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Life Lessons from a Tortoise

Jan 01, 2015 07:28PM ● By Annette Briggs

Happy New Year! As usual, January will mark the beginning of the normal “mantra” of New Year’s resolutions, vowed with the very best of intentions. Many will recite, with much determination, words of declaration quoted from “self-help,” motivational books and such. Others will even record their resolutions on Post-it notes, “doodling” pads or calendars, proudly displayed as reminders of hopeful promises made.

Sound familiar? New Year’s resolutions, and our valiant efforts to keep them, represent a billion-dollar self-empowerment industry of “on-again-off-again” dream chasing. It’s been said, “Nothing gives more false hope than the first 24 hours of a diet.” Funny thought, but painfully true for many. No matter the promises made, poor results usually lead to a “pity-party” attended by only one invited guest—you. In fact, according to national studies, more than 88 percent of Americans make at least one, so called, “resolution” at the start of each year, but, sadly, less than 20 percent celebrate any success in the end.

So, what’s the key to breakthrough? To me, the pivotal point to settle is not, “How to make a New Year’s resolution,” but, more importantly, “How to ensure a successful outcome.” Interestingly enough, the famed tortoise in the Greek storyteller Aesop’s popular 16th century fable The Tortoise and the Hare provides some time-honored wisdom and sensibility to help guide us. I remember it from childhood. This very simple, unsophisticated tale provides one of the most critical clues in turning a resolution “wish” into a reality, revealed in the actions of our little reptilian friend, the tortoise.

As the story unfolds, the tortoise and the hare are engaged in a foot race to see who will finish first. The hare is quick and agile, but, to his own detriment, easily distracted, unfocused, over-confident, and unwisely underestimates his opponent. In contrast, the tortoise is painfully slow yet focused, steady and committed. Unlike the hare, the tortoise makes no hasty decisions; he pushes forward with confidence and persistence one step at a time. Quick side note: I would NOT want to be in the car behind him in a drive-thru, oh my! Paralleling their strategies, the hare continues his erratic, undisciplined behavior, while the tortoise sticks with his well-thought-out plan of attack; the end result, an amazing, no doubt shocking, win for the tortoise. Way to go my friend. … I love an underdog!

Can you see the valuable low-hanging “fruit” of truth and principle, ripe for the picking here? The tortoise wisely recognized that the best strategy for winning incorporates the right balance of discipline, commitment and correct strategy. Our little friend focused on the precise placement of every step, representing the everyday decisions we make that, ultimately, will either lead to victory or leave us, regretfully, muttering, “Better luck next year.” The hare simply assumed that he would win because he judged the tortoise to be no competition, which sealed his fate.
Friends, we need to think more like tortoises, at least in this case. Carefully make your resolutions, and do not assume that just because you make them, victory is inevitable. Remember our little friend’s approach: right strategy, right commitment and right pace.

Loving the underdog,

Annette Briggs

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