Success Skills: Power of Beliefs, Perseverance & Grit. Self Determination & the Purpose Driven Life
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Learn from the Masters
Marcus Aurelius, the second century Roman Emperor, was one of the most powerful and accomplished men in history. He was recognized by his peers, and historians since, to be wholly deserving of his historical status. A man of considerable wisdom and character.
One night in the year 170, Aurelius, was self-journaling, long before the term came into use, as he sought to clarify and amplify principles that he knew led to a good life.
His thoughts weren’t original and, in fact, he was simply substantiating his understanding of what earlier thinkers and teachers had themselves observed, articulated and passed on to Aurelius and others.
On that night, Aurelius wrote “our actions may be impeded, but there is no impeding our intentions or dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes, the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action, advances the action. What stands in the way, becomes the way.”
(When you finish this article, watch/read this on the science of changing your habits. How to optimize your daily activites and succeed.)
Obstacles Define Our Path
Obstacles are inevitable. And they absolutely will impede our actions.
Impede, but never prevent. That is, unless we choose to fail ourselves and blame an obstacle for our decision to quit.
Yes, our actions can be temporarily blocked or deflected by an obstacle. However, our disposition, as Aurelius framed it – also known as our mindset or our attitude – our dispositions are born of our perceptions and our beliefs. And our perceptions and beliefs are servants to no external obstacle. Rather, they are servant only to our internal obstacles – the workings, the choices, of our minds.
An obstacle may compel us to change tactics or strategy… but, they cannot change the intention of a passionate and purposeful heart and mind.
And, as Aurelius observed, an obstacle often comes to actually define our path. Because, in the purposeful person, obstacles are nothing but signposts and feedback. Ones that, for the life of purpose, provide an education and motivation, but never an excuse to quit.
(Watch/read for a personal story of overcoming obstacles.)
Life is a Marathon
Isn’t it true that life’s most important things require time to achieve or master? And isn’t it also true that anything and everything that requires significant time, intention and action is also going to, almost by definition, encounter obstacles?
And if we allow obstacles to deter or defeat us, then we’ve already written and published the ending of our story, haven't we? Or, at least, the ending of that chapter of our story.
But we can always go back and edit our story. Then republish it, with a better message and a happier ending.
The Purpose-filled Life is Defined by Obstacles Overcome
Things of great significance require time and intention to realize. Exceptional personal growth and evolution. Personal fulfillment. The certainty that we matter. Professional achievements and success. Relationships. All of these take time to develop and unfold. Often even to be identified and fully enjoyed.
Significant achievement and experience is rarely, if ever, the singular, milestone event outsiders use to identify a given achievement. They evolve, unfold and reveal themselves over time. And through, and often because of, obstacle after obstacle…
Even the most simple of concepts and activities: the concepts of presence and mindfulness – even these most simple of concepts require our repeated practice over time. And they only develop because we exercise our intention upon repeated obstacles over time, as we practice and seek mastery over our mind and our inner life.
Don’t Allow for Failure When it Comes to Your Purpose
There is NO failure, but in failing to begin or failing to continue. Everything else is an education or motivation. But we must be of the belief-set, the mindset and action-set that defines all obstacles as an education or motivation. And never anything more
Even if our final outcome isn’t exactly as we’d hoped and intended when we started our journey – or when we were half-way through our adventure – when we choose the path of purpose and perseverance, we choose a path that strengthens our character, our will, our fortitude, our lives and the lives of those around us.
And when we overcome obstacles, rather then succumb to them, we fuel the fire of our confidence and optimism. Both of which are ancestors to significant fulfillment, happiness and achievement in life. And, like a muscle developed or oxygen to a fire, when fed, these forces expand their capacity, force and effectiveness. As they also begin to become second nature.
The Power of Perception
How we experience life, moment by moment, day after day, is largely, if not exclusively, determined by our beliefs and perceptions. And the actions we take are a result of our perceptions and beliefs which largely determine the results we get in the world.
Your Soul Longs to Live Big and Matter
It’s in our human spirit to live a big life, stand out and matter. But our brains are designed to fight the nature of our spirit. Our brains are designed by evolution to seek and avoid potential threats, not to take risks, stand out and matter.
Our brains are engineered to avoid obstacles, because obstacles are a threat to our existence.
To make matters worse, family and society reinforces our biological nature, telling us to fit-in, play-it-safe and think-small. Maximize your odds of survival.
Life’s a… Well, It Can Be a Challenge
So, our souls, our spirits, long to live big, important lives. And a big, important life, by definition, is going to encounter obstacles and pain. And our brains are designed to avoid obstacles and pain. Because, to the old, unconscious brain, obstacles and pain mean death.
Yet, the simple truth is, the greater your ambition, the greater your passion, the greater your inevitable obstacles. The greater the number, frequency and relative size of the obstacles you’ll encounter.
The greater your ambition, the greater your obstacles, including their number, frequency and relative size.
And our brains are engineered by evolution to avoid obstacles, because they are a threat to our existence. Further, society reinforces our biological nature, teaching us to play it safe, think small and shut up.
Now, all paths are not equal. Yes, some of us encounter more and larger obstacles; and some of us fewer and smaller. But everyone encounters obstacles on their way to an exceptional life. The question is, how do we choose to perceive these obstacles? Because this determines what do we do about them?
The Power of Perception
But… when you use your creative imagination and your passion and when you exercise perseverance, you can overcome any and every obstacle.
And, in fact, as Aurelius articulated, our obstacles, in fact, often end up defining and becoming our path.
In any event, worst case, even if you don’t arrive where you originally imagined and intended, isn’t it true that the person you develop into: the character, the confidence and the wisdom, along with the rich nature of the experiences you will have cultivated… and the richer and superior outcomes you will have created… wouldn’t you agree that, regardless of your final outcome, who you become, what you experience and the impact you have will certainly be much bigger because you stayed in the game, you fought your fight, you persevered and you continued?
Perception is Everything
Shakespeare said that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
So why not think of obstacles as those painful experiences that make us wiser, stronger and more capable? The very things that forge the metal of our character and will.
We love good times, but we rarely, if ever, develop character, fortitude or other admirable skills and attributes in the good times.
Shakespeare also said: This above all. To thine own self be true.
So why not stay true TO yourself and never true to any perception of the power or finality of an obstacle? Why not stay true to your highest self and never to the perceived force of a given obstacle?
Because, if you do, then the person you become and the things you achieve will, indeed, cast a shadow over the person you will otherwise become and the things you will otherwise do.