Here is a word for this week: boldness.
The poet Goethe says this word can enhance your efforts—whatever they are, small or great—with a kind of genius, power and magic:
What you can do or dream you can…begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Of course, he’s not talking about acting carelessly or foolishly or thoughtlessly. There is always the need to seek wisdom.
But Goethe is saying that no matter how great the challenge or how many difficulties may be involved, boldness itself can help tilt the odds in your favor.
“But what if I fail?”
“But what will others think?”
Boldness says: kick your “buts” and live!
There are always reasons to hold back, to proceed too cautiously, to live half-heartedly, to give just enough, to plod along.
But to be bold is to plunge into life with fear at a minimum and courage and joy at a maximum, knowing that boldness itself may be the magic bullet that helps make good things happen.
As Basil King said:
Be bold and mighty powers will come to your aid.
How often we say that the days are flying by, the years are flying by and sometimes you wish you could push a “pause” button on life—or even “rewind”.
But of course, we can’t, as Jose Ortega y Gasset reminds us:
“We cannot put off living until we are ready. The most salient characteristic of life is its coerciveness: it is always urgent, ‘here and now’ without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point-blank.”
“We cannot put off living until we are ready. ”That’s actually good news!
It means I don’t have to wait for better circumstances. I can always choose to live right now.
In other words…
We can’t push “pause” or “rewind.” But we can always push the “play” button.
You can bring a spirit of playfulness and humor and joy to work, to dinner time, to ordinary moments, even to the tense moments. Especially the tense moments.
It’s like the beggar in Fiddler on the Roof who asked Tevye for a little change. Tevye said, “Sorry, it’s been a bad week.”
The beggar said, “So, just because you’ve had a bad week, why should I suffer?”
Abraham Maslow said,
“Play is exulting in the possible.”
Pushing the “play” button helps to keep us from missing the joy that is possible today—no matter how much is on our plate, no matter what happens, even in spite of our moods.
Consider the lowly laser beam. It’s actually a very weak source of energy, only a few watts. But because it is intensely focused, the laser can be used to bounce a message off a satellite, cut a diamond, or perform cancer surgery.
This week…you are the laser beam. You bring an intense focus to everything you do. As a result, you get more done and do it better, with less stress and less wasted motion.
In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, you have learned the secret of real achievement:
“If you want to hit a bird on the wing you must have all your will in focus, you must not be thinking about yourself [or anything else]…you must be living in your eye on that bird. Every achievement is a bird on the wing.
Yes, there was a time when you felt fragmented, pulled in a dozen directions, when it seemed like you had too many things to do and not enough time to do anything well.
But now you are discovering the power of being fully engaged, fully present, fully focused on the matter at hand—whether a major project or talking to a child or cleaning the floor or dealing with a nasty problem.
As a result, you experience the inner unity of harnessing all your human powers to the present moment.
And the people around you are amazed at your calm ability to stay focused and get things done.
Because…you are the laser beam.
What is the fuel of your life? What keeps you going? Irina Lazar can describe her fuel in one word: appreciation.
In Living Life as a Thank You (by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons), Lazar tells about a life-changing moment she had when she was 15 years old and standing in her closet, looking for something to wear:
“’I had a difficult childhood, not because of abuse or neglect, just a hopelessness that followed me around like a little dark cloud…I couldn’t tell you the source of that sadness. But as I was standing in my closet, I had a moment when I suddenly felt the veil of sadness lift off of me. I felt that I could do and be anything I wanted. I felt empowered, confident, and most of all, happy…My life opened up, I felt alive and ready to take on any opportunity.”
Seventeen years later, when Irina was in her thirties, she reflected on how that realization had come to affect her life.
“I feel appreciation in my cells every minute of every day. It is the fuel that pulsates through me, driving me to enjoy everything in life, even mundane things like washing dishes, paying bills, and running errands.’”
I was touched and encouraged by that story.
Whether you’ve had such a realization—or whether you haven’t—I think we can all relate to the importance of learning to appreciate life as it is…to appreciate each breath or moment when there might not have been a breath or a moment.
For Irina, all the problems of life were still there. Her circumstances hadn’t changed. The people around her hadn’t changed. The world hadn’t changed.
The only thing that changed was the lens through which she now viewed herself and her one-and-only life…the lens of appreciation.
And my, what a change! And what a fuel source to tap into when we feel like we’re “running on empty.”
““Sorry, but that’s just the way I am. I feel it’s important to be consistent.”
So you’ve decided you can learn nothing new? Make no new discoveries about yourself or others or about life? You’ve decided to quit growing?
Bernard Berenson said,
“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”
Here’s what I get from that.
Trying to take on a job, a relationship, or a life with a rigidly consistent attitude is like trying to play a football game with only one play.
Yes, you’ll be consistent. But you’ll also get hammered!
The best quarterbacks read the flow of the game and stay flexible—ready to adapt and change their actions to best meet each new situation.
Life is like that. It’s difficult. It’s complicated. It’s always changing.
But it’s okay because we’re human: we can learn, grow, adapt.
That’s why it’s not a weakness but a strength to say, “I was wrong.” “I can change.” “I can find, new, better ways to respond.”
I believe life is best lived as an adventure in which we keep learning and changing and growing as a person every day…all the way to our last day.
Life is best lived when, like the sunrise, we can say, “I am new every morning.”