Breakthroughs (February 13)


“In life it is more necessary to lose than to gain. A seed will only germinate if it dies” (Boris Pasternak).

A “BREAKTHROUGH” IS A MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT, ONE THAT OPENS THE DOOR TO MUCH FURTHER PROGRESS. It’s important in life to take whatever steps we can take, however small, and we ought not to underestimate the value of ordinary progress. But isn’t it exciting when a big step can be taken? On those occasions when some significant barrier or obstacle is overcome and we find ourselves in the presence of a whole range of new possibilities, that’s when we’re glad we kept going when it would have been easy to give up.

As can be seen from the word itself, “breakthroughs” involve “breaking through” limits. The limit might be what we think is possible. It might be what we’ve been able to do before. It might be what we presently know or understand. Or (and this is perhaps the most common limit of all) it might be what we feel in the mood to do. Limits come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have this in common: they keep us from going anywhere but where we are right now.

When we have a breakthrough, we burst out of our limits and move ahead into new territory. The barriers are broken, and we learn that what we previously were limited from doing, we now can do.

We’d all like to enjoy breakthroughs more often, but we don’t because we’re not willing to pay the price. Despite the fact that they hinder us, limits do provide a certain amount of comfort and familiarity. And people who’re not willing to experience the discomfort of “breaking through” are doomed to stay where they are. We have to lose certain things in order to gain others, and the loss can sometimes be so dramatic that it feels like death. But we can’t have it both ways at once. As Pasternak observed, “A seed will only germinate if it dies.”

Perhaps that’s why people with the pioneering spirit aren’t very common. For all our talk about wanting progress, most of us are content to stick with what we’ve already got. But thank goodness for those who’ve got the courage to break through limits! Let’s appreciate them for the scary, unsettling sacrifices they’ve been willing to make.

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time” (AndrĂ© Gide).

Gary Henry –