Do you remember the movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks?
It was a riveting film about the astonishing set of events surrounding the Apollo 13 lunar voyage. My favorite part of the movie was when the scientists and technicians responsible for the operation of the internal living environment in the spacecraft were handed a bunch of “stuff” as the rocket hurtled thousands of miles from earth. They were then told that they had twelve hours to somehow transform this mishmash of material into a functioning air filter system.
If they failed, our astronauts would die. That’s called a compelling why!
If you saw the film, you’ll remember what happened next. Those scientists and technicians found within themselves a level of energy and creativity they didn’t even know they possessed. They didn’t rest, eat, or hesitate. Eleven hours later they exploded into the control room in utter triumph. They had somehow found an answer to the seemingly impossible that kept our astronauts alive.
Here’s the key point.
I’ll bet if you had given these same scientists and technicians the exact same challenge in the lab, six months before the flight, they wouldn’t have figured it out. It would have merely been an extremely difficult mechanical puzzle not a matter of life and death.
After a number of failed attempts at a solution, it would have been easy to give up and say it can’t be done.
But the reality of the situation filled them with an absolutely compelling purpose. There was no way they would give up. No longer was failure an acceptable option. They would succeed by the deadline — period!
With such a compelling purpose they found an often untapped source of energy that more than any other has the power to lift us closest to our true potential.
Each of us has a truly compelling why. When we discover, define, and focus consistently on this pivotal purpose, just as the scientists, we will not fail. We will have nearly unlimited energy with an infectious “I can’t wait!” spirit. Ignited by that extraordinary level of energy we too will discover creativity, solutions, and strength beyond our expectations.
The challenge for most of us, however, is that we rarely focus on our compelling why.
For many, it may be only once a year, perhaps on New Year’s Day when we come up with a resolution or two, or at the beginning of the fiscal year when we set our goals and objectives.
But focusing on a compelling why is like building a muscle. As a competitive racquetball player, if I don’t practice my game consistently and often, my strength, endurance, and timing will suffer. Eventually, this will cause my confidence to deteriorate.
The same is true with our compelling why. It is a muscle and must be trained and exercised consistently to thrive. Focusing on your purpose and compelling why once a year will yield exactly the same result you’ll receive if you go to the gym once a year. All you’ll get is really sore!
In his masterpiece, Man’s Search for Meaning, the legendary psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl described in shocking detail the horrifying inhumanity suffered by the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps.
One powerful truth grabbed my heart more than any other when I read this incredible book. Frankl explained that if you had been asked to predict which of the prisoners would survive the almost incomprehensible conditions in the camps, you would likely have been wrong because you would have probably based your guesses on physical qualities.
But ultimately, life itself hinged not upon physical strength, but rather upon purpose.
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