Monday, January 02, 2006

Dare to Mighty Things

As the new year begins, we all typically find ourselves subject to the customary “New Year’s Resolution,” of which I am not a big fan. The term resolution, although meaning firm determination, seems to lack the power and resolve to actually yield success in this context. I would venture to say that most people lose interest in their “resolutions” within a couple of months leaving them to committing to the same ones the next New Year’s Day. In theory, the resolution is a good idea. The new year marks a new beginning, a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. We all long to make change to be better, to alter old habits and develop new talents. But what’s the purpose of a resolution if there is no real intention or commitment to accomplish it? Some have opted to not make resolutions at all perhaps due to the fear of impending failure associated with this time honored tradition. Some continue to make them out of habit knowing that they will never see fruition. Some make them with pure intent but are plagued by the stigma of resolutions of the past never accomplished. But those who at least try are better off than those who do nothing.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” I admit that there have been many times when I have made resolutions only to forget them. Last year, I decided that there must be a better way to promote successful change in myself while also challenging myself to do things I had always dreamed of or wanted to do. I altered my thinking to making goals rather than resolutions because then it wasn’t just about changing unhealthy habits or behavior but also checking things off my life wish list. I would say that I accomplished about fifty percent of my goals last year, which isn’t much to brag about, but it’s more than I would have had I not written them down and looked at them every single day. It served as a reminder to me that goals are most often conscious choices that take constant and dedicated effort. The ones that were not accomplished were the ones I didn’t focus enough mental energy on or lacked the opportunity. This year, I am determined to increase my success rate to about 75%.

But the focus is not on the rate of success so much as what was gained by the triumph. Some of my goals may have seemed a little outlandish, but if I don’t dream big then I can’t live big. In photography, I have found that I will usually take a roll of film only to get one or two beautiful shots. Likewise, it often takes a dozen goals to see the fruition of one. But the feeling of accomplishing that one is worth the disappointment in not accomplishing the others. I have often been told that I have lofty expectations for myself and that I have seemingly unattainable goals, but I feel like my spirit has the ability to stretch far beyond its apparent capacity. And like Roosevelt, it is better to rank among those who have tried and known failure rather than to wallow in mediocrity and live in “gray twilight.”

Why not dare to do mighty things? Roosevelt was not only the 26th president of the United States, he was a man who dared to do mighty things. He participated in various positions in politics, founded clubs, served as a police commissioner, was a rancher, historian, father of six, and wrote thirty-five books. As President, he designated national parks, game reserves, brought large corporations under control, began the Panama Canal and won a Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Russo-Japanese War. He enjoyed many successes in his life, but he probably endured an equal if not more amount of failures. Abraham Lincoln struggled much of his life and even lost legislative and presidential elections before finally becoming the sixteenth president of the United States. He abolished slavery and made great strides in strengthening the Republican Party during his tenure before being assassinated. But Lincoln dared to do mighty things even amidst harsh criticism and staggering obstacles.

We are all capable of being mighty in our own right. We may not be remembered for our triumphs among the masses, but we will be able to look back on our life knowing that we didn’t let any opportunities pass us by. There are a great many things out there year to be learned and tried and many more failures yet to be endured. But I would rather live in the colorful world of failure and triumph than the gray void known as mediocrity.


Machu Picchu said...

"This quote is about ... a young lawyer in New York. He'd married a beautiful girl, and they had a lovely daughter, and then suddenly she died, and this is what he wrote. This was in his diary.

He said:

'She was beautiful in face and form and lovelier still in spirit. As a flower she grew and as a fair young flower she died... None ever knew her who did not love and revere her for her bright and sunny temper and her saintly unselfishness. Fair, pure, and joyous as a maiden; loving, tender, and happy as a young wife. When she had just become a mother, when her life seemed to be just begun, and then the years seemed so bright before her, then by a strange and terrible fate death came to her. And when my heart's dearest died -- died, the light went from my life forever.'

That was T.R. in his twenties. He thought the light had gone from his life forever -- but he went on."

That's TR, by way of Nixon. Which is like quoting Gandhi, by way of Hamlet. I love all 4 of those for different reasons, but I love Teddy best.

nikki said...

Ah.. another Teddy lover. I happened upon the quote because I was at the Natural History Museum with my friend Lance, who is also a Teddy lover. He told me a lot of things about Teddy and explained why he admired him so much... I am intrigued to learn more as there seem to be so many fascinating things about him. Thanks for that quote... Teddy was truly eloquent.