Generations have been inspired by the story of Helen Keller, who, at 19 months old, was left deaf and blind as a result of what most believe was scarlet fever. Despite this handicap, she became a symbol of courage in the face of overwhelming odds, astonishing the world with her remarkable intelligence and her gifts as a writer, speaker and champion of human potential.
In fact, one of my favorite quotes is from Keller, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
Most know of her through the play and film, The Miracle Worker, about Keller’s relationship with her teacher Annie Sullivan. What I did not know, until I read an article in Psychology Today by Alex Lickerman, MD, was the lengths Helen’s parents went through to find Annie Sullivan to begin with.
Helen’s mother, Kate, had been inspired by a story of the successful education of one Laura Bridgman, another deaf blind girl, chronicled in Charles Dickens’ American Notes. So, in 1886 she and Helen’s father, Arthur journeyed from their home in Alabama to Baltimore to visit Dr. J. Julian Chisolm, an otolaryngologist, for advice.
He, in turn, referred them to Alexander Graham Bell (yes, the inventor of the telephone), who worked with deaf children, before altering how we communicate forever. Bell advised them to contact the Perkins Institute for the Blind, where Laura Bridgman herself had been educated. Traveling to the Institute in Boston, they met with Michael Anaganos, the school’s director, who asked a former student, Annie Sullivan (who was visually impaired and just 20 years old), to become Helen’s teacher.
The story of Sullivan’s determination and Keller’s remarkable awakening was all precipitated by the relentless determination of Keller’s parents Kate and Arthur.
Wish is Just an App
In this time of year, when we begin to think about resolutions, it may be more important to focus on the potential that lies in unsurrendering resolve. Just like a light switch or the key to your car has the potential to unlock incredible resources, that same power is within us when focused on a goal we are determined to achieve.
That is the difference between wishful thinking and causative action. Lickerman commented, “Wish-making is a passive activity in which the wisher hands responsibility for the wish’s achievement to an outside force.” Whatever that might be. “Not that wish-makers don’t also take action to achieve their desires—but if their desires remain wished for only, their drive to achieve them tends to encounter limits beyond which it will not go.”
For those of us who make prayer a part of our strategy, prayer isn’t a wish-making, relinquishment of responsibility, instead it is a request for creativity and resolve beyond our accustomed limits. The only thing you should relinquish is the anxiety associated with the challenge, which probably will not help you achieve it anyway.
To move from resolution to resolve:
1. Expect turbulence
the old saying, “If it were easy everyone would be doing it,” is so true. One lesson our space program has shown is that astronauts living in weightless environments experience dramatic loss in muscle mass. Accomplishments, like muscles, are built through resistance, it makes us stronger and is essential for a positive and productive life, so purpose to endure.
2. Learn to reframe challenges
Wish-makers do not expect tests and opposition, because it doesn’t fit into their fantasy paradigm. Those with resolve make it work for them. As Sun Tzu said, “Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.” Reframing a challenge as an opportunity, makes the challenge work for you, instead of against you.
3. Be passionate about your goal.
The degree to which we attain our aspirations is directly linked to commitment we have to achieving them, as we see in the Keller’s and Annie Sullivan. T.D. Jakes said, “If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose.”