us will line up at the starting gate of 2015 with unbridled enthusiasm, ready for the sprint to the finish line just twelve short months away, hoping to achieve significant and wonderful changes in our lives.
For many of us it all begins with making a New Year's resolution, often centering on changing or enhancing our diet, relationships, employment, material status, or physical health and wellbeing. I must admit, however, I gave up declaring resolutions a good number of years ago because I came to the conclusion that they generally go "in one year and out the other." I discovered that when I made a New Year's resolution it usually boiled down to a battle between my ego and my good intentions, with sheer willpower being the weapon of choice. While I always started with an enthusiastic burst out the gate (just like the hare in Aesop's memorable fable of the Tortoise and the Hare), I would most often fade long before I reached the homestretch, falling short of fulfilling my resolution because I ran out of juice (enthusiasm), or my interest was simply derailed by a short attention span as I took a detour down the superhighway of instant gratification. In the fable, the hare was so impressed with his ability to be a "sprinter" he arrogantly stopped to take a snooze and went unconscious. We could say he took the same detour I did.
When all was said and done, my resolutions didn't come to fruition because I failed to stay the course long enough to see the results. Ultimately I came to realize that "will" power generally "won't" win in the end for the reason that it is usually short lived and difficult to maintain. Why? Because it is held in place by the conscious mind which, after a period of time, tires, becomes bored or distracted and caves in. If we want to introduce true change in our lives in 2015, it's not only our behavior we must modify; it's our consciousness or belief system that supports our behavior -- which can require time and mindful effort. This is why gym memberships take off in January and often flattens out in April; it's very hard to maintain the resolution after the novelty and excitement of launching into the new year is over. The same holds true for many of those who resolve to go on a diet; they soar in January and "crash" in March. Let us be clear, this does not mean we shouldn't go to the gym or go on a diet. It means we ought to approach our desires for the new year more like a tortoise than a rabbit, understanding that "slow and steady" is more likely to get us to the finish line.
Is it possible to hold an intention in place without making it a resolution? Of course it is but it requires an entirely different mindset. Our intentions can be gently supported and held in place by mindfully paying attention to one thing and one thing only: the present moment and the choices we make in that moment... and then holding ourselves accountable for those choices. It's a process of clear, consistent, persistent, patient, one moment at a time, one breath at a time, one step at a time, paying attention to just the next step rather than obsessing about the finish line three months or a year down the road. It's not about forcing or "willing" our mind to cooperate because our mind tends to naturally rebel at the first sign of coercion. The practice is to remember that the focus need not be solely on the goal but primarily on the next step... and then the next... and when our mind strays (and it will) gently calling it back to the present moment which is really our only point of power. Paying attention to our intention in this manner introduces an entirely different dynamic than mentally struggling every day, trying to push our way to the finish line by means of sheer willpower.
This is why there is so much wisdom in the saying, slow and steady wins the race. Not that there is really any race to win but this sentiment from Aesop's fable is a metaphor we can all understand: It's not the speed, flashiness or intensity by means of which we approach any of our desired goals -- it's our commitment to be consistent, persistent and patient -- one day at a time -- with the clear intention to arrive at our destination that will get us there. Suffice it to say there is no shortcut to the fulfillment of a life worth living. Therefore, I would like to offer three simple suggestions that might be helpful in assuring your successful arrival at the finish line of your highest intention for 2015.
- Be gentle with yourself when you fall down, backslide, or metaphorically go unconscious and take a snooze. The practice is not to beat yourself up; it's to gently get back up and continue moving in the direction you wish to go, one step at a time.
- Pace yourself with some form of measurable results such as a daily journal to log your progress, celebrating the small steps by means of certain earmark accomplishments (goals) along the way.
- DON'T share your goals (intentions) with the trolls, meaning those who will try to undermine your success. DO however, invite a trusted friend, counselor, or mentor to lovingly hold you accountable and be your faithful cheerleader.
As you enter the new year may you inscribe these words of Winston Churchill in your heart and mind: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." May 2015 be the year that you intend it to be, and may you find the courage to stay the course leading to the fulfillment of your own heart's greatest desires, remembering success is not always about who wins the race, it's about who finishes.