Road to success can be navigated by warrior within


November 13, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

When Sherry was 19, she was on no one's most-likely-to-succeed list. She had a ninth-grade education, was addicted to cocaine and alcohol, had no job skills, no family support and was six months pregnant.

"I made every kind of mistake there was to make," she said. "I'm lucky to be alive -- some of those mistakes could have killed me. But when I got pregnant, I realized that I had to make some changes. I realized that my life was like a war, and if I wanted to win it, or even survive it, I had to learn how to stop sabotaging myself and start fighting for what I really wanted."

First, she recognized and began to understand her addictions. Once she began to recover from these, and from the negative behavior patterns that had led her into them, she began to find the strength to manage her life and make a home for herself and her newborn child.

When she realized that she was fighting for survival, Sherry released the warrior inside her -- the one all of us have inside, the part of each of us that is quietly determined and persevering, willing to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to win.

The first step toward unleashing this internal warrior is to recognize those situations that require a warrior's effort. Sometimes these are external circumstances, such as making a living with inadequate skills or struggling to raise children alone.

More often, our enemies are internal ones. Addiction. Bad health. Lack of self-esteem. Serious personality problems. Self-destructive or self-defeating behaviors. The baggage we bring from our childhoods.

The next step is to break the struggle into manageable components. Rather than saying, "Now that I'm divorced, I'll have to spend the rest of my life raising my children alone," we can say, "Just for today, I'm going to be the best mother I can be."

Rather than saying, "I have to be successful in this job or I won't be able to feed my family," we can say, "Today I'm going to do the best job I can at work, and tomorrow I'm going to do the same.

"I'm also going to find out what skills I need, then figure out how to acquire them -- one at a time."

We must be realistic about the ammunition we'll need. Do we need help with education and job training? Substance-abuse programs? Medical and/or financial assistance? Transportation? Child care? Counseling? A support group?

Then, we have to call social-service agencies, community colleges, hospital social workers' offices, churches and community action agencies and ask questions -- and more questions -- until we have another number to call . . . and another . . . and another.

It's important to remember that losing a battle or two doesn't mean we've lost the war. Everyone experiences setbacks during a long-term struggle, but if we rely on the strength, single-mindedness and courage of the warrior inside each of us, there's no doubt at all that we'll eventually be victorious.

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