“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Having left office in 1909, Theodore Roosevelt had spent a year hunting in Central Africa before embarking on a tour of Northern Africa and Europe. He gave speeches along the way in places like Cairo, Berlin, Naples, and Oxford before stopping at the Sorbonne in Paris. On April 23, 1910, the former president and adventurer gave what would become one of the most widely quoted presidential speeches called “Citizenship in a Republic.” It would later come to be known as “The Man in the Arena.”
In terms of discerning, clarifying, and cultivating calling, one phrase from the speech stands out as instructive. “…who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;…”
The great devotions are the few worthy cause(s) that we intentionally and significantly invest our time, energy, and resources. We choose the people, activities, institutions, and/or locations where we play out our day to day. These are the few things in which we deeply invest ourselves.
Essential to fulfillment is the importance of disciplined striving toward a single life direction over an extended time. This is not about achieving goals. This is about letting our inward character and outward identity being shaped.
These endeavors have the remarkable qualities of taking a longer time to see maturity or fruition. Often the greater the devotion, the longer it takes to fully appreciate the depth and/or breadth of the impact the disciplined commitment has made. (Sometimes the results of which are only seem by others after we have finished our story here). The more you give to it and the more impactful it is to the hearts of others, the more more likely they will live beyond your life.
In contrast, most people miss out on living into their personal legend and fulfilling their callings because they: spread themselves thinly over too many things resulting in a shallow unrooted, vapid existence; they set their sites on themes of grandiosity, confusing fame, power, wealth, achievement, or recognition with significance and meaningfulness; or because of fear of suffering (loss and of pain) they fail to commit in anything at all.
It can be any one of these or any combination of the three that keep us from answering the question life is asking and then deeply committing to that question.
To be abundantly clear, for most people, the great devotions are private and may even feel ordinary. BUT the private and ordinary in no way make them less remarkable, meaningful, or significant—perhaps only more so.
Are you living a life that you desire and admire?
Do you like what you have given your life to?
What needs to change in your life so it’s more of the life you desire and admire?
What are the 2-3 three things you are giving your life to?
If you are struggling to clarify your calling, contact Sage Hill Counseling to set up an appointment with one of our counselors. We’re here to help.