On Ideas and Ideals

Back in the 1980s the famous Earl Nightingale said that the best definition of Success he had ever heard was this: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile ideal.” For most of us this is very applicable – especially if we are ambitious.

The reason?

There is a great deal of difference between an idea and an ideal. For example, we might get the idea that we want to become a competent public speaker. We aspire to speaking before an audience with both confidence and competence. So in this respect, our idea is a reachable goal. Once achieved, we need another idea to spur us on to further greatness. For example: speaking to an audience of two-hundred people. The next idea might be to achieve another goal progressive goal in speaking. For example: becoming a paid professional. Ideas can be realized: ideals cannot.

An ideal is something unachievable but which impels our spirits to aim for something beyond our very best, and yet enables us to enjoy the journey on the way. The process becomes more important than the goal. Moreover, the journey brings more joy than the temporary highs of achieving a goal – because it is ongoing.

How do you come up with an ideal as distinct from a series of ideas? You could possibly look at the ‘leading lights’ in the areas of expertise you’d like to excel in. For example, if you wanted to be an opera singer you’d look to the greats of today and yesterday. Names like Mario Lanza and Enrico Caruso would pop into your mind and you’d imagine doing the great things that they did. Visualization, imagination, and perhaps the use of lots of affirmations, would come into it, along, of course, with lots and lots of both theory and practice to move you forwards. But your goal would not be to emulate but to surpass these legends. To reiterate, the objective is for your reach to always both extend and exceed your grasp. Whatever your field of endeavour it is likely you will role models you’d like to surpass.

So if you really aspire to be the best you can be, come up with ‘an ‘ideal you.’ This is not to detract from your short term, intermediate and long term goals. Go for them! Don’t give up on these. But keep in your heart at all times the ideal of what and who you are working towards… onwards and upwards to a point which can never be reached… yet knowing that every step along the way is bringing enjoyment and beneficial rewards to you and to all those with whom you interact on this infinite journey.


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