When you get right down to the root of the meaning of the word "succeed," you find it simply means to follow through.
F. W. NICHOL
Now that you know what you want, make a plan, put it in motion, and do what you choose to do.
Here are some thoughts on successful action:
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
The destiny of mankind is not decided by material computation. We learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
Riches are not from an abundance of worldly goods, but from a contented mind.
We can endure neither our evils nor their cures.
59 B.C.-A.D. 17
Write that in big letters somewhere you can read it often. A lot of negative thinking, depression, frustration, and illness stems from people's thinking they want something they don't really want.
How do you know what you really want? Whatever you are actively involved in getting, that's what you really want. Everything else is just what you think you want. If you think you want something and you're not actively involved in getting it, you're probably just kidding yourself.
It's true that, in every moment, you can't be actively involved in doing something about everything you want. How, then, can you tell what you're actively involved in?
Here's where your calendar can prove useful. Have you scheduled activities that support each of your goals in, say, the next two weeks? If not, ask yourself: "Is this goal becoming another one of my `laters'?" ("I'll do it later, later, later," and it never gets done.)
There is no failure except in no longer trying.
I'm pragmatic. If someone tells me, "I'm dependable! You can count on me," I say, "Great," and watch carefully. If she (in the last example I used he; this time I'll use she) is late three times in a row, but continues to say she's dependable, I tend to base my opinion of her dependability more on her actions than on her words. Not that she means to deceive. She may, however, be deceiving herself.
If people say they want health, I look to see what they are doing about it. Are they actively involved in healing? Are they doing everything they can to promote healthy ideas, healthy feelings, and healthy actions? Are they exploring options for greater health? If so, I'd say they really want health.
If, however, they're involved in life-damaging activities, I'd say they have a desire for lesser health.
We are more than our minds, more than our thinking process. We are also more than our feelings and more than our body. Most people have spent so much time in either thinking or feeling, they think that a thought or feel that a feeling is them. To think you want something or to feel you want something doesn't necessarily mean that's what you want.
What you want--what you really want--is what you are making real through action.
If you think you want something but you're not doing much to get it, you have three choices:
I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experiences behind him.
Those are your choices. Most people choose by default--they "choose" #1 by not choosing, and things go on as they have in the past. I suggest you choose from options 2 or 3. Either will put you more actively in charge of your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
I will not steep my speech in lies; the test of any man lies in action.
He that lives upon hope, dies fasting.
Remember the story of Pandora's Box?
Pandora was sort of the Eve of Greek mythology--the First Woman, told not to do something by God (by Zeus, in this case), but she did it anyway.
Pandora was given a box (a jar, actually) and told not to open it because it contained all the evils of the world. She took the jar/box with her on her honeymoon. Alas, it was a dull honeymoon, so she opened the jar/box.
Just as in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis opened the Ark and all the ghosts came whooshing out with Industrial Light and Magic visuals and Dolby SurroundSound, when Pandora opened the jar/box, all the evils of the world escaped. The last evil in the jar/box was hope. What happened to hope is not clear. Some stories say it remained inside; others say it got out. But all agree that hope was the last item in the jar/box.
Most people interpret this as good news--yes, evil has been added to the world, but we've been given hope so that we can take care of all that evil.
Did you ever consider that hope might be one of the evils of the world?
If it weren't for hope, perhaps we would have cleaned up all the other evils long ago. We would have gotten sick and tired of being tired and sick and sent them packing--"Back to the jar/box!"
What we sometimes do instead is tolerate evil and hope it's going to go away. "Oh, I hope it will be better tomorrow," we sigh, never doing anything productive to get rid of "it" today. ("It" being whatever evil we happen to be currently sighing about.)
Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage, married immediately after his wife died: Johnson said, it was the triumph of hope over experience.
The hope I'm talking about is the kind of hope that inspires passivity, resignation, and stagnation.
If there's a situation in your life--be it a life-threatening illness or any other "evil"--and you're using hope to stimulate you to greater and greater depths of inaction, lethargy, and torpor, the dark side of hope has gotten hold of you.
Shake it off. Become active. Do something to replace the evil with what you really want. Move toward a positive condition in which the evil cannot exist. (Don't "get rid" of evil--replace it with what you prefer and focus on the goodness of that.) Turn the evil around. Evil spelled backwards ("turned around") is live.
