Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

The Way to First Base
by Elizabeth Kanabe

A second player steps up to the plate and pops out every time, because he simply wants to see the ball fly high in the air rather than make it to base. A third player doesn't even come to the plate mumbling about how he doesn't like playing with the other team and would rather go play catch with two of his teammates on the other field. The fourth player comes up to bat, hits a grounder and half-way as he's running to base decides he's done playing and walks off the field.

No one would enjoy participating in the above game. And no one would blame the team in the outfield for ruining the game, regardless of how untalented they are. In this scenario, the other team would win by just standing out in the field without ever having to get up to bat or make a play. But this is often what we see in the much more complex world of business, government and public thinking. In some instances people don't like the rules and choose not to play by them, but don't understand why they're not winning. Others have the wrong goals they work towards, some don't even get in the game. Still others start playing and when the goal isn't achieved quickly enough simply stop trying, or never carry the play out.

In order for any play in baseball or life to be successful, there are three things that need to take place. First, there is the person at bat, the person taking action. Second there is the other team, which are circumstances surrounding all of us. Some play with better surroundings, others face a lot of opposition and stormy weather. Finally, we have the play at the plate. This is a series of actions taken by players followed by reactions. Each player aims to achieve his identified goal. Outcomes depend on all of these and take away any of the three pieces and you can't complete a play.

We all experience frustration where we can't decide what the next step is to take, feel overwhelmed by the other team or feel that we've just struck out too many times to get up again. But you'll notice that the people who do succeed develop a plan and act on it. They try to initiate changes in the rules over time to allow for better play and no matter how many times they lose, they learn and try again.

The way to initiate change or achieve your objectives won't ever just come about, unless what you want is the status quo and no one is working against you. In order to be successful in a sport, a job, a relationship, or day to day activities you need to identify your goals. Goals that are unidentified can't be achieved, and neither can goals that are too broad because you'll get lost in the process. A goal should be a result that is attainable and specific. Are you looking to hit the ball as far as possible, or looking to make it to base? An example would be when looking for a new job, the goal can be to take the best job. But that is too vague and without identifying what you want specifically it leaves a lot to chance. Once you've identified what is most important to you in a job, money, distance from home, visibility, flexibility, travel time, so on, you can better research where you'll apply and have an easier time with the decisions.

Once the goals are set, develop a plan for achieving them. This leads to result driven actions. Compare this to performing daily activities that you hope leads to something eventually, such as happiness, a promotion or great relationship. The first method is more likely to get you there. Not having a plan also leaves you feeling less in control of your life, since you allow outcomes to develop on their own while you hope to get what's owed to you.

Finally, follow through. How many people know what they want and how to get there, but choose not to take any action and hope they get it anyway? They never even go up to bat. Or people take on tasks, but because they really fail to integrate how it will work towards their goals, simply abandon the process. This I see all the time at work, where people volunteer to take assignments in a meeting and never complete the tasks and never follow-up. There are also those who do follow through, but because they didn't achieve their goals in the process fail to learn from it and fail to develop a new plan. Those who are successful didn't get there flawlessly. They are the ones who tried again and when things got tough weren't afraid to try different routes. They are the ones who decided that writing a letter to the newspaper editor is needed, and went home and wrote it. Following-through is deciding you're going to teach a philosophy class and actually asking around at local centers for opportunities. It's not complaining about a bad book, but writing a good one. It's not allowing the chips to fall as they may, losing without a fight, or letting the other team win without giving it what you've got.

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