Do I Desire But Do Not Have?
There is something wrong in our lives if we continuously think about what we desire, but never see it come to fruition. Whether it be weight loss, a degree, change of job or living situation, or something else. Whatever it is, if we find ourselves stuck in the in-between, discontent with our present state but unable to attain our desired state, the trouble is most likely within ourselves and our inability to be consistent in doing those things that would lead to the accomplishment of our goals.
Personal responsibility is a theme of Esprit, as is the understanding that we reap what we sow. Aside from its value as a spiritual truth, we can also take away the fact that when we examine the content of our lives–our achievements, our relationships, our personal well-being, that content is going to be a reflection of our own responses to life’s challenges and how we have chosen to expend our energy. And so, we hear that “the soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing, But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”
Now, I think that laziness is fairly easy to understand. The lazy person finds himself unmotivated to put forth energy in doing what he knows is good. “There is always tomorrow,” says the lazy man. “This little compromise will not hurt in the long run,” the lazy man rationalizes. He sees the best course of action, but does not feel the pressure to follow it now. Many of us can relate to the feeling of laziness, so let’s look at the mind of the diligent man. Diligence is more than working hard in the present; its strength is a more subtle than that. It carries with it the implication of attentiveness to the envisioned goal, which gives sustained energy into the future. The dictionary defines a diligent act as one “done or pursued with persevering attention.” Not only does the diligent man give attention to his goals, but he gives persevering attention to his goals. Diligence is not possible without consistency. All too often, we rely on the emotional inspiration of the moment to give us the energy to focus on the goal at hand. But when that emotional impetus has faded, or we become distracted by other things in our lives, our pusuit of the goal falls by the wayside.
Diligence does not stop until the goal has been realized. Some of its synonyms are: indefatigable, tireless, unremitting. The lazy man sees a good end but does not pursue it. The average joe (or josephine) sees a good end and starts out, and doesn’t follow through. But the diligent one sees a good end, pursues it, and is relentlessly attentive to that goal until it is realized.
Sometimes, the good ends that we have envisioned are nice ideas, but are not realistic for us at the moment. I might see that running a marathon would be a good accomplishment, but practically, there is really no room in my life right now to take on another obligation. I may need to focus more generally on attaining a level of general healthiness. But other times, we need to push ourselves beyond the status quo.
As much as is possible, avoid setting goals that you leave unfinished. Not only is it a bad habit, but it slowly erodes at your self-confidence. Confidence is borne out of our assurance that we can meet life’s demands, live cooperatively with others, and accomplish our will in the world. When we constantly set up goals for ourselves that we do not achieve, we chip away at our confidence that we can, in fact, do that which we set out to do. If we are wiser on the front end about those challenges that we take on, we will be more realistic in the ends we set out to achieve and by achieving them will gradually build our confidence rather than eroding it.
I should add that being realistic in our goals should not prevent us from taking risks or aiming high. “The soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” Some people have incredibly rich lives, rich to a degree well beyond average. The degree to which we are able to be consistently attentive to developing the good in our life is likely going to be the degree to which we find our lives full of richness and blessing.