By Rebecca Fine
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all
men are created equal; that they are endowed by
their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that
among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
--The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
In a crowded, airless room in the city of Philadelphia 227
years ago this week, a group of men solemnly stepped
forward, one by one, and affixed their names to a single
sheet of paper -- each man knowing that if they faltered in
their collective vision, purpose, commitment, or action, he
had just signed his own death warrant. Yet before they were
done, a total of 56 men had signed.
They knew what they wanted: They had a dream, a vision, a
They knew why they wanted it: They had a purpose.
They knew the price and were willing to pay it: They were
They had a plan: They took action.
And they set in motion a never before imagined and still
imperfect and incomplete chain of events that continues to
this day toward the ever-expanding vision of freedom and
justice for all.
They triumphed, and yet their ultimate success remains to be
realized. Its completion is a legacy handed down through the
generations, to us and through us, and on to those who
This week as we celebrate their vision, purpose, commitment,
and action (and as we also honor the succeeding generations
who have kept the faith and improved on the dream), consider
that it is largely because of their vision, purpose,
commitment, and action that you are today a citizen of the
Land of Opportunity.
You and I are the recipients of many precious gifts bought
by others. Whatever our situations and backgrounds, we enjoy
a freedom still only dreamed of in many parts of the world.
But in the midst of the familiar words of the Declaration of
Independence, there's another phrase that goes mostly
unnoticed. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"[A]ll experience hath shewn that mankind are more
disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,
than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to
which they are accustomed."
It's another way of saying that, sadly, most people simply
aren't motivated enough to do anything to change the status
quo -- even if it's awful, even if they despise it, even if
it's slowly killing them. It's another way of saying the
"comfort zone" rules.
Because freedom and opportunity are our day-to-day reality,
we often take them for granted in a way that people in many
parts of the world find astounding, even unthinkable. We
keep ourselves ignorant of the true value and meaning of
these gifts. And we too often waste them by not clearly
seeing how precious they are and ACTING upon that -- by not
reaching out and taking hold of the opportunity that
surrounds us and is part of the very air we breathe. The
opportunity for life itself -- more life, better life, life
under no one's thumb.
As citizens of the Land of Opportunity, though, we have a
sacred responsibility NOT to waste what's been given to us,
bought with the blood and sweat of those who went before and
longed for by millions around the world. We have a
responsibility to lay hold of that limitless opportunity,
burst out of our stifling "comfort zones," and make the most
of our freedom -- to be, do, and have all we need for all
the life we are capable of living.
We have an obligation to create our own success and the
opportunity to help others do the same and to weave ALL our
individual successes into the glorious, unfinished tapestry
of this country's past, present, and future.
As with the signers of the Declaration and all the heroic
men and women who have carried the torch, it all begins with
a dream. A vision. A goal.
Just yesterday a very wise person told me, "If you don't
have a dream and a goal that you're actively working toward,
you are trading your life for nothing."
Think of the signers or of any great achiever in any field
of endeavor in any country -- anyone you admire, anyone who
is successful. What do they all have in common besides
dreams, vision, goals, purpose? They all have something
called discipline, a word that immediately frightens or
repels many (perhaps most) people because when they see or
hear it, they think "punishment," "deprivation."
They resist the notion of self-discipline because they think
it constricts them; they prefer no rules, no plans -- just
"freedom." Ironically, though, that kind of "freedom" is
simply the right to remain in the "comfort zone" where
mediocrity is king. And discipline is the key that unlocks
What discipline really means is simply this: The ability to
give yourself a command and then do it -- "to see the job
First you need a plan (command), then action
(follow-through). To do that, you need something that's
bigger than yourself to motivate you -- your dream, vision,
goal, and your purpose. True COMMITMENT to those things,
then, means taking ACTION consistently, daily: Giving
yourself a command and following through. And to follow
through is a definition of the word, "succeed."
Without this commitment born of your own innermost desires,
dreams and goals remain empty wishes. Vision becomes a
pathetic pipedream. And purpose? There is none.
You already have within you everything you need to achieve
everything you truly want. You are more powerful than you
can imagine. But only you can take the action to set that
power -- and yourself -- free.