I’ve had this quote hanging around for some time while I thought about what to say about it – “Progress is not created by contented people.” (Frank Tyger)
I don’t think Tyger was referring to malcontents who cause trouble for others, but rather about those people who cannot be content until the get the answer to the question “Why” or maybe “Why not”. These are people whose curiosity and drive will not let them rest until they find out the answers to those types of questions. They are the inventors and scientists, the explorers and adventurers, the investigators and questioners who are not content to leave stones unturned or avenues unexplored. They cannot be content until they find the answer to the question of why something happens or doesn’t happen or see what is over the next horizon. It is through their insatiable pursuit of answers that mankind’s progress is made.
For many the desire to explore may lie in books that are devoured with a zest. For some it may be the pursuit of athletic excellence and not being content with the thought that this is as fast as a person can run or as high as they can jump. Why? Why can I not run faster or jump higher? What is the limit of my personal best?
Some businesspeople never seem to be satisfied with the amount of success they have achieved or the amount of money that they have made. They are always striving to expand into more products or services or to become even more dominant in their field. For them the money is a secondary benefit. It is the pursuit of the answer to the question “Why not” that drives them.
Most “normal” people may not be as focused upon specific goals like athletes or business leaders but all of us have things that we may not be content about, be it our jobs and what we earn or maybe our personal relationships. We may not yet be focused upon that discontent enough to do something about it, so it just sits there festering and causing us unhappiness. It is only when we can focus upon it enough to identify what we are unhappy about that we can begin to formulate a plan of actions to make progress.
At first the “problem” or roadblock that we are facing can seem overwhelming. That is usually because we are trying to think of a way to overcome it in one big leap. That just doesn’t happen with most roadblocks or challenges. Problems must be broken down into smaller steps which can be accomplished one at a time. Sometimes even getting started on solving the problem requires preliminary steps that may not seem like they are leading to progress but are required none the less – like pursuing a college degree or certification as a pre-requisite to getting a new job. There are tons of lifestyle changes that world-class athletes make in pursuit of their goals and there may be some required of you to achieve your goals, too.
Patience and persistence are required, too. Winning athletes will often recount the endless training sessions that they went through get to their moment of success. You too will have to be persistent in your efforts to achieve your goals or overcome your roadblocks. You must also remember to reward yourself each day for whatever small progress you made that day towards you goal. Maybe add to your nightly prayers, “Thank you God for helping me get another day closer to achieving my dream.”
If nothing else in your life is leaving you a bit discontented, perhaps just the pursuit of being the best person that you can be should become your goal. At the end of each day, you can reflect on the actions that you took (or didn’t take) and resolve to do better tomorrow. It may not be possible to achieve perfection, but that is no reason to accept imperfection. Don’t be content with your imperfections, resolve to make progress. Like the U.S. Army tag line –“Be the best that you can be”.
Don’t be content. Make progress.