Where there's a will, there's a way definition & meaning

Really? Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way?

How lớn muster the will you need to lớn find your way

Posted September 18, 2013

The old English proverb asserts itself with complete assurance: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” lượt thích many time-worn sayings, this claim that mind always rules over matter rings true only some of the time. Sometimes we don’t have the will; sometimes we thua trận our way. What should we vày then?

Etta James, the best blues singer ever, knew more than most people about not having the will & losing her way. Born lớn a 14-year-old mother who wasn’t interested in children và a father who had long since disappeared, she once described her childhood as a series of one-night stands: she was continually passed from one relative lớn another. As an adult, she abused her body toàn thân almost constantly. The men in her life—managers, singers, & family members alike—frequently took advantage of her: musically, financially, and sexually. After a withering battle with heroin addiction, Etta launched a comeback with an album titled “The Seven Year Itch.” The most telling song on the album captures the nguồn of her fierce spirit và the aimlessness of her fragile soul. In “I Got The Will,” she recalls that her mama told her the old saying—that if there’s a will, there’s got to be a way. Etta found otherwise: “I got the will but I can’t find my way now.”

As Etta says, sometimes in life we have the will, but we can’t find the way. At other times, presumably, we know the way, but we can’t seem to muster the will. In either case, getting from wherever we are khổng lồ some place better is our biggest challenge in life. How vày we get from here khổng lồ there? How vày we find both the will & the way?

At the start of each New Year, the literary agent John Brockman poses a provocative question khổng lồ more than a hundred leading scientists and science writers, and asks them to lớn respond. Brockman posts the results on his website, edge.org. In years past, he has asked: What vì chưng you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? What have you changed your mind about? What is your dangerous idea?

Last year, Brockman asked: What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation? In other words, what deep puzzle in the universe or in human life has been unexpectedly solved by applying a simple và elegant principle?

The answers include some principles you would expect, such as relativity theory and quantum mechanics. Other responses seem almost too obvious khổng lồ qualify. For example, everything is the way it is because it got that way. Oh, really? My dad—who’s not a scientist—would sometimes give a similar answer lớn my incessant questions about why this or why that. He’d say, “Just because.”

The most useful of last year’s crop of answers came from Richard Thaler, a professor of behavioral economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business và co-author of the recent book Nudge. What’s his deep, elegant và beautiful explanation? Commitment. He says, “It is a fundamental principle of economics that a person is always better off if they have more alternatives to choose from. But this principle is wrong. There are cases when I can make myself better off by restricting my future choices và committing myself lớn a specific course of action.”

Thaler explains that the idea of commitment as a strategy is an ancient one. “Odysseus famously had his crew tie him to lớn the mast so he could listen khổng lồ the Sirens’ songs without falling into the temptation to steer the ship into the rocks. And he committed his crew to not listening by filling their ears with wax. Another classic is Cortez’s decision to burn his ships upon arriving in South America, thereby removing retreat as an option his crew could consider.”

Thaler’s insight is that an exercise of will involves committing ourselves to one course of kích hoạt and—this may be the hardest part—setting aside all other possible courses of action. As 20th-century American poet Theodore Roethke says in the title poem from his Pulitzer Prize-winning volume The Waking, “I learn by going where I have lớn go.” If you have the will lớn commit yourself, you can find your way in life.

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When you’re singing the blues about what to lớn do and how to vị it, remember Etta James. She quý phái more truth than perhaps she realized. She may have said in her tuy vậy that she didn’t know the way, but she knew all along that she had the will—and eventually discovered in her life that she did know the way. But she had to make a decision about which way to lớn choose, which required her khổng lồ set aside other options. Khổng lồ have the power nguồn is eventually khổng lồ see the path. We learn by going where we have to lớn go.

So get going. Ask yourself where in your life you need to lớn stop waffling và make a commitment. Ask yourself where you need khổng lồ start going & make progress. Things will get done in your life because you make a commitment to vì them. You learn by going where you have to lớn go. Explanations don’t get any more elegant than this.

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Galen Guengerich, Ph.D., is a senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan & the tác giả of the book God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age.

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