Engraved on my medical ID bracelet are the words NEVER GIVE UP! We really do want to be better people. But we know from trying and failing how difficult it is to rid ourselves of destructive habits and negative attitudes, or find greater meaning in our lives, or do what we should to reach our potential, rather than biding our time and settling for what is and has always been.

I believe we can become the people we hope to be. @TheRunningRabbi (Click to Tweet!)

Some years ago the amazing Diana Nyad swam 110 miles from Cuba to the Florida Keys in shark infested waters and without a cage. During this, her fifth attempt to reach her goal, sixty-four-year-old Nyad withstood five-foot waves; stinging jellyfish; numbness and constant nausea, vomiting and dehydration.

When she finally made it to shore, after fifty-three hours of swimming, she was asked: “Do you have any lessons from this grueling experience that you can share with us?” Lifting herself up from the stretcher on one elbow, she answered:

“I learned three things:
One is you should never, ever give up on your dream.
Two is you are never, ever too old to pursue your dream.
And three is it may look like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

What compelled Nyad to try again and again when she had failed four other times in her past? She said that she was turning sixty and she didn’t like it. Then her mother passed away and she realized how finite life is, that she was not satisfied with her past and she had wasted too much time in negative and defeatist thoughts. “We blink,” she said in a documentary about her life, “and another decade passes. I’m not willing to reach the end of my life and then regret not giving it my all.”

And so she started to train. And she prepared with special gear to protect her face and body; surrounding herself with kayakers who kept the sharks away, and maintained her sense of humor and her gratitude for all those who were helping her on her perilous journey.

But experts agree that none of these things, while important, were the key to her triumph. “It all came down to one essential part of her body,” they said, “her mind.” Her strong belief in herself convinced everyone around her that she could do it. There were no excuses about her age, no self-manifested obstacles to stop her from fulfilling her dream; she rose above it all and so can we.

Your goals may not include a grueling 110 mile swim through shark and jellyfish infested waters, but you may be working on a marriage that lasts, or bringing up your children with good values, or volunteering, or overcoming your personal hangups to be at peace with yourself.

Like Diana Nyad we can be transformed and achieve better lives. The Bible I read says: “No goal is too hard for you, or too far away….no, it is very near to you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, and you can do it”

May you have the will and the courage to fulfill your dreams.

Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a four time cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can follow him on FB.

Image courtesy of Todd Quackenbush.