“If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; if you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”
“If” – Rudyard Kipling
I’ve always found this to be an intriguing section in Kipling’s wonderful poem, “If”. He seems to be suggesting that we should do more than just dream and think – we should put our plans into action. But why does he say we should treat triumph and disaster just the same?
To me, one answer can be found in the Chinese concept of Yin-Yang. It describes how apparently opposite forces are actually interconnected and naturally dependent on each other. Night/day, male/female, hot/cold are just a few examples – complementary parts of the same system. They each can’t exist without the other. Like two sides of a coin.
You can’t experience failure without the seeds of success being present. An apparent victory will carry the potential for defeat. Consequently, attaching yourself too much to any extreme is to miss the big picture. Many of the most successful figures in history suffered huge setbacks in life before their triumphs. Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln being two such examples.
Equally, being too attached to success may lead to arrogance, conceit and resting on your laurels. Churchill himself said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Success is not final because once we have achieved our goal, we naturally reach for the next. Failure is not fatal, because it often leads to new perspectives or opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have been considered.
If we’re less attached to an outcome, which will only be temporary anyway, we can be more focused on our self-development during the process. In that way, we are always moving forward, always gaining experience.
It’s great to have inspiring dreams, but most aren’t achieved overnight, if at all. How often do we reach a goal, and after the initial glow has worn off, find ourselves strangely unimpressed? I think it’s the sense of challenge, and the little victories along the way, that ultimately give us satisfaction.
It’s often the journey, and not the destination, that is the real prize.