An attitude of 'firm persuasion' means that we have a sense of mission in what we do; a mission that cannot be easily diverted or silenced. At his core, Morrie's firm persuasion was that he was a teacher. Even when facing tremendous physical challenges and obstacles, he continued to teach Mitch and others about the nature of his life. One way to figure out what our life's work is and to steel ourselves with 'firm persuasion' is to ask: what would I be doing if I had my choice, more than anything else in the world? Painting? Playing sports? Writing? Although not everyone can be a teacher, painter, professional athlete, or writer, we can all find ways to ensure that we are able to pursue our passions every day.
Having a 'firm persuasion' in doing what makes our life feel meaningful means being able to tolerate and rebound from setbacks. Every great writer gets rejection letters; artists may suffer the knowledge that their gifts are not fully appreciated; an athlete may experience an injury. We all have doubts about our worthiness. Morrie's illness challenged his sense of worth and self as it took away so many of the basic acts of independence and dignity others take for granted. However, he did not allow this to fundamentally shift his core sense of values and his conviction that he could be a good teacher, even at the very end of his life.
Having a firm persuasion does not mean ignoring criticism. But it does mean having a realistic sense of one's self, and not falling prey to the tempting black-and-white thinking that we are either 'worthless' or 'the best.' Succeeding at work means just that -- putting in the daily, needed work and focusing on the task at hand rather than obsessing about ourselves. Great artists and great workers 'do' rather than just talk about doing.
PART II -- Choose a minimum of 4
Q2. Money is a constant worry for both my parents and myself. The cost of a college education is considerable and that the investment will not 'pay off' is an abiding fear. There is a great deal of pressure to structure my education to ensure that I get a good job after I graduate. These fears are realistic in the sense that I know many graduates with student loans who are unable to make payments because they cannot find work. On the other hand, I would like to take this special time in my life to acquaint myself with new subjects and ideas that are not necessarily practical. I wish I could afford to take internships rather than work to support my education. However, that is not financially feasible. I did learn from Mitch and Morrie that it is important to take time out of my daily grind, no matter how hectic, to enjoy myself and appreciate friends, family, even pets. I try to learn by reading books and watching the news, as well as focus on my classes. I still try to take time to stimulate my imagination even when I feel pressured about work and school.
Q3. In high school, I often participated in a multitude of extracurricular activities I did not necessarily care about very much, spanning from the Key Club to Peer Leadership, all to bolster my resume for college. I was involved in my church youth group, because I had been a member since childhood. I participated more out of habit than out of real conviction or enjoyment in the group. In college, my leisure time hours are fewer, and I try to be more selective both about my friends and the groups with which I associate myself. However, sometimes I feel guilty about being selfish with my leisure time, when one of my friends pressure me to join a new, political cause or engage in more community service. For sanity's sake, I know that I sometimes need 'me time.'
There is a paradox about our new, technologically-connected world. On one hand, technology enables us to be more efficient with our time. I remember hearing from one of my teachers how long it took him to write papers in college with nothing but a typewriter and no spell check except a dictionary. He had to start over again and again, with every page and write many rough drafts. However, as technology enables us to be more productive at work and school, more is expected of us in terms of being productive. And there may have been some value in 'slowing down' to create something that has been lost in modern life.
Q6. Morrie's life is presented as a 'life well lived' because of its instructive potential. Morrie ended his life surrounded by friends and family. He believed he had led a meaningful existence. He was also happy that the example of his life could be helpful to others, including his friend and former student Mitch. Morrie's life is also an example of 'wholeheartedness' because, even though he did not want his illness, he used the experience to reflect upon the nature of existence and what was important. He discovered new elements to his character, rather than simply felt sorry for himself.
In our lives, all of us will be confronted with challenges. Instead of shutting ourselves out and trying to 'detach' from some of the unpleasant noise of life, it is important to accept what is real and reflect upon what we can learn from those experiences. In my life, sometimes I have been able to learn to enjoy things I initially have an aversion to, when I confront them wholeheartedly. Every time I go to have a hard workout, I initially think of excuses, but if I find that I try to 'force myself to enjoy' the first ten minutes, by the end of the experience I can naturally and fully enjoy what I am doing. This is true of so many things, from attempting a difficult book, learning a new skill, or beginning a new job. When I confront adversity rather than try to avoid conflict, I am able to learn new things about myself.
Q7. When I am stressed and need some 'alone time' away from the world, I seek out the solitude of nature. Nature reminds me that there is something bigger than myself. It is so easy to become obsessed with problems that seem monumental when everyone else is equally 'stressed out' around me. Taking a walk, I am reminded that the cycle of life will continue -- it did long before I was on the planet and will do so after I am gone. Silence and solitude allows me to touch base with what is really important vs. what others say is important. It allows me to connect with my 'inner voice.'
When I am alone in nature, I also feel completely absorbed in every aspect of my being -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is so easy to talk myself into a frenzy. Small decisions or problems seem very important when I am lying awake in bed at night, or even talking to a friend with similar obsessions about work and school. Unlike watching a comforting film, nature always challenges my sense of myself, whether it is a steep climb up a rocky hill or seeing the beauty of some deer in the distance. Nature does not expect anything from me like my friends and relatives, but it does not give anything back unless I am truly open-minded and willing to listen and observe.
PART III -- Mandatory
I believe that people of my generation have far less time than Generation X to take 'youthful wanderings' and find themselves. Very few people I know feel that they can take time off to consciously take a 'slacker' job and take a few years to enjoy their youth. There is a great deal of pressure to ascend the career ladder as soon as possible. This can lead to people making very hasty decisions, which can leave them in unhappy jobs far too early in life. It is difficult to be 100% certain of one's calling in life right out of college, much less during college, but the structure of modern life demands we make a choice as soon as possible. Do we want to be a doctor? A lawyer? An engineer? Or forgo going to college at all or become a plumber?
However, it is important to remember that compared to the youth of the 19th century and the Middle Ages, we still have much more of a childhood. In other eras, children were sent to work at very early ages. There was no 'breathing space' to find out one's true north. Instead, the entirety of one's existence was virtually predetermined from birth. People also had less leisure time in previous decades, given the hardships of daily life. Today we have more opportunities to make mistakes but also to live better than our parent's generation. We have…