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The following is another message Glenn Robitaille shared with the community at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health and was gracious enough to share with us as well. It is wonderful food for thought and encouragement as we move through the different stages of the current pandemic.

May God bless you richly this week.

Jon

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“The common denominator of success—the secret of success of every (person) who has everbeen successful—lies in the fact that (they) formed the habit of doing things that (others) don't like to do.”

~ Albert E.N. Gray

I first read this quote in the early 1980’s when I was working bi-vocationally as a life insurance agent for the North American Life Assurance Company of Canada and as the pastor of Covenant Christian Community Church in Penetanguishene. As unkind as the comment seems on the surface, I can honestly say that nothing I have ever read—no biblical quote or psychology text, no novel or book of ethics or philosophy—did more to change my life and focus than this one short essay. It is not the insight of a great moral philosopher or an erudite Master, but a successful life insurance agent speaking to a room full of fellow sales people at a life insurance convention in the 1940’s. I was not asked to read this wise discourse because I resembled it in any way. My boss at the time insisted I do so because he pegged me as a frustrating underachiever who fell short of his expectations.

I have had several defining moments in my life that stopped me dead in my tracks and shook me out of my idealism or complacency. This one smacked me so hard that I found it hard to breathe. It also helped me to discover I had an integrity conflict selling whole life insurance—a deep inner resistance so strong that it disturbed my personal peace; so I quit my job on the spot. I don’t think that’s the outcome my boss envisioned when he handed me this essay, but it was the end result.

Albert Gray makes many worthwhile points in his work. Three of these insights hung above my desk for over two years and I faithfully read them every morning and evening—words I memorized word-for-word and etched into my very psyche. They are:

  1. Successful (people) are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. (Unsuccessful people) are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do.
  2. (People) are creatures of habit just as machines are creatures of momentum, for habit is nothing more or less than momentum translated from the concrete into the abstract.
  3. If you do not deliberately form good habits (and hence, momentum), then unconsciously you will form bad ones (resulting in poor outcomes and personal dissatisfaction).

Once again I stand at the doorway of a great challenge, only this time, it is a common doorway shared by the entire world. I am asking myself how important the right outcomes are to me in the present crisis, and how influenced I am in my personal choices to achieving the best results for the many. I have to make multiple decisions daily around whether I am satisfied with personal comfort and pleasing methods or willing to pay the price of true success.  I wonder if momentum is being created by my daily decisions and whether I am forming the right habits that lead to achieving a higher and more altruistic goal (like thinking of you as much as I do about me [and mine] in the decisions I am making).

Like most people, I have arrived at the time when I will need to decide if I am willing to do things that others are not willing to do within the sphere of my own influence. Will I continue to adjust my personal practices in a way that sustains new momentum and form new habits that support the evidence in spite of the personal sacrifices required, or will I settle for the easy payoff of a more comfortable present moment?

Many years ago my younger brother, Gilbert, set off from Northwest Basin in a rubber dingy, intending to row to the Red Dock (one of our beaches once located on the present grounds of Discovery Harbour). About half way in the dingy sprung a leak and quickly sank, leaving him to swim back to shore in full clothing. After what seemed a lifetime he arrived at the point of exhaustion, surrendered himself to drowning and sank into three feet of water, at which point he stood up and walked to safety.

Swimming requires a lot of energy that can exhaust one in due course. Rachel Remen in her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, said “The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as realistic as expecting to be able to walk through water and not get wet.”

She acknowledges the challenges are real; but so are boots, hip waders and, if necessary, the proactive donning of a life preserver. How we navigate the challenges of this next phase may be harder than the early choices driven by adrenalin and survival. We are all tired. We can help one another to keep our eyes on the prize by making the right choices rather than the easy and more comfortable ones. We won’t always get it right, so let’s cut one another a little slack by admitting it isn’t always easy.

Thanks for all that you are doing to support one another and for going the extra mile.

Glenn A. Robitaille, DMin, MDiv, RP, MPCC

Director, Ethics and Spiritual Care

Director, Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program—North Simcoe/Muskoka (A)

Staff Co-Chair:  Ethics Committee

Chair:  Research Ethics Board

Co-Lead:  Traumatic Incident Support Team (TIST)