One of the most important qualities we hardly ever think and talk about is the ability of self-renewal. We talk a lot about resilience and its important for a life of achievement and positive impact. And resilience, of course, is the capacity to bounce back after a hardship or disappointment and keep going. It's like practical equanimity, or the equivalent of emotional shock absorbers. What I have in mind with the quality of self-renewal is a bit different.
Whenever you're in a long-term quest or a demanding job, and you've worked hard, day after day for weeks, months, or perhaps even years, and nothing spectacular has yet happened to reward your efforts, you can begin to lose heart, or at least to lose whatever initial enthusiasm or energy you may have had for the project. Of course, if you're experiencing a lot of praise or admiration or encouragement from others, that can serve to keep you going through those long dry stretches of labor. But suppose that's rare or non-existent as well. What's going to keep you afloat? What's going to keep the wind in your sails, or the spring in your step? It's the quality and activity of self-renewal that does this. And it may be one of the rarest traits of all. But it's possessed by people who accomplish great and difficult things, despite any disadvantages they have, or obstacles they continually face.
Psychologists have recently written about the importance of a quality they call grit - the sheer ability to keep on going. But self-renewal is perhaps deeper and higher. It's the ability to keep going with a heart inspired and eager for the work, whether that work is household cleaning, bricklaying, business building, seeing patients all day long, or writing a book.
If grit keeps you going, and resilience picks you up, self- renewal helps you stay energized. And it's ironically easiest when you're working for something greater than the self. It comes from reminding yourself of your vision and values, and remembering how much you care. For many, it's an offshoot of practicing the presence of God. It's a way of recharging your heart and reconnecting with your inspiration.
How good are you at self-renewal? How good are the people on your team, or the members of your family? It's something worth thinking about, and cultivating.
The ancient Greeks advised, "Know Yourself!" I'd like to add, "Renew Yourself!"