IN BLACK & WHITE | Gerhard van Rensburg
Realism is as important to idealism as idealism is important to realism. To be real, we have, and need, ideals. No one can deny that all improvements in life originated from ideals, from mental pictures of what can be. But, to be real, the ideals could have died, as millions do, were it not for the hard work and perseverance of their owners. The realistic aspect to our ideals is that they can only stay alive as long as we win both the ever-present mental battle over our fears, doubts and negative emotions, and persevere with the hard work they demand. Sometimes, our commitment to keep on working without much thinking helps to get us emotionally back on our feet. But, mostly, it is a mental battle.
No doubt, in your journey towards your goals in life, you will be tested; not only once, but over and over again. Promises you rely on are not kept, expectations come to nothing, doors don’t open, disaster strikes, one battle leads to the next and self-doubt creeps in. We always hope for the best and never feel prepared for bad news. Earlier enthusiasm is replaced with big disappointment. In such times, you feel very alone and small in a big and unfriendly world. You will question many things in yourself and you will question if you are on the right path. It is a mental, inner battle.
The truth is that, for the dreams that are really important to us, we need more resilience, hardiness and tenacity than what we thought would be necessary. It is not only at the level of our self-belief that we get tested (Do we have the talent and skill?), but also in respect of our deeper beliefs about life in general. The way heroes are portrayed can easily lead us to the wrong impression. We see them as conquerors in their struggle against opponents or enemies, we see them painted in the bright colours of success, but we don’t see them in their earlier painful battles with themselves and their beliefs. Those ‘dark nights of the soul’ have a purpose: Emerging from those inner struggles, they were filled with the necessary courage and conviction to handle the conflicts and complexities of external hardships and challenges. It has been said that you can’t lead others until you’ve first led yourself through a struggle with opposing values. The internal resolution of competing beliefs leads to personal integrity.
No one argues the ideals of our constitution: human dignity and respect for all people; nonracialism and nonsexism; unity in diversity; improving the quality of life of all citizens and freeing the potential of each person; and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. The challenges are also there for all to see. The test for us all is to persevere in our efforts. The more people there are that give up on the noble ideals of our nation, the harder it becomes for those who are working towards those ideals. The more people there are that persevere, no matter what, the more attractive it becomes for everyone to take a positive stance about our future. It is dedication and perseverance, even in the face of negative news, that will instil the much-needed pride in all of us as South Africans. Perseverance, perhaps more than anything else, is the highlight of the story of our first democratic president, Nelson Mandela.
At a personal level, the following reflections will be helpful when you feel like giving up on your goals and ideals:
What would the difficulty that you are experiencing now look like in six months’ time?
Do you fully own the ideal/goal or could it be someone else’s idea or expectation?
Are you totally passionate about it?
Can a relatively small adjustment or new perspective make all the difference, and what could it be?
Are there personal barriers that you know you need to face and overcome?
Should you be more outspoken about your ideals/goals?
Leaders persevere where others give up.
Calvin Coolidge emphasises its importance in the following powerful words:
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
New Leadership Website
Dr van Rensburg has launched a new online development program, view the website: www.newlead.co.za
Leadership and self-development is about the exploration of new things of value and meaning. It is to make discoveries that make us wiser, more effective and that enrich our lives. Invest one year in developing the leader in you to leave a legacy of positive and meaningful influence!
About Dr van Rensburg:
Dr van Rensburg is passionate about coaching. He believes in the unique potential of every human being and sees the challenge to help unlock that potential, particularly in the context of organisation, as his calling. At the core of his work is a desire for clients to become more congruent, more true to self, and thus more engaged and effective in both their work and personal lives. He believes that effective coaching starts with deep respect for the client as a unique creation with a unique life story. It is essential to start a coaching relationship meeting people where ‘they are’ and to remain open to them.
As human beings we seldom suspect the conditioned nature of our perception about life, others and ourselves. Discovery of this fact for oneself (sometimes through crisis, sometimes with the help of 360 degree feedback) is powerful. It leads to living more consciously as creators of our own destiny and less as prisoners of our past. The coaching process seeks to find practical and useful answers to questions such as: “How do I get in touch with my deeper self and express the power of my values and my whole self in my work?”
Leaders and Their Choices
Let’s be honest. We face a simple choice from day to day, minute to minute and moment to moment. Are we going to give up on what we see as the ideal, or are we going to persevere with our efforts?
Even if they are suppressed or dormant at times, we have ideals for our nation, our communities, our organisations, our work conditions and efficiencies, as well as for our careers and personal lives. We have these ideals because it is in our nature to imagine a better life. As much as we are saddened by humankind’s, and our own, failures, limitations and potential to do harm, we remain deeply aware of our potential to create. And, if we can create, we can create good and better things.