What Lies Within Us

April 27, 2012
By niKAY BRONZE, Downers Grove, Illinois
niKAY BRONZE, Downers Grove, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

That’s what my Starbucks cup said.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and I were never all that close, so I can’t say for sure, but if I had to guess, I don’t think he wrote that quote so it could be printed on a multi-billion dollar company’s disposable cup to promote their “community oriented” philosophy.

I mean, that’s just not what transcendentalism was about.

But social-marketing agendas aside, Starbucks picked a winner with this motivational saying. Within this quote, Emerson identifies the key to any form of personal success or healing: the human spirit. I believe that an inner willpower and positive spirit is essential to all accomplishments. Simple slogans of motivation, like those found on our coffee cups and Pinterest boards have the power to get us out of bed and through the day, but we often forget how endless the potential of the human spirit truly is.

Consider a timeless example of physical domination; Muhammad Ali and George Forman’s legendary 1974 boxing match. Prior to this fight, Ali had been suspended from boxing for over three years, and upon return, lost crucial matches. Forman was picked as an overwhelming favorite against Ali, and almost no one gave the former boxing champ a chance at regaining his title. However, in the months prior to the match Ali let all of his critics know what exactly Forman was up against. At a press-conference, Ali delivered a rousing speech claiming that he had “wrestled with an alligator, tussled with a whale, handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail...murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick, made medicine sick,” and that George Forman “was in trouble”. Ali closed the press conference by stating that “all you chumps are gonna bow when I whup him [Forman],” and testified that “Imma show you how great I am!” After eight captivating rounds displaying Ali’s tactical genius and unwavering determination, Ali regained his title against a younger and stronger George Forman.
From this point on, and forever forward, Muhammad Ali was known as “The Greatest”.
Ali’s past was filled with defeat and setbacks and before him stood a boxing legend far stronger than he was, but within Ali was a willpower and determination greater than everything standing in his way. His triumph over his past, his critics, and his obstacles wasn’t done with fancy footwork and punching combos, but with an indomitable will. Willpower is every bit as crucial to success as muscle and agility. Willpower is the undeniable force that sets our skills and talents into action.

Inner beliefs and motivations not only hold the potential to overcome external opponents, but internal challenges as well. The metaphysical conditions of individuals suffering from an illness or injury have often been found to be just as vital to their survival as their physical conditions. The results of a recent clinical study at Duke University found that individuals who attend religious services on a regular basis were more likely to have better immune function. In another study of 232 older adults undergoing heart surgery, results showed that “Those who were religious were 3 times less likely to die within the 6 months after surgery than those who were not. Not one of the 37 people in this study who described themselves as deeply religious died.” An additional study of AIDS patients showed that “those who had faith in God, compassion toward others, a sense of inner peace, and were religious had a better chance of surviving for a long time than those who did not live with such belief systems”. The strength within a patient can often be what saves their life. To quote Marcie Calandra, Director of Nursing at Hinsdale Hospital, “Medicine only goes so far, and then comes spirit. There comes a time when doctors have done all they can, and the patients who survive are the ones that believe they can.” Survival would be impossible without a vigorous and unconquerable willpower. Our inner spirit, whether rooted in religion or an inner will, is what drives and motivates us to push forward and regain strength when our bodies turn against us. The appropriate mental attitude has the ability to conquer the deadliest of diseases or the most fatal of injuries. Nothing can hold us back from healing and success.

There are truly amazing forces within us, which we would be powerless without. Success, whether mental, physical, or emotional, cannot be attained without a fitting mindset. Our willpower and spirit allow us to make triumphs greater than what we first imagined possible. The inspirational quotes and metaphors that decorate our coffee mugs and desk calendars aren’t only reminders that we can make it through the day, but invitations to achieve all that we can. Within us lies unlimited potential and capability. It is up to us as individuals, to put down our coffee cups, and make something of our gift.

I think that’s more what of Emerson was getting at.

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