Victory as a state of mind

The original Ruby slippers used in The Wizard ...
Image via Wikipedia

What is victory to you? Is it the triumph of a favorite sports team over another? How about completing a challenging project that has drained you of your time and energy? Or maybe simply getting up in the morning with a smile on your face and all body parts working as they are supposed to?

Everyone defines victory differently. I just commenced an online weight loss program in the last week and enjoy reading what people celebrate as a victory. For some, being able to avoid that raspberry danish or candy bar is a victory; for others, it’s the completion of a 5k walk or a weight goal. The joy that pervades the proclamation of these victories is intoxicating and inspiring!

Last evening, reports of the death of a terrorist mastermind evoked celebratory messages and images that spread like wildfire across a variety of formal and social media outlets. Was the death of this man the attainment of justice and a long-held goal for many people? Absolutely! Did we all breathe some small sigh of relief to hear of his demise, much like we did when Dorothy triumphed over the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz“? I know I did. Did I dance around and celebrate the death of yet more people? No.

There’s a line from an all-time favorite movie of mine, “The American President,” in which the President’s character comments that ordering the killing of people was the least presidential thing he ever does. After watching President Obama’s speech from last night and listening today to a separate interview (that was taped prior to last evening’s events), I could not help but think about the mixed victory that had occurred. Mr. Obama is a decent man, who has dedicated his and his family’s lives to the service of our country. He had ordered the death of another human being, which is not a responsibility I would want to bear. Did he prevent the further loss of lives? We all hope so. Nevertheless, my heart goes out to him in his choice to issue the order. I think if there had been any other way to secure justice and promote peace and justice, he would have surely chosen it.

The other thing that occurred to me, in reflecting on these victories, is the tenuous nature of triumph. Even among my new acquaintances online, I read the stories of how they had done so well in their weight loss goals only to encounter a setback that defeats them, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. Victory is only lasting if you pair it with vigilance. That hard-won victory can vanish because of external circumstances or, more insidiously, internal self-defeating messages. It’s very easy to give into negative thoughts, worries, or simple resting on the victory — and before you know it, the triumph has slipped out of your grasp.

How to we remain vigilant? I’d say it’s simple, but I think only the words here are. Vigilance is a daily activity that involves

  • belief in the beauty and worth of your goals
  • remembrance of what you sacrificed to achieve them
  • self-confidence in your ability maintain your victory with more hard work (gasp!)
  • attention to the negativity that creeps in (like kudzu in the Deep South)
  • a willingness to re-attain the goal, especially when it gets challenging

This list might seem as unattainable as Dorothy’s journey home from Oz. So where are those ruby slippers anyway? They helped Dorothy achieve her victory, right?

Here they are:

Care for each other and recognize that we all seek our own victories. Each personal triumph, no matter how small it seems to you, has the power to inspire someone else to seek their own victories. Remember that once Dorothy helped her friends win, they all banded together to help her win, too.

Why do I now have the munchkins song running through my head?


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