The Impact of Change

by Peg Coleman

" Tiger Woods….is this guy for real?"

My dearly loved Grandmother was looking toward her 101st birthday when she died in the late 1990's. From the day of her birth to the day she died, the world went through unimagined changes. And she witnessed them all.

She was the welcome recipient of many of the fruits of other people's dreams. Think of how the automatic clothes washer changed the lives of so many women who, until that day, washed everything by hand, using washboard and tub. There was the automobile and then the tractor, which made working the fields so much easier for my Grandfather.

These changes, and so many more, happened because a person, just like you and me, looked at something a little bit differently. And rather than being scared by the differences, they embraced what they saw and went after it with a passion and dedication that would not let go until what they saw in their minds could be held in their hands.

Another of those fruits of imagination was one that touched both Grandmother and me. It entered my very young life (!) the day we were introduced to the new dialing mechanism on the telephone! We couldn't believe we could dial our friends' numbers all by ourselves. At last our calls would be private—no more listening in by the phone operators who, up to that day, were the silent listeners to all conversations!

To think that this strange new freedom was brought about by someone who simply refused to be deflected from their goal. They were not going to abandon their vision because others couldn't see it, or believe in it along with them. They were not going to back down because circumstances were difficult. They had a single-mindedness of vision, and enough strength of character to stand apart from the crowd. Then they slowly worked away at the problems, one by one, until the miracle happened and their vision became reality.

Think of all the changes since that time, the first PC's (yes, there was a time before personal computers!), the first fax machine, the first time new drugs arrested terrible diseases. Wonderful, amazing discoveries. Each one the result of vision, determination and follow through.

Another visionary of a different kind is Tiger Woods. Remember when he came on the golf scene? People couldn't believe this guy. He seemed to come out of nowhere to win some of the top tournaments in professional golf. We weren't sure if this was some kind of wunderkid who was going to burn out before the print on tomorrow's sports page was dry, or if he was here to stay. Well, we know the answer now, don't we.

Tiger Woods is one of the best golfers ever. As we learned more about him, we began to see that winning had everything to do with his vision, to be the very best at the game. His dedication to accomplishing that goal is so well known that a recent Nike ad used that to their advantage. The commercial opens with rain, and an apparently empty golf course. You see the golf carts all lined up, you see golfers looking longingly out the window, hoping for sunshine. The camera picks up a ball arcing high into the air, and follows the path back to where its flight began. There is Tiger Woods—rain pouring off his cap, eyes almost blinded by cascading water, hitting ball after ball. The familiar Nike tag line "Just do it" appears on the screen. It was a very powerful and effective statement.

We got so used to seeing Tiger Wood's name at the top of the leader board, that when it began slipping to second or third this year, things seemed off kilter. What was happening here?

Well, something quite important, actually. In order to stay at the top, Tiger Woods was able to see he needed to make a change. Because his number one objective was to reach and maintain his goal of winning, he was willing to look at himself with an open honesty. He was willing to admit "things" were slipping. And his honesty made it possible for him to pinpoint exactly where the problem was occurring.

His decision to change the manner of playing his game was a brave decision. Rather than patting himself on the back and basking in his past achievements, he looked forward and decided to change the one element most critical to any golfer's game—his swing. He was committed to the goals he had set. This commitment gave him the courage to make the change he saw as crucial to his continuing success.

So he began again. He started afresh, with the same dedication and drive he had applied at the beginning. Did it cost him? It depends on what you mean. He certainly went without major wins for a time. It meant that people began to question whether his "glory days" were over. But he kept his head down, went out on the course and practiced the new stance, the new grip, and the new swing over and over and over.

This year, at his fourth Master's tournament, no one watching could quite believe what that little white ball actually did as Tiger putted it in from just off the green. The video footage is unbelievable. The ball arced slowly upward onto the top of the green, then began its lazy, curling journey down the slope…toward the cup. The excitement in the crowd began to rise…even watching the video clip you hold your breath! Was it possible? Everyone's eyes were glued to that ball as it slowly, everso slowly, curled toward the cup. ...and hung there on that little lip! Then, as if it could not decide exactly what to do next, it simply plopped in. Tiger, his caddie and the crowd erupted! I erupted and I was only watching a video clip.

Tiger Woods wore the green Masters Jacket for the fourth time in his career.

Now, I grant you that Tiger Woods may have been born with some natural abilities that you or I did not receive at birth. But we do have something in common—we have free wills that give us the opportunity to choose. We may not have the desire to win the Masters, or even to do anything that someone else might give a second thought. But we all have dreams and desires for our lives just like Tiger Woods, and the men and women working on cures for cancer or who are sitting at check out tills, working for a brighter future for their kids.

I have a friend who likes to say our generation is an "instant rice" generation. Meaning we want, what we want, when we want it. And we usually want it two minutes ago!

The inventors of all of those great things my Grandmother was witness to and people today like Tiger Woods also want what they want. But there is willingness in them to pay the cost to attain their dream. There is a willingness to tenaciously work through setbacks, discouragements and disappointments, because their goal is as real to them as if they were holding it in their hands and they find the courage to press on until they are holding the answer right there in their hand.

So if you are facing any discouragement as you consider your own life, remember that one of the greatest gifts you hold in your hand at this very moment is your free will. You have the tools at hand to choose and to change. You have the tools. Be encouraged as you think of others who have encountered discouraging setbacks, yet `pressed on toward the goal'.

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