Friday, June 6, 2014

How Henry David Thoreau Changed My Life

I share a lot of wisdom on this blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube, and on Pinterest. Much of it comes from quotes from the great minds of the past 2,500 years.

For me, this collection of wisdom started over 40 years ago while I was a graduate student at Duke University. While reading Henry David Thoreau, an early 19th-century American philosopher, I came across this statement, which may have been the first quote I ever saved. It knocked my socks off then, and it still means a great deal to me now...

I accepted Thoreau's words as a promise. Have a dream. Advance confidently towards it, and my actions will meet with success. I believed it, and it became a framework that inspired me during the difficult years of my graduate studies. And I did achieve my dream, which at the time was to earn a Ph.D., and it did lead to unexpected success.

Here's what I learned from the experience.

Success starts with a dream, a vision of an important, highly desirable goal.

The dream fires the motivation towards action, which is the most important part, by far.

Because you have to do things. Hard things. It's not enough to want, or to dream.

Each action produces consequences, which are the stuff of a new situation. And in that new place, you make more choices and take more actions.

Which lead to more consequences - new situations. It's a long-term cascade of decisions and cause and effect.

It's a journey. Not a journey that happens to you. Not a journey to which you've been invited, but one you create for yourself by making the best choices you can and then working hard to implement the choices.

You are responsible for the journey. The journey is your life. Any success you achieve you earn with all the difficult choices and hard work.

And, of course, some luck. Because much of what happens in life is beyond your control.

The Thoreau quote is a classic. I hope it inspires you as much as it has inspired me.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2014. Building Personal Strength .

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