Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Following Through on a Spasm of Enthusiasm

We humans get excited about things. We can get very enthusiastic and motivated about something and experience what I call a "spasm of enthusiasm." Talk is cheap, as they say, and its easy to fantasize about how great it would be to do or have something and talk big about making it come to pass. Putting feet under that talk is an entirely different story.

I'm a big believer in letting your 'yes' be 'yes' and letting your 'no' be 'no.' We need to get good at carefully making committments and then following through on them.

All too often, the spasm of enthusiasm lasts until we come face to face with the reality of what it would actually take to follow through on our idea. As soon as we start dealing with the real consequences of the committment, we often find the enthusiasm fades and we let it fade and die.

I think it is far more important to set, work for and achieve one goal or aspiration, rather than to 'talk big' about more desirable undertakings and follow through on none of them.

It's easy to talk. It takes much more to really walk the talk and follow through.

In Bali, a person's promise is a solemn and sacred vow. You don't go back on your promises if you want to retain your reputation and good name. I once promised to give someone there one of my old computers. I did so with all the best intentions. I thought it would be easy to bring one of my old computers with me on a future trip. Little did I know, when I made the promise, that there were laws in place that restrict such imports and to fulfil my promise might mean bribing officials and breaking laws! I wasn't willing to do those things, but I knew that I needed to fulfil my promise! I ended up buying a new computer for my friend, in Bali (at a cost about 3 times what I would have paid in the states). There was no other way to fulfil my promise, and I knew that it was critically important that I do so.

When I take people on trips around the world, I caution them about making promises to people they meet along the way. I ask them to be very deliberate with their words. People in other parts of the world often really depend on what people say they will do. I would rather travelers make ONE committment and keep it (even if it is just to send copies of photographs they took with a local person) than to get caught up in causes where they visit, talk big and then go home and forget about it. The people we encounter on those trips don't forget about it... and we give ourselves and the country we represent a bad name when we go back on our word.

We must contain our 'spasms of enthusiasm' and learn to evaluate them appropriately to pick and choose what we really want to devote our time to. When we let our word really mean something - say what we mean and mean what we say - we live life at an entirely new level.

Spasms of enthusiasm can be marvelous starting points for launching big dreams and amazing projects. Let's learn to identify the ones that deserve our attention and give ourselves wholey to those pursuits, and let the other 'spasms' go without putting out empty talk that we don't back up with action.

We will transform the world!

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