Following Through

In martial arts, instructors teach us to punch and kick through our target. Instead of aiming for the bullseye on the kicking pad, we're told to aim for the area six inches behind it so that when our fist or foot comes into contact with the pad, we won't slow down or hold back our strength.

This lesson is especially important when learning to break bricks. If we don't drive through the area that appears to be the stopping point, the bricks won't break; our fist will.

In life, we need to aim for something beyond the stopping point of death. We need to aim for targets and goals that we cannot actually realize within our lifetimes but which through aiming for will ensure that our potential is fully realized.

If we go through life undervaluing our potential and holding back, our life will be filled with waypoints of disappointment and a sense of loss will accompany the passing of each easily achievable goal as we release it to continue moving forward.

If instead we set goals with the understanding that we're capable of so much more, then our short-term goals will feel more like meaningful steps along the path and the achievement of those goals will come with a sense of joy, fulfillment, and anticipation for what comes next.

Death is an easy target. It's a focus point that we can all assume we're headed towards, whether we aim for it or not. But that's no excuse for undervaluing our potential, setting short-sighted goals, or passing the buck to the next generation. Life shouldn't stop short of death, it should follow through it.

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    • Thank you, Yan. I think we need to recognize that we’re all leaving a legacy, whether we choose to or not. (Our actions, whatever they are, will reverberate through time.) If we make decisions and set goals with the intention of leaving the best legacy we can, then we will indeed live a life of fulfilling our true potential.

  1. It’s a dilemma; how do we dream big without falling prey to the “play a big game, set big goals, ra-ra-ra” thinking that is prevalent? Maybe the differentiating factor is legacy as Yan (and Covey) suggest. When I imagine my goals in terms of legacy, I feel a shift towards completion and satisfaction rather than success.

    • You’re right, Sandi. Perhaps ‘legacy’ is a better term than “aiming for goals that we cannot actually realize in our lifetimes”. They are really one in the same, as our legacy is something that we hand down when we’re gone.

      I think the difference between ‘dreaming big’ (in this context) and ‘playing big’ is in the outcome: The latter is focused on our temporary selves while the former recognizes that we are just one part in a much bigger story. If we play our part to the best of our ability, then we will help contribute to a much better overall story.

      But to do that, we need to recognize that our potential — our ability to improve the big picture — extends far beyond just our short existence, and we need to set goals in life that recognize the legacy we will inevitably leave.

  2. Hi Raam,

    Lovely thoughts!

    I agree that death should not be the stopping point. This is especially so when we have the ability to make a great difference in the lives of others. It is important to consider how else we can continue to make a difference even after we die. We need only look at the world around us to see how the many legacies left behind by people of great vision continue to better our lives today. Not all of us will leave behind great legacies. What is important is that we leave behind a legacy that makes a difference no matter how small. If each of us followed through, the world will be a vastly different place.

    Irving the Vizier

    • Thank you, Irving!

      Recognizing that we all will leave a legacy whether we choose to or not is a powerful motivator for living life the best way we know how.

      If we all truly recognized that the world won’t end when we die — that it will continue going on just as it always has — then we can think bigger and beyond ourselves and recognize how all of our actions, goals, and life choices will determine the future for everyone else.

      It’s through being selfless and working towards dreams and goals that are bigger and more important than ourselves that we can fully realize our humanity.

  3. I smiled when I read the beginning becuase I have done martials arts and that was one of the greatest lessons taught. To hit through the target and not directly at it. And what a difference it makes, it doesn’t hurt as much and the difference in power is significant.

    Great anology, after all, we’re only here temporarily.

    • We’re only here temporarily, but the act of being here means that we’re already in motion… our existence means the punch is being thrown, so we may as well follow through with it. 🙂


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