The If Project: Week Four

The If Project takes the text of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” and breaks it down into digestible chunks of wisdom. Each week, we’ll take a few lines of the poem and focus on the life lessons and behaviors Kipling puts forth as empowering.

This is a mindfulness practice, which will help you consciously build better behavioral habits pertaining to interpersonal interactions and other areas of your life.

For reference, the entire poem is included at the bottom of this post.

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The lines for week four are:

“If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

The first two lines remind us not to simply dream or think about our goals. We need to take action, move through the world, in order to work and strive toward our goals. Don’t just sit still and hope for your dreams to come true or your thoughts to become reality.

As for triumph and disaster, that translates to success and failure. When taking action toward making your dreams and thoughts real, remember that only YOU should define what constitutes triumph/success and disaster/failure for you and your efforts.

Don’t give away your power by putting your self-worth in the hands of the whims of others. Don’t let others decide if you have succeeded or failed. And also be wary of your own inner critic! Ultimately, there is no “final success or failure.”

As long as you are alive, you should be striving for the next goal, the next dream. There are successes and failures along the way, but the striving is what’s most important. Without effort and action, there is no success or failure.

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Please be sure to leave comments to share your experiences during this “applied humanities” project, and tell others about this series! Remember: this series is part of my effort to spread the word about applied humanities, which involves the active use of literature and other art forms to practically and positively influence everyday behavior. Ultimately, the humanities can be consumed passively or actively, but either way they can remind us what it means to be human, as well as everyday heroes.

If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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