Socrates, Heart Attacks, and Perseverance

February 21, 2011

A young man went to Socrates one day and told him that he wanted knowledge. “Follow me,” the philosopher told the student and led him to the edge of the ocean and into the water.    Without warning Socrates grabbed the young man and plunged him beneath the water and held him there until the struggling stopped. He dragged the boy to the shore, left him gasping on the sand and returned to the market place.

When the boy recovered he sought out the teacher again and asked him why he tried to drown him. Socrates replied, “When you were under the water what did you want more then anything?” The reply of course was “air”. And Socrates responded by saying, “When you crave knowledge like you craved air, then you won’t need me or anyone else to guide you.”  

We all have goals in our lives. Everyone has things they would like to see happen or change. I have discovered that the determining factor in whether or not I will achieve my goals is simply this: how badly I want it. The problem isn’t that we don’t want things; it’s that we don’t want them bad enough. If we don’t want something badly enough, we will never achieve it. If we do want something badly enough, almost nothing can stop us from achieving it. So it comes down to a matter of desire.

First ask: What do I want in my life? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to change? Do you want to write that book? Lose fifteen pounds? Make extra money? Memorize more scripture? Strengthen that relationship? Conquer that fear?

Then ask: How bad do I want it? Our success is usually equal to our motivation. The man who once struggled to make himself jog now and then to stay in shape now diligently runs three miles a day since his doctor told him he would have a heart attack if he didn’t. He now has motivation.

What does it take to motivate you? Here are a few tips for creating motivation:

  1. Discern what God wants you to accomplish, and know that He will help you. He is our ultimate source of inspiration and motivation.
  2. Narrow your focus. Identify a few key goals. Then devote 100% of your attention, resources, and focus to them. (Instead of spreading yourself among a tangled mess of undefined desires and half-hearted wishes.)
  3. Create accountability. Tell other people what you are trying to accomplish and when your deadline is. Make it known. Sometimes just the fact that others know what we are trying to do and the knowledge that they will ask us about it is the motivation we need to prevent backing out. The pressures of others being aware of our failure if we give up is enough to prevent us from doing so.
  4. Make a list of the reasons you need to reach this goal. What will you gain by it? Why is it important? What makes it worth working and sacrificing for. Write down the reasons and benefits and display them in a prominent place.

Are you as passionate about your goals as Socrates’ student was about getting air?

John Maxwell says:
The journey will take longer than you hoped.
The obstacles will be more numerous than you believed.
The disappointments will be greater than you expected.
The lows will be lower than you imagined.
The price will be higher than you anticipated.

While that might sound pessimistic, it is actually simple reality. And if your motivation is sufficient to accept and overcome those facts, you can achieve your dreams.

There will come a time when you will want to give up. What is going to keep you going?