A Work in Progress

“If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counsellor, caution your elder brother and hope your guardian genius.”

Joseph Addison, English essayist, poet and politician

I once worked with a cantankerous fellow named Doug. Colleagues were sometimes referring to him as Old Thunder Cloud as he seemed to walk beneath a small, dark thunder cloud. We worked in a large building, and my department had little interaction with Doug’s. It wasn’t until the company did some renovating that I began to encounter him in the hallways. For a couple of weeks, he was kept busy transporting items from his old office to the new one.

One day I happened to be in Doug’s area of the building and found him carefully hanging several plaques on the wall of his office. Each was small and black with gold writing – the types you see in gift shops. When Doug left the room, I walked in and had a look. There must have been a dozen or more plaques each with an uplifting or inspiring message. It occurred to me that many of the messages seemed in contrast to Doug’s usual demeanour at the office.

I was about to leave when Doug returned. He seemed annoyed at first, to find me there.

“I’m sorry,” I said, pointing to the wall. “I was just admiring your plaques.”

He looked at the plaques then back at me.

“I like the messages,” I said and smiled.

He stood there for a moment then walked over and pointed to one of the plaques.

“My wife started giving me one each year on our anniversary. This is her favourite.” He pointed to a plaque that featured the quotation, “Just be patient. I’m a work in progress.”

“And how is the work progressing?” I asked.

“Pretty slow,” Doug said and smiled. “But my wife says I’m worth the investment.”

What a great way to think of ourselves and the journey of self-esteem – as a work in progress. I like the quotation because it acknowledges that this journey requires effort and commitment. If we think of ourselves and others as works in progress, we’re likely to be more forgiving and tolerant.

When I think of the perseverance required to bring about personal change, I think of the work of Dr Joe Dispenza from his book, and now DVD Evolve Your Brain – The Science of Changing your Mind. Says Dispenza, “Cells that fire together, wire together.” According to Dispenza, over time, we wire together neural networks of associated memories, feelings and experiences that support a particular way of thinking and being. We can wire together memories that support our success and progression or a network of disempowering beliefs.

Take the emotion of love, for example. We might assume that love would be represented by the wiring together of gentle and affectionate associations, and for many, it is. For others, however, the emotion of love may be comprised of memories associated with broken relationships and broken promises – with feelings of anger, bitterness, and heartbreak.

Each time we think of love, this network lights up. Not only that, each time it lights up, the connections grow more potent. As with the loving example, the lighting up of this network will create joy for some, anxiety and despair for others – both impacting choices and perception.

Despair not! Dispenza claims the opposite is also true: “Cells that no longer fire together, unwire.” By applying perseverance and dedication toward positive change coupled with a growing sense of self-awareness, we can create a new neural network and dismantle the old. When an old network has failed to be energized for an extended period, the cells begin to lose their connection or commonality and eventually disconnect.

How long the process takes and how effective you’ll be in building new networks depends upon your level of commitment and understanding of techniques, principles and yourself.

Mark Twain said, “The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit.”

Forge on and be a proud work in progress. After all, you’re worth the investment.

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