We all have those times where we’ve lost the fire.
Whether we’ve been knocked to our knees by defeat, or caught in the slog of a seemingly endless grind, or the mountain just keeps being too high to climb, or despite all our best cajoling the muse has escaped into the ethers and refuses to return, sometimes we need a little oomph to spur us back on. A method for how to regain self-confidence.
At least I know I do.
And so often, I find inspiration in the words of others who have gone before me. They learned/earned their truths. I gain by their wisdom, their courage. And can pull myself up by bootstraps that others have worn well.
When wondering if all the work matters, I remember these truths:
“No matter how small and unimportant what we are doing may seem, if we do it well, it may soon become the step that will lead us to better things.”
― Channing Pollock, Magician
Or as philosopher and psychologist William James said, “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.“
As a novelist, I spent many decades questioning my path. As anyone in the arts can attest, you’re constantly bombarded by well-meaning (or not) friends and family, by the culture itself, actually, with variations of: “Well, now, sweetie, that writing (painting, music, etc.) is all well and good, but don’t you think it’s time you get a real job? You know, grow up and become a successful member of society?”
And while yes, a girl does have to eat! Tossing out the creative for the “mature” way of living life will dry out the artistic persona to dust.
As playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
Whatever you perceive yourself to be.
Because life is in the becoming, no?
I love the teachings of Behavioral Science Academic and Author Steve Maraboli: “Make a pact with yourself today to not be defined by your past. Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.”
But of course, all of this comes with obstacles, with falling down, with failures. It’s in the picking up of ourselves we learn the most. Often, though, I need a bit of a boost to keep going, a ‘how to increase confidence levels’ after said fall.
One thing that always sticks with me is from Zig Ziglar: “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”
And even though I would love just catching a broom and flying to the highest peak, I know that’s not where the magic lies.
As Helen Keller said, “The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”
Perhaps Andy Rooney hit its essence: “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”
And sometimes when weighing the risks, I think I should have my head examined. To look into the abyss, to feel the cold dark pull of what lies in the deep, and to jump anyway . . . Well, the rational side of me—the one learned via the over-culture of our world—tells me I’m nuts.
But then I’m warmed by the words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Ellie Wiesel: “We must understand that there can be no life without risk—and when your spirit is strong, everything else is secondary, even the risks.
He certainly knows a thing or two about risks.
But Author Friedrich Nietzsche speaks to my heart about this: “You must have chaos within you to birth a dancing star.”
Ah, yes, that is how it is . . .
To be able to let that chaos live takes a certain amount of trust as well.
Or as Steve Jobs said:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Isn’t it amazing to think of Steve Jobs dealing with trust? Somehow that just soothes my soul.
And when I need to put life all into perspective, I come back to Author and Philosopher Og Mandino’s words:
“Remember that even the most successful lives contain chapters of failure just as any good novel does, but how the book ends depends on us. We are the authors of our years, and our failures and defeats are only steps to something better.”
Wise words help us go on in times of trouble. To double down on our commitments. To not let this crazy world we live in stand in the way of our dreams and goals and the pursuit of ideals we cherish in our hearts.
To know that we all matter.
Because maybe all the sages are right; maybe life isn’t about the happy ending.[Tweet “Because maybe all the sages are right; maybe life isn’t about the happy ending.”]
Maybe, just maybe, it’s all about the story.
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.