“Those who are victorious plan effectively, and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course, but adjusts its flow. They have form, but are formless. They are skilled in both planning and adapting, and need not fear the result of a thousand battles: For they win in advance, defeating those who have already lost.” — Sun Tzu
I am well aware that there is nothing new under the sun, and that most of what I perceive to be ‘original’ ideas are actually my musings and reinterpretations of what I have read, been taught, talked about with others. This quote, which so powerfully expresses why it is vital to have a vision for one’s life, is from The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which I read over twenty-five years ago. It made sense then, and it makes even more sense today.
Yes, it is talking about being victorious, as if it relates mainly to war. But I believe there is a direct correlation between his concepts and the struggles we all face in carving our way through life.
It reminds me of another quote, this one from Norman Vincent Peale, “if you wake up one morning without a problem, you better get on your knees and pray for one, because if you don’t have a problem, you’re dead!”
Life is about problems, working through them, overcoming adversity, meeting challenges and continuing to grow through it all. The moments of pleasure and peace are fleeting, because another challenge is ever present for us to experience. In fact, this is one of the main topics I work on with most of my coaching clients. They create the fantasy that they will do some heavy duty work, mentally, emotionally and/or physically, and from that will ‘arrive’ somewhere, where things will be easier.
If you step back and observe your actual life, you will see that each point of achievement brings the next challenge. This process of struggling through to moments of joyful enlightenment and an ‘aah’ or ‘yeah, got it’ is never ending. As Demartini frequently says, we cannot finite the infinite. There is no point of enlightenment to reach–at least I can attest to that being true for my human experience. Each ‘outcome’ is the ‘become’ of the next challenge.
We can’t wait to grow up and find true love, a life partner. Then we get engaged and deal with all the issues of learning how to couple with someone. We get married and suddenly have to live together! We have children, fulfilling a dream of creating a family, and then we have to raise them!
The more we grow, the more we see what there is to learn. But we cannot truly grow without a plan, a vision of where we’re going. That is what I get from Sun Tzu’s idea of a river maintaining its course but adjusting its flow–having form but being formless.
The challenge of being a Life Entrepreneur is to do this consciously. Live each day with a semblance of self-awareness, self-direction, a self-imposed program of Quality Control, using all the great teachings of W. Edwards Deming by creating a system of continuous improvement in our lives. It works in manufacturing, why wouldn’t it work in creating the life we would love to live?