Positive thinking and how to begin

Sometimes when you really read that inspiring quote, you find it doesn’t quite give the message you thought it did.  You know words are my thing – they have to be right!

Here’s one I found recently:

“If you must begin, then go all the way, because if you begin and quit, the unfinished business you have left behind you begins to haunt you all the time.”(Trungpa Rinpoche – I read this as an extract in a book that wasn’t the original source, so can’t tell you anything about him I’m afraid. But I’ve been pondering his words.)

At first I thought, “yes – encouragement to do, to move forward, to simply begin.”  And I think that’s probably how it was meant.  But then I read it again and it sounds a little threatening.  Surely, if unfinished business comes back to haunt you, it’s safer to not begin at all?  The advice sounds rather like we should only begin if we’re absolutely sure we can finish what we start – and how many of us can be sure of that?

But we do like to be sure, don’t we?  We want to know where we’re going before we set out.  Not only that, we want to know exactly how we’re going to get there.  So often we hear or read the advice (attributed to Laurence J Peter), “if you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

Maybe.  But somewhere else might turn out to be better!  And what happened to simply enjoying the journey?  Surely it’s better to just begin – to take that single step, write that first paragraph, pick up that piece of clay – and enjoy the adventure of the journey, rather than to sit and wait until every piece is meticulously planned?  Where’s the magic in that?

And, speaking of magic, here’s a much more uplifting piece of advice about beginnings which I think we should all follow, today:

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
P.S. As an aside, that final quotation is often attributed to Goethe, but in looking it up just now to make sure I’d got it right, I discovered that he sort of wrote it, but mostly didn’t.  (I wouldn’t know; I’ve never read anything by Goethe any more than I’ve read Socrates.  I just like a good turn of phrase.)  Go here and here if you’re interested.
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4 thoughts on “Positive thinking and how to begin

  1. So I looked up Trungpa Rinpoche, and apparently he started out as a Buddhist monk and ended a drunk with a history of (this is me being judgmental, based on a quick read in Wikipedia, okay?) being controversial and breaking rules for the sake of being controversial and breaking rules. Meh. I’d rather follow the FlyLady (www.flylady.net), who says “Housework done imperfectly still blesses your family – an anti-perfectionism, get-it-done philosophy that can be applied to pretty much anything, not just housework.

    • Yeah, I looked him up too and decided I didn’t want to get into whether he was a good role model or not, so sidestepped that! Lazy blogging possibly, but you’ve hit the nail on the head (as always). Embracing imperfection is the way forward – perfection just leads to paralysis.

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