These were the words of Muhammad Ali, when asked why he always went the extra mile and performed a higher number of sit-ups, pushups, or other grueling activities during his training regime, than the numbers set by his coaches.
Recognising our passions and prioritising the tasks and activities that are truly important to us, and necessary to help us achieve our goals, is only half the battle won (Unless you’ve figured out how to avoid taxes, the in-laws, laundry days, waiting in queue for the bathroom at home, your child’s homework, looking for parking, a million good morning messages on WhatsApp groups, advice from your boss on empathy, and people giving you missed calls expecting you to call them back. Then you’ve attained nirvana). Ensuring that we stick to our beliefs, and pursue them persistently and consistently is an indispensable protocol in attaining our life’s missions.
Ever so often, we have an epiphany about what we would love our lives to look like, and we start making goals around this vision. Assuming we have identified our true passion and purpose, we begin to enlist all the small steps we need to take to help us get there (Like finding that glass and bottle of whiskey to go along with the antique armchair and television remote). And then we have one little devil that comes along to play. It’s called ‘instant gratification’.
Some of us want to lose fifteen pounds but want to do so in five days. We go out and buy the most expensive running shoes (These days we need to sell one of our kidneys to afford them and what’s more, they come with a promised life of a full six months. Fantastic!!), and at the end of the week we have evidence of having gained two pounds despite all the jogging (while taking selfies) and sweating (We refuse to acknowledge participating in any cake and pizza eating activities after every run). We want quick results and wear a forlorn look if we don’t get them. We begin to believe that we have set ourselves a target that is well beyond our means and decide to compromise or give up altogether. Some of us want to flaunt a muscular body and we eagerly enlist in a gymnasium. After the first two workouts, we break into muscular aches and pains (sometimes without lifting anything at all) and begin to find the entire ordeal cumbersome and painful. We decide that we need to have realistic targets, and tell ourselves “What made you think you can have that boxer’s physique and six pack abs? You’re an ordinary person, so think and behave like one”. We’re completely ruffled by the effort required to move every inch towards our target. We walk around the gymnasium admiring the physiques of others, complaining that life isn’t fair to us (It gave them steroids but gave us only cranberry flavored protein bars).
We want to be a professional swimmer, but the daily practice of jumping into a cold swimming pool at 5 am (This isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s 6 am), overcomes our determination because a few weeks later we still don’t have an invitation for the state championships. We want to become a Bollywood playback singer, but the relentless practicing for three hours a day, after our 9-hour job (if we plan our day well we can play ‘Antakshari’ at work for better practice), for a year, hasn’t brought a wave of music producers to our doorstep. We want to publish a book, but a few instances of writer’s block have diminished our enthusiasm (Most times the writer’s block comes in the form of us dozing off due to our own insipid writing. Ahem, moving on). We want to be perfect parents, but as soon as we realize how hard the first two years are, all bets are off (and we go from our desire to be fantastic parents to awfully crabby human beings). We want to be successful businessmen, but a few failures and missed deals convince us of our ineptness as well as the difficulty of the trade (And then the only thing being dealt are harsh words, as we sit around the conference table playing ‘who takes the blame’).
We want to be world-class coders, speakers (I recommend you just get Bose), teachers, doctors (ones who display exemplary skill in diagnosis followed by legible handwriting to ensure that treatment is provided for that very same diagnosis, and not another), engineers (ones who remember the stuff they have learned even after the examinations are over), dancers (I once saw a horse dance brilliantly at a fair in Pushkar, India, despite having two left feet), bankers, (ones who don’t get caught after sanctioning illegal loans), lawyers (ones who have mastered the art of debating successfully with the wife), artists (ones who can draw more than just stick figures), the man in the attic of Indian shoe stores, servers at the McDonald’s drive-in, and anything we envision ourselves doing that brings fruition to our lives.
In this technological age, we want lightning quick results with minimal pain. The moment we encounter an obstacle in our path, we are keener to change direction rather than overcome that obstacle (Funny this rarely happens when we encounter weak internet connectivity while uploading images on Instagram. Eight hours later we are still at it, in the quest for success). Are we willing to push past the pain point? Are we willing to tell ourselves that it’s going to take a lot more than we’re used to? Some of us give up early and some of us stay in the fight longer, before exasperation sets in, and we lay down our arms with no end in sight. We generally tend to focus on how far we have to go and not on how far we’ve come.
Only if we learn to recognize and appreciate the small accomplishments along the way, will we stay the course. It’s that ability to keep the end goal in sight, and constantly feed it with positivity and belief that will eventually lead to the culmination of our vision. Triumphs born out of trials and tribulations are always the sweetest (Of course we need to fail every now and again to keep our sugar consumption in check).
Let’s not count the number of hours, days, weeks, months, and even years of effort put in, just the progressive milestones that really count.