We have to be determined, whatever we do. Even simply things require commitment. I want a cup of tea. I have to focus. I want to phone a friend. I prioritize. To walk the dog, I put other demands on hold. We all reach small goals everyday. We are used to succeeding in small things. If we want to reach bigger goals, we just have to hold them in our minds for longer. Most people are far too easily put off. At the first sign of failure they retreat, and pick a different goal. It's all to easy to hop from goal to goal, and never achieve anything. We can learn from the example of the truly determined.
Success demands determination. Or as Thomas Edison put it: "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." At the age of 17, Manfred Eigen was captured by Russian troops and taken to a prisoner of war camp. Despite prison, and the fact that he hadn't finished school, he was determined to study science. He escaped from POW camp, walked half way across Europe and made a beeline for Gottingen, where the best Physics laboratories were to be found. Even though he lacked qualifications he somehow persuaded the University to let him join the first cohort of students. He made rapid progress. A few years later he received his doctorate, and in 1967 the Nobel Prize.
Opportunities were not handed to him on a golden plate. He fought. He was determined. He followed his heart, and his passion. He focused on his goal. This lead him out of prison, across war ravaged Europe, and into a prestigious university. Hold your goal in mind, and keep it there. No matter what failure might say. Your goal is bigger.
Step 2: Keep on hoping no matter what.
Steven Spielberg, one of the most successful film directors of all time failed to get into film school. Not once, but three times. Because of poor school grades, USC's prestigious film school rejected him. He had made films since he was a boy. Making films was what he loved. So despite rejection, and failure, he just carried on doing what he loved. He tried again. And kept trying. Eventually he succeeded. As a famous film maker he even went back to college and finished a degree in film making.
Persistence and hope go hand in hand. Hope motivates us. They say, "love is blind". Hope too is blind. It's blind to failure. Hope refuses to see failure.
Hope carries on regardless. Hope gives us the determination to persevere.
“I’ve always been very hopeful which I guess isn’t strange coming from me. I don’t want to call myself an optimist. I want to say that I’ve always been full of hope. I’ve never lost that. I have a lot of hope for this country and for the entire world. ”– Steven Spielberg.
Step 3: Cutting away what holds you back
Often we become attached to the very things that are holding us back. Bad habits, toxic relationships, stubbornness, all prevent us from reaching our goals. I say I want to learn guitar, I even get some lessons. But then instead of practicing I watch endless series of "Game of Thrones". It requires a sword- like sweep of the mind to say: "NO" to distraction.
There's an old Zen story about Huiko, one of the founders of Zen Buddhism, who went to Bodhidharma (the greatest teacher of the day), and asked to become his student. Bodhidharma is said to have ignored him, and left him waiting outside in the snow. Finally, Huiko cut off his own arm and presented it to Bodhidharma as evidence of his seriousness, and Bodhidharma accepted him as a student. This story is brutal. But I think it points to an important truth. What holds us back, is often so close to us that we don't even notice it.
We become very attached to our baggage, excuses and failures. If we want to reach our goals we must cut away distraction. We can get very attached to failure. A bit like a worn out piece of clothing that we somehow can't throw away. It stays for years in a drawer. It's familiar, comfortable and reliable. The Zen sword cuts through all this. It makes a clean break. This is how we cut away the things that hold us back. Then we release the energy, lightness and freedom necessary, to reach for our goals.
Getting the life you want requires determination, hopefulness and the ability to cut through what holds you back. Of course, knowing what you want is vital. But once you've decided, these three allies will get you there. Enjoying the journey is about relishing every tiny progression. Each movement in the right direction is a cause for celebration.