I am re-reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s classic Team of Rivals, and ran across this section and was inspired to share it with you. Lincoln’s note was written when things were going badly for Union troops early in the war.
While the battle was still ongoing, Lincoln had found time to write a letter to a young cadet at West Point, the son of Mary’s cousin Ann Todd Campbell. The boy was miserable at the academy and his mother was worried. ‘Allow me to assure you it is a perfect certainty that you will, very soon, feel better – quite happy – if you only stick to the resolution you have taken to procure a military education I am older than you, have felt badly myself, and know, what I tell you is true. Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.’ The boy stayed at West Point, graduating in 1866.”
Naturally, not all purposes or actions are things we should always “adhere” to. Seth Godin has written well about the importance of knowing when to quit. But when what we are doing is tied to our “purpose” (a great word choice from our 16th President), then adhering to that purpose has great power.
Young people can benefit from this because as Lincoln captured in his note to the young man, older people often see that the normal periods of discontent in a life soon give way to better days – something that younger people don’t always see as clearly. Perhaps this quote inspires you to hang in there on a project that is worth doing, or perhaps it will inspire someone you know.