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Most people automatically think of Mother Teresa when they come across the inspiring poem, “Do It Anyway”. The words written in the verses of this poem were very meaningful to Mother Theresa, as she had it displayed on the wall of her home to help motivate the children in Calcutta.
However, Mother Teresa’s poem was only a slight variation of an earlier work, The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent Keith. Dr. Keith wrote and published this as a part of his series, “The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council”, which was his first of many booklets written for high school student leaders. Dr. Keith wrote this in 1968 when he was only a 19 year old sophomore at Harvard College.
As reported by Lucinda Vardey in her 1995 book Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, Mother Teresa made some slight changes to Dr. Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments in her version of this poem that was featured in her children’s home, which is how many have attributed Dr. Keith’s original work to Mother Teresa.
The poem, retitled “Do It Anyway”, included nine of out the ten original commandments written by Dr. Keith. There have been many versions of this poem published throughout time, but all of them convey the same message. Both Mother Theresa and Dr. Keith lived with the value of finding meaning by loving and helping other people no matter who they were or what they did.
Mother Teresa is known for spreading goodness to those around her and globalizing prayerful service. She left a legend behind through her award-winning work which showed both love and compassion to humankind. She is an incredible role model and inspiration as she taught people to live their lives according to their values and encouraged global peace, which can be seen clearly in this poem.
The words in this poem encourage people to face their struggles, regardless of what is standing in their way. Each verse depicts a conflict that you may face in life, and then an urging to overcome it.
Regardless of the original author, what is the message behind these verses and how can these lessons be implemented into your life?
In this article, we will look at 5 lessons that you can take away from this poem to help you not only improve yourself but also to help change the world. Let’s get started.
5 Lessons from “Do It Anyway”
You will face all kinds of conflict in life–much of which will surround your accomplishments or tempt you to hold yourself back. But, as we have said on DGH before, embrace the suck and persevere through the tough times in order to be successful.
Mother Teresa didn’t live out her calling without controversy, and she chose to live in extreme poverty and unsanitary conditions throughout her life. But she continued to push through the challenges she faced in order to live out her mission.
“What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;– Mother Teresa
Despite the adversity she faced, Mother Theresa remained focused on helping others and making a positive change in the world. This poem conveys the fact that life will always have its ways of getting us down, but with perseverance, you can still live a fulfilling life and find joy despite the hardships.
2. Focus On Doing Your Best
Doing your best is the same thing as living your life to its fullest potential. And there is great potential in every moment of every day–all you have to do is avoid fighting anything life throws at you.
Doing your best isn’t about success or failure, it’s about putting forth your best effort into all of your endeavors.
“Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;– Mother Teresa
Give the world the best you've got anyway.”
The only thing you can control is your own behavior and attitude. You can’t control what goes on around you, but you can control your response to it. Mother Teresa reminds us that not every day will be great, but you should still strive to do your best anyway.
This is an appropriate lesson during these difficult times of Covid and racial riots. If you do your best and find value in your work, it will be meaningful and you will feel intrinsically motivated to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.
3. Trust the Process
Trusting the process means that you believe that reaching the outcome of your goal will be worth any hardships you faced while getting there. It means looking past any messy circumstances and recognizing the achievement that you know is in the future. This poem tells us to focus on the meaning of the process of our work instead of just the outcome.
“The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;– Mother Teresa
Do good anyway.”
As Mother Teresa continues to tell readers to “do it anyway” despite any adversity or struggles, readers are urged to trust the process of the work they’re doing and have faith in the fact that they will see a positive result.
Part of trusting the process is only focusing on the things that you can control. In Do It Anyway, Mother Teresa encourages readers to do the things they want to do, despite factors that are out of their control.
4. Act According to Your Values
Your values should be a part of everything you do. From your job, to your family, to your hobbies and friends, your values should be the driving force. Rather than submitting to the temptations of your conditions or trying to fit in with the people around you, act according to your own values.
“If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;– Mother Teresa
Be kind anyway.”
Mother Teresa was born into modest circumstances and grew to overcome great obstacles such as poverty, filth, and dangerous conditions in order to provide services to the poor. Her values were clearly a powerful motivator and she didn’t let the conditions of her surroundings deter her from her personal goals and mission. She decided every day to act according to her value of charity, despite her environment