“Hope is taking the next step.” When we are determined, we have set a course in our mind to achieve something. The goal may be to attain a thing, a position, a change in our physical self, or maybe just to make it through a major life event intact. The key to staying on course is twofold: to know what you want and to believe you can have it.
Many great leaders, ideas, social movements and experiments have almost been surrendered to the throes of exhaustion and weariness. It was that one next step, taken when it was thought impossible or futile, that made all of the difference. “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will,” Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi Jr. said.
Life, the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, seems to reward those who take that next step, especially when they feel they can’t. There is a poem called “Don’t Quit” and one of the lines is,” often the goal is nearer than, it seems to the faint and faltering man…” So many times we don’t realize how close we really are to victory.
There have been so many times in my life when it seemed like things were going downhill fast. I was so sick as a child that I was in a wheelchair for a while. It seemed like I would never get out of that chair. But I focused on the other kids in the hospital, the ones hurting so badly in the burn unit, and I sang to them. I think we all forgot about our pain for a while. We were able to get a day closer to the goal of healing. Each day I was a day closer to being free, being able to walk again.
The Bhagavad Gita states that we should accept both distress and happiness and not let either of them hinder us, “Anyone who is steady in his determination…is certainly a person eligible for liberation.”
When I was in South America I contracted malaria. Deep in the jungle, with no people or towns or hospitals or medicine for miles and miles, I thought I was going to die. The fever made me delusional and I couldn’t take care of myself. I had to let my now-husband, then guide, make the journey to the nearest town for the medicine. I had to make it through the nights in a tent on my own while I waited for the cure. I thought for a while that I would die there. But something kept me going. I thought about my family and my life back in Minnesota and the work I had yet to do. I love my job. I love using my talents to raise awareness and money and hope for great causes. I couldn’t just let that go without a fight. I believed I would make it. Eleven days later I was able to travel again. The good news is I lost a lot of weight without even trying. The bad news is I was so weak it took months to recover. But I did recover, in part because I had decided I would.
Setting an intent is powerful medicine. Visualizing yourself achieving your goal- all of the sensory details that it entails- is the second step to mastery. Acting each day toward that goal materializes it. “Once you make a decision the universe conspires to make it happen,” said the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Sometimes what we want, what our hearts yearn for, seems unattainable, utterly out of reach. We can be in situations that feel futile. There are times when we make errors of judgment, and our mistake feels so large that the rest of our life will be lived in its shadow.
But none of this cannot be overcome. The Bible too speaks of being determined, “Blessed is the man who is steadfast…” it reads. The old testament’s Job is the poster boy for the fruits of determination.
With determination and hope we can overcome practically anything. The sun shines on us again, and we move on. So as the poem says, “Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”