Odysseus, King of Ithaca, and action hero in Homer’s poem, Iliad and Odyssey, teaches us something about attainment of goals.
THE PERIL IS GREATEST WHEN CLOSE TO THE END OF A JOURNEY
According to Homer (I can’t verify this actually happened but is seems likely), ten years after the Trojan war (check out the movie Troy, it’s almost a documentary), Odysseus was had still not gone home and arrived at the floating island of Aeolia. The King of Aeolia, King Aeolos, was appointed by Zeus as “The Keeper of the Winds”. Odysseus and Aeolos became fast friends and after hanging around for a month, telling war stories, Aeolos gave Odysseus an ox-skin bag which contained all of the strong winds.
The calm and mild Zephyr wind was left out of the bag and Odysseus left Aeolia to calmly sail home to Ithaca. Odysseus left the bag of winds strapped to the boat but did not tell his men what was inside the bag. In retrospect this was a really bad idea.
Odysseus and his men sailed, actually rowed, for nine days and nights for Ithaca when in the distance, Odysseus saw land and the cooking fires of his people. Exhausted from sailing for 9 days straight and so close to home, Odysseus decided the journey was almost over, so he decided to nap.
While sleeping, Odysseus’ men decided to open the bag, thinking it might be treasure.
(It’s possible they did not see the movie Seven, thereby not knowing NOT to look in the box, or bag, whatever)
They open the bag, the winds escape and the boat gets blown almost back to where they started the 9 day rowing marathon.
Odysseus is pretty pissed and the crew rows back to Aeolia. King Aeolos is amazed the Odysseus screwed up a fairly simple task (getting home in calm winds) so he believes Odysseus is cursed by the gods and refuses to help with another bag of wind.
Odysseus and his merry crew then try to head back home and it doesn’t go so smoothly this time, ogres, blood suckers, witches, men turn into pigs, and a trip to the Underworld ensue.
So, where am I going with this?
Often, we get within sight of our goal and decide it’s good enough. We stop and then backtrack.
Trying to get under 10% bodyfat and see rippling abs? I have seen numerous people get within striking range after four months of hard work, call it good, and quit. Then rather than maintain and have a last go of it, they go back to their normal habits and gain all the fat back.
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, students work hard for a belt promotion. After years of hard practice they are rewarded with a blue belt. Many then quit. The journey was hard, they accomplished something and the next step, purple belt, or the big step, black belt, seems so far away as to be unattainable. I know many perpetual blue belts. The quit, come back, quit, come back, in a never ending cycle.
HOW DO WE STOP OUR INCLINATION TO QUIT WHEN CLOSE TO THE END?
- Make a commitment to finish what you start.
- Focus on the daily habits which lead you to your goal, engage the GRIND.
- Focus on the day to day, do your dryfire, go to BJJ class, etc.
- Be a professional and show up. You don’t have to be heroic every day but you do have to show up.
- When you feel like quitting, you are close, ignore that voice in your head and continue to grind.
- And, for God’s sake, don’t fall asleep and give your men an opportunity to open the wind bag!