What is faith if it doesn’t endure when we are tested the most?
This is the question I asked a mentee of mine (Adam) earlier this week, whilst he was trying to persuade me a long-standing project should end, be terminated…should cease to be.
Adam was clearly demoralised, he’d lost the hope, confidence and energy he had once poured abundantly into his project. In the beginning, Adam had had faith and knew and felt instinctively that his project would be a success. Now however – several years on – and the success he had anticipated, had not yet materialised. This is an incredibly common scenario we all experience at some point in our lives, but it can be particularly soul destroying if you have invested your heart, soul, time, energy and finances into something that fails to achieve the levels of thrust, as quickly as we might like, if ever at all.
In our IM/DM, On Demand, disposable society, many of us have developed an entitled, quixotic expectation that everything should be delivered to us instantaneously – if not sooner. However, life is not like that, whatever the quickening pace of our existence might be. The purpose of life is in our perpetual journey of growth and learning. If everything came easily to us, or was dropped into our laps upon our every whim, what would we learn? Why would we have to? What would we gain? What would be the point of us being here?
It’s the process, the lessons, the mastery of all that challenges us that makes life such a rich experience. The fact we’re all in such a hurry nowadays changes nothing. Anything of true value has to be earned and learned, but it’s oh so easy just to give up and move on to the next project/person/job/adventure/fad; our supply and demand culture will always have an immediate replacement to offer. When I was child I was taught to treat books with respect, not to break the spine, deface the pages or turn corners, because books were more expensive to buy in those days (pre-Caxton printing press, for those of you pondering my age). These days however books are a couple of quid with free delivery or download, have lost much of their intrinsic value, are readily defaced and easily replaced. Discard and move on, discard and move on…
Resolve and Perseverence
How long do your average New Year’s resolutions last? How strong is your resolve? How many times have you (or someone you know) attempted to quit smoking…or cake? How many of us understand that, as a rule of thumb, it takes four weeks for you to see your body changing (when improving your diet and fitness), eight weeks for your friends and family to notice, and twelve weeks for the rest of the world to notice? How many have succumbed to cake and alcohol within twelve weeks, demoralised at only having “lost a couple of pounds” despite numerous, murderous hours of rigorous exercise and leaf eating? Too many of us don’t sufficiently apply ourselves to anything long enough to achieve the results we seek. Few of us run far enough on our first wind to ever realise we have a second. Seemingly, if it requires too much effort or endeavour or takes too long, it’s more trouble than it’s worth – but it’s only through effort and endeavour that anything can ever be achieved.
Aristotle teaches us that we are what we repeatedly do, so excellence then is not an act, but a habit. When we have “only lost a couple of pounds”, or we are dejected because a business project has – so far – failed to take off, then the simple requirement here is to keep going. There are 1001 Facebook memes to remind us that when life gets tough to remember why we started, but it’s actually good advice! Energy and enthusiasm can quickly dissipate, so by remembering the reasons, the passion and verve that fuelled your beginning, you can re-engage your why: why you started in the first place, why you’re (still) bothering, and why you should keep going. You can pick the low hanging fruit by all means, but the sweetest fruit is at the top of the tree, nearest the life enhancing sunshine.
Evidence of things not seen
Having faith in a personal development goal (i.e.: weight loss, fitness, new career), an entrepreneurial goal, a deity or personal belief system when the going is good, is as easy as falling off a log – it’s when things get challenging that your true faith will reveal itself. Faith is the presence of complete trust and confidence, either in yourself, your God, your friends, family, business, government, whatever. To desert what you supposedly had faith in at the first sign of difficulty was to never have had true faith at all. Superficial (self-) interest and even cowardice may apply here, depending on the prevailing circumstances of course.
When you are giving your all, attempting a thing with all of your might and those around you tell you you’re being i.e.: foolish, stubborn, impractical, irresponsible, deluded or plain insane, but you know in your gut that it’s the right thing to do, and that it will eventually come good – then you do have faith, and that faith will sustain you. Faith is what will keep you going when you don’t know how you can keep going. Faith provides you with the strength, clarity, humanity, compassion and energy you need when you don’t feel you have those qualities to give. When your mind, and the world around you urges you to give up and move on, it is your faith that whispers “one more try…maybe tomorrow?”.
To throw something overboard and move on simply because it’s become too difficult, will only guarantee the lesson within it will come back round again (and again) until it is full and learned. The benefits, qualities and character you will build by persevering however, will be innumerable and incalculable. Remember why you started. Close your eyes, visualise and feel the determination, passion and enthusiasm that has brought you this far. Reconnect with your why and don’t be too willing to dispose of something/someone because the circumstances have become temporarily challenging – this is precisely where your next level of lessons reside.
Everything is cyclical, so dig into your personal fortitude and find a way, because there is always a way, and you always have a choice. Of course it’s easier to walk away. Of course it will be easier not to, but is that who you are, or who you want to be? Where is your strength, when did you last have it? Where is your belief in what you’re doing? Where is your faith in you? There is evidence of things not seen all around you, you need only open your heart and mind to feel them. If you can’t you must, and if you must you can!