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The Will to Do Something Is as Important as the Way to Do It

Back Commentary Aug 1, 2023 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

This story is part of our August 2023 print issue. To subscribe, click here.

As children, we were given this advice to help us achieve our goals: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I still fully subscribe to that.

Along with my unflagging faith that I’m never alone in my efforts, I’ve believed that wanting something badly enough and being willing to pay the price in time and effort, could make it attainable (God willing). That strategy has helped me navigate many professional and personal goals and challenges in my life. This very magazine is Exhibit A — demonstrating that if you have a vision and are willing to put in the enormous time and energy to realize that vision, it could come to be.

I wish all of us thought and operated that way. A bit of a political junkie, I watch and listen to many news outlets and podcasts. It surely appears that many of our political leaders at all levels of government try to take shortcuts, going straight for the “way” but forgetting the need to have the “will” to work together to address issues. Instead, their insular bickering and jostling for the next elective musical chair — padded by their egos rather than the will to make changes — has them embracing the “won’t,” “can’t” and “don’t want to.” Have you noticed that? 

Can you imagine if the founders of our country had let their debates and animosities, which were quite real, distort the larger picture of creating a new nation of freedom and determination? Were the Founding Fathers the last adults in the room we call America? They seemed to know that to get things done took hard work — and also compromise. Even the people who believed they were absolutely right about one issue or another knew they needed to go along with what was best for the people who were their constituents and, ultimately, their descendants and legacy.

So they created our country’s constitution that, nearly 236 years after its adoption, still makes a great deal of sense. This is a world they couldn’t possibly have imagined — of correspondence that flies magically through space, of horseless carriages that are on the verge of becoming driverless ones (and maybe soon even flying ones). And what about AI? How could they rationalize that? And how did they do what they did? For sure, there were great minds at work, but also great passion for the mission at hand. They had the will to change things.

So what, exactly, is “will,” and how would we use it now to create effective solutions that are turned into action at the scale we need?

It starts with political will, and its focus on cooperatively working out and applying pragmatic solutions to problems instead of grandstanding. It includes a willingness to hear one’s opponents and consider them in forging a solution. It’s largely the lack of that political will that accounts for the homelessness issue all over the country, and particularly in California. We’ve given this matter all the money it’s needed, yet there are almost no positive results because there is no political will to make the hard choices and do the right thing.

We might say this same thing as it relates to the long-awaited repairs to our transportation system and other infrastructure projects that we’ve been paying on for decades without the expected results. We might say it too about drug trafficking, the open border issue, the fentanyl crisis, major crime and theft running rampant without punishment. The list could go on. 

Then there’s will, as in choice — the will to be successful in whatever your chosen field. You and I best know the will to be successful is abetted by plain old hard work and commitment. I often wonder what it might take to motivate the low achiever — that person who has all the skills and brainpower needed and maybe even a large dose of charm, but refuses to use it — to tap into their true potential? This can apply to anyone and everyone out there, really, including those among the homeless who have just decided to give up. 

I remember very clearly when I started this magazine in early 1989. I became addicted to motivation tapes and a positive-thinking radio program that I listened to constantly (to the displeasure of my daughter, who wanted to listen to music in the car, not inspirational tapes). Those tapes turned me into a positive thinker fanatic. I attended seminars whenever they came to town — all of them! Nothing could distract me from thinking about positivity. That mindset can truly create miracles.

What happened to those seminars when we need them the most? Where are the likes of nationally acclaimed motivation speakers Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy and Norman Vincent Peale when we need them? We have so much discouragement in our country — yes, for good reason, but nonetheless.

Finally, there’s willpower — restraining the urges and impulses that might be detrimental to our being our best selves. Call it “won’t-power” if you’d like. It’s all about keeping your eyes on the prize, as the song goes. When we turn away from our goals, we turn away from ourselves and all we could be. 

Can we get that back? Of course. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Winnie Comstock-Carlson
President and Publisher

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