You can hope things will get better, but if you're not taking specific, energetic, and frequent actions to make things better, you've got the wrong kind of hope working for you. (Or, more accurately, working against you.)
That the limiting kind of hope is almost epidemic in our culture is reflected by the frequent misuse of the word hopefully. As you may recall from Grammar 101, hopefully is an adverb (it ends in ly); therefore, it should be used to modify (describe) a verb.
Verbs are, of course, action words--run, jump, skip, look, walk, duck--words that describe movement. You can run hopefully, jump hopefully, skip hopefully, look hopefully, walk hopefully, and duck hopefully--which means you are running, jumping, skipping, looking, walking, and ducking with hope.
As the song goes, "Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart." You are walking, and you're doing it with an attitude of hope.
All this is fine. It is correct English, and it is--to my way of thinking--correct living. You hope as you do something. You take an action while anticipating (hoping) the action will have a positive outcome. Well and good.
Most people, however, use the word hopefully as a replacement for the phrase "I hope."
There is nothing so well known as that we should not expect something for nothing-- but we all do and call it Hope.
EDGAR WATSON HOWE
"We will hopefully be going to the store" means, "We will, I hope, be going to the store." "This problem will go away, hopefully" means, "This problem will go away, I hope." "Hopefully I'll be able to do it" means, "I hope I'll be able to do it."
Traditionally, this use of the word hopefully is incorrect--but so many people use it in this way that many grammarians are (reluctantly) conceding a second usage. I'm not here to debate grammar. I'm more interested in how the word went from the active "being hopeful while taking an action" to the passive "I hope." Does that, I wonder, reflect a trend in our culture?
I look hopefully toward the day when people won't let hope stop them from doing what needs to be done. The combination of hope (anticipating a positive outcome) and action is a powerful way to get what one is hoping for.
Please use this information about hope for your upliftment and not as ammunition against others (or yourself). If someone says, "Hopefully you'll get better," don't say, "Yeah? Well, what are you doing about it?" Go to the essence of their communication--they are wishing you well--and thank them for it.
Do, however, listen to yourself. When you use the word hope, ask yourself, "Am I using it as a replacement for action or as an adjunct to action?" If it's a replacement, get moving. If it's an adjunct, keep moving.
But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves? Charity begins at home, is the voice of the world; yet is every man his greatest enemy, and, as it were, his own executioner.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE
Charity began as a wonderful word. To quote from The Dictionary of Word Origins: "Charity was first an inner love; then a sign of this feeling; then an action or an act." The roots of charity include the Greek chayrs, meaning "thanks, grace," and the Latin caritas, "love, regard, affection," and carus, "to hold dear." (Carus is also the root of such words as caress and cherish.)
And what does charity mean today? The first three definitions in The American Heritage Dictionary read "1. The provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving. 2. Something that is given to help the needy; alms. 3. An institution, organization, or fund established to help the needy."
To give charity under this definition produces an immediate rift between giver and receiver. Although the material needs of the recipient may be met, both giver and receiver suffer separation. "I--superior and blessed among people--give proudly to you, poor, needy person." "I--poor, needy person--accept humbly this gift from you--magnificent, benevolent, rich person."
I am certainly not knocking charities or charitable feelings. It's just that a word that started out meaning love, regard, and affection has, for many people, come to mean pity.
This stigma on the word affects people who are, as the phrase goes, "forced to take charity." (Note the implied destitution and helplessness in that.)
The onus of having to go to a charity, because of the popular misdefinition of the word, can strike deeply at one's sense of self-worth--precisely what one does not need when in need.
Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it.
Charity creates a multitude of sins.
Ironically, most charities are happy to help people who can truly use it. That's why the charity was formed in the first place. And the people who work for most charities were drawn there by a genuine desire to help others.
I'm afraid charity is a word that will forever be associated with the sort of human condition described in Emma Lazarus's inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
This, of course, hasn't been the policy of the Immigration Service for years. It is, however, the way in which any number of charities portray their beneficiaries when asking for donations. It's a successful tactic. It works. It will no doubt continue.
Rather than rehabilitate the word charity, let me introduce an alternate word--service.
Copyright © 1988-1996 Peter McWilliams & Prelude Press, Inc.
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