Written by David H. Rosmarin
If you could sum up the ultimate goal – the end and be all – of Western civilization in one word, it would probably be “success”. Whether operationally defined by net worth, income, acquisitions, career advancement, community prowess, physique, or academic or athletic achievement, the world in which we live values accomplishment in a profound way. Success is taught as a core value – in our school systems, in media, in advertising, and beyond.
While a drive for success can motivate us to reach beyond our potential, it can also create significant stress and lead to anxiety. After all, achievement is not simply a product of effort! Good fortune and timing, neither of which are within our control, often play a key role in determining whether one does or does not succeed in life. Indeed, many people exert themselves to no end and never accomplish what they set out to do, whereas others hardly lift a finger and see almost instantaneous success.
Perhaps a redaction, if not a complete revision, of our core value is in order. Perhaps we would be better off if we were to look towards exerting heroic efforts as the pinnacle of human achievement. In other words, instead of viewing the attainment of success and achievement as primary, perhaps we should give more thought to the value of striving for success – passionately and single-mindedly giving ourselves over to a goal regardless of what we achieve in the end.
Consider Kayla Montgomery – the 18-year old budding elite distance runner who currently ranks 21st in the nation after her recent win of the North Carolina State 5km championship. Kayla is not the fastest female runner in the world and she may never achieve that title. But in my book she is by far the most inspiring runner in the world today! You see, Kayla Montgomery was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 14 and one of her unfortunate symptoms is that she completely loses control of her legs when she runs a race. When she crosses the finish line, her coach literally must catch her in his arms to prevent her from falling! [See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdLEmE138xA]. What sets Kayla apart from the rest of the pack isn’t her speed or agility. She is unique because she runs with her heart. She give her ALL to her running. She exerts heroic efforts – literally heroic efforts – to achieve her goals and dreams.
I hope that Kayla achieves greater “success” in running as well, but that would just be icing on the cake – in fact, whether she ultimately becomes #1 is irrelevant in my book because Kayla is already a hero. And the same goes for so many other unsung heros – individuals all around the world who push themselves every day with patience, love, and dedication. Even if they never “succeed” or “make it to the top”, they know the value of never letting up even when facing immense adversity. At the end of the day, what more can a human being achieve?!
Perhaps the best news is that the above perspective is relatively easy to put into practice. In a nutshell, as long as one is exerting heroic efforts – truly pushing oneself to achieve a goal – one is a champion. Human beings never become truly great through complacency! On the contrary, overcoming challenges is the only real way to become a hero. So to this end, push yourself! Find one task each day, even a simple one, and go beyond your comfort zone – even for just a moment. Try it each day for the next month. Your life will never be the same!