“Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
That sounds like an arrogant statement, doesn’t it? But there is a strong truth in it.
Apart from characteristic influences, there are judgements and opinions that we often need to discard in favour of our own decisions. That's what we call the courage of conviction, don't we?
I doubt there is anyone in existence who has not experienced discouragement, censure or ridicule when they have expressed an aim, a goal, or some ambition that doesn’t sit well with current companions.
I say “current” because what happens is that the person aiming to achieve, if he believes in what s/he's doing, in himself, and in the truth of that belief, will inevitably outgrow that level of companionship.
He or she may be told that she’s losing the run of herself, getting too big for his boots, living in a fantasy land, and ultimately, to “get real “.
All too often, a misguided sense of loyalty to a known circle of companions, ambition can be undermined, and someone can be coerced into submission to the low opinion expressed by companions.
I saw a remarkable case of that as a youngster in Wexford, when a pal of mine, a gifted and studious musician, who could, at the age of sixteen, do things with a trumpet that older, experienced and semiprofessional musicians could only dream or talk about. The ensuing discouragement, heartless ridicule, endless criticism, flung like mud at every opportunity, was at first resisted. But because my pal insisted that he wanted to play music with his 'friends', some of the mud started to stick, the resistance weakened, the resolve corroded, and his enthusiasm and ambition were swallowed up in a slurry of envy, ill-will and malevolence.
Within two short years, his ambition, and talent, were beaten down to the level of mediocrity, conformity, an acceptable level of average.
Peers' intent was completed; my pal's potential destroyed.
This then becomes a case in which to practice integrity. Integrity is being true to oneself. That's all.
And when we believe in our aims, ambitions, our dreams, we have an obligation to ourselves to take whatever steps are necessary to fulfil them.
In that case, we need mental strength and emotional resilience. We need to take time to ourselves and decide how we want our lives to be.
To do otherwise is to abdicate the responsibility we have to ourselves, and to those who trust us and believe in us. We need to choose our own path.
But we tend to look at what the majority do as the correct thing to do.
But that’s not always true. And especially not for the individual who seeks to explore his own potential, who seeks to make the most of what he or she believes life has to offer.
We may sometimes need to fly in the face of convention, opinion, and most certainly, approval. Not an easy thing to do, especially if the disapproval is coming from an unexpected quarter.
So, when you set yourself a goal, be sure that it’s your personal aim, be clear on what it means to you, and be ready to walk through Hell and High Water in its defense.
Otherwise, all you've got is a wish.