“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that.”
– Pearl S. Buck
Every January 1st we become infatuated with the idea of a new and improved version of ourselves: the thin version, the organized version, the fit version, the better parent version, the debt-free version. As with any crush, our enthusiasm is effortless and exciting, a temporary loss of balance.
Instead of flowers and chocolate, we treat our new love to frozen diet meals, gym memberships, brightly colored storage containers, bee pollen, packs of nicotine gum, yoga mats, how-to books and videos.
This enthusiastic buying and trying soon plays itself out. We lack the courage, resourcefulness, and common sense required for lasting change.
Enthusiasm is not gumption. Enthusiasm is like good luck: great when you have it, but outside of your control. You can make yourself act enthusiastic, but you can’t make yourself be enthusiastic. You either are or you aren’t. Indeed, a sure sign of gumption is doing the thing that needs to be done when you have no enthusiasm for it.
The problem with enthusiasm is that it is dependent on context. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig writes of things that halt progress for amateurs repairing motorcycles: the scraped knuckle, the bad light, the heat, the cold, the uncomfortable crouching, the leftover engine parts. If you are an amateur trying to repair yourself, these might be a bad day at work, loneliness, boredom, hunger, insomnia, and family holidays.
Physical discomfort reduces enthusiasm. Emotional discomfort reduces enthusiasm. Mistakes reduce enthusiasm. None of these things reduce gumption, which is not dependent on context.
Gumption has courage. Courage helps you bear the suffering required to move forward without the tail winds of enthusiasm. For New Year’s resolutions, gumption has to kick in as enthusiasm wanes in mid- January.
If you set out to repair a motorcycle or to become more than you are now, it’s great to have enthusiasm—not to mention adequate light, proper tools, and helpful friends. But when none of these are available, gumption will get you past the temptation to quit.
Enthusiasm can even indicate a lack of gumption. We often drink, eat, shout our opinions, and generally act the fool with great enthusiasm, and completely without courage or common sense.
Can you differentiate between enthusiasm and gumption? Gumptionade – The Booster for Your Self Improvement Plan will show you how.
i …Pirsig writes of the things that halt progress for amateurs repairing their own motorcycles… Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1974), 305–26.