Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. --William Shakespeare
On December 20th, I am scheduled to test for a 1st dan black belt in karate. As the date approaches, I'm recalling how I used to feel every semester in college as finals approached -- a strange mixture of anticipation and dread. I'm eager to prove myself worthy of the honor, yet wondering if I'm truly up to the task.
Logically, I know that I wouldn't be invited to test if my Sensei didn't think I was ready for this challenge or worthy of the rank. And I'm confident that I know the material and can perform well. But there's still the little splinter of self-doubt that has burrowed into me, causing a bothersome worry out of proportion to its size. A single heckler plainly heard over a large audience.
When in doubt, sing loud! --Robert Merrill
So, how do I pluck the splinter and quell the doubt? All I can do is to keep training and honing my skills, while trying to keep perspective on how far I have progressed instead of dwelling on my weaknesses and shortcomings. In other words, focus on the journey traveled instead of the remaining distance. I've heard it expressed as "not thinking in the gap". When assessing your progress towards goals, focus on your progress and accomplishments instead of obsessing over the gap between your current capability and the idealized goal. Because by the simple striving for the goal, I have progressed mightily and greatly increased my capability.
Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. -- Pope John XXIII
I was recently asked as part of an exercise, to list 25 things I would like to do before I die. What a waste of time, I thought, this exercise will be trivial drivel.
However, once I got past the initial impulse of glib responses -- what glib responses, you ask? Well, a few that tickle my sense of humor would be:
- place huge beanie/propeller caps on Mt. Rushmore
- slip a Whoopie cushion into Oprah's chair
- set a bratwurst on a rotisserie over JFK's eternal flame
- save a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico
So, as I was saying, once the initial glib responses were past, I found this exercise to be no small task. It's quite easy to list a few things, but 25 becomes difficult. And I found myself scratching out some items just as soon as I wrote them down. On the other hand, some items jumped onto paper with a will of their own and actually surprised me when I saw them.
Here's my list in no particular order (except numerical, of course).
- Achieve financial independence.
- Learn to speak Spanish fluently.
- Learn to weld.
- Visit Italy.
- Visit Spain.
- Act in a movie.
- See my son hold his son.
- Learn to fly.
- Watch a sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji.
- Visit the Bahamas by boat.
- Weigh 225 lbs. (or less) the rest of my life.
- See the Aurora Borealis.
- Take up photography as a hobby.
- Become a writer.
- Learn to really drive my Porsche.
- Read a book per week for the rest of my life.
- Fish and hunt more.
- Help solve a truly major problem. A world-changing solution.
- Become proficient at magic.
- Receive a black belt in karate with my son.
- See my wife truly and finally quit smoking.
- Taste the perfect vodka martini.
- Change someone's life for the better.
- Try a different career.
- Find time to do all these things.
Try this exercise and see if you don't find it to be an interesting activity. And if you care to share your list with other people, 43things is a web site dedicated to this type of list.