I have a very wise uncle. He is highly accomplished in his field of medicine, plays the organ superbly and is a gifted poet to boot. But all of that is not necessarily why I refer to him thus.
Whenever I have achieved something significant, he is always among the first to send his best wishes and to offer his congratulations. But at the end of his beautifully worded appreciation of the efforts I put into whatever it was, he always adds two words: ‘Press on.’
Flush from the giddy heights of achievement, being told to keep going and get on with doing more can have a somewhat sobering effect. Haven’t I gone above and beyond the call of duty already and shouldn’t that be enough, you might ask? Isn’t all the labour and sacrifice I put into getting this thing done more than enough?
Mind you, although it doesn’t always feel like it at the time, my uncle’s calm exhortation to keep going is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. While there should always be time to reflect and enjoy one’s achievements, it’s just as important to see every success as a building block that gives you the skills and experience to be more and to do more. Grit and grind
My uncle’s advice appreciates the fact that it takes grit and grind to get where you want to go. ‘Press on.’ recognises that what you can and indeed have achieved took effort; you had to press your shoulder to the wheel to start up and push your project forward to completion.
However, it also acknowledges that having done so much, why stop now? Tempting though it might be to rest on that mountain top of effort and to take a long – very long – and satisfying breath, ‘Press on’ is a gentle reminder that you are actually sitting on a ledge and that the real mountain top is still far above. Closer than it was before, to be sure; but still a way to go. But, the words add with encouragement, you have what it takes to get there, so keep going.
The genius of this particular piece of advice is that it doesn’t only apply to good times and positive situations. It’s also a recognition that not everything works out well or indeed as it should. When that is the case, ‘Press on’ points out that achieving something is still possible if you carry on. This may well mean that you have to make an even greater effort or perhaps take a step back to reassess your challenge. It may mean that it’s time to invite other insights and opinions, but it most certainly does not mean that it is the end.
If you think you deserve some time to pat yourself on the back and delay climbing that next hill, I’ve got two words for you. The quality of resilience
How many times are we told by leadership gurus about the importance of resilience - that ineffable quality and drive that allows us to rise up from disaster, bloody but unbowed? That certain something that some people display when, rather than letting failure overcome them and undermine their resolve, they find a way to come back stronger than ever? Because although adversity and stress hits all of us, it is in how we respond that we show who we really are.
In the words of Dr Wayne Dyer: "Circumstances do not make a man; they reveal him."
As a person with all the strengths and frailties that the human condition bestows, there will be times in your life when you will hit the buffers on your journey; times you will feel that you have lost not only your sense of direction, but also your sense of purpose. You will wonder at what you are doing and why you continue to do it. You will feel that there is no possible end in sight to your confusion and no adequate response to your dilemma.
What ‘Press on.’ says to me is that when those times come – and they will, no matter who you are – don’t despair. Stay the course. Trust that you can, and will, find a way, if you just keep going. Seek advice, change perspective, take a walk… do whatever you need to do; just don’t give up. Future perfect
We are fast approaching the end of another year and I’m sure that, like me, you are thinking back over the past months and wondering where the time went. What happened to those glorious plans and shiny new objectives that we set ourselves in January with such hope and determination?
Well, the bad news is that it’s getting closer and closer to the end of the period that you gave yourself to make those things happen and, whether you like it or not, time will not slow down to give you a chance to catch up.
The good news is that you get to make the rules for your life so, guess what? If what you intended to happen didn’t quite work out, you have the chance to start over again when January rolls around. If those plans and objectives are still what you want and need, then stop beating yourself up, get back on track and make them happen.
If, on the other hand, you achieved everything you set out to do, then congratulations! You have earned the right to take a bow and to pat yourself very heartily on the back.
But, whichever one of these scenarios proves to be the case for you on December 31st, let’s just say that I’ve got two words for you.
That’s right: Press on…