Three life events helped to shape my beliefs.
During grammar school and my freshman year of high school, I was very nervous and afraid to talk before a group. I would do almost anything to avoid having to read aloud or speak during class. When I could not avoid having to speak, my voice would crack, my hands would shake and it was sometimes impossible for me to complete a single sentence.
From time to time, I made a resolution that I would overcome this nervousness and fear of speaking but it never seemed to work. I finally decided that it would take a major commitment to make this change – an involvement in the very thing I feared – speaking. I needed to make speaking the focal point of the activity.
At the urging of one of my teachers, I joined the debating team at the beginning of my sophomore year. That made all the difference! In fact, joining the debating team in high school was one of the most important decisions I have made and one which had a great impact upon my life.
This first incident shaped my belief that we can overcome any defect or obstacle.
The second incident occurred when I met three others who joined the debating team at the same time. Together, we set a goal that we would be the first team from our high school to win the Louisiana State Debating Championship. The timetable was the state tournament which would take place at the conclusion of our junior year.
We set short-term goals designed to support that long-term goal and to accomplish the steps necessary to achieve the overall goal. These involved research, preparation, speech classes, interim tournament wins, etc. We achieved all of these goals, including the state championship.
This shaped another of my major beliefs, that we can accomplish any goal if we have a plan, a timetable and a firm commitment.
The third incident occurred at the beginning of my sophomore year in college when I lost an election for treasurer of my fraternity. My goal after being elected treasurer was to become president of the fraternity at the end of my junior year. I tended to brood and felt extremely bad about that loss. I was depressed for several days.
I finally decided that, in order to overcome this feeling, I must somehow convince myself that because of this setback, I would be better off than if I had gotten what I wanted in the first place. In other words, the setback must produce a result better than the original goal and the pursuit of which I would enjoy more.
Therefore, I decided to change my long-term goal from fraternity president to student body president. I not only achieved this alternative goal but enjoyed the journey.
This shaped my third belief that every setback carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater opportunity if we learn from the experience and make a resolution to set an alternative goal.
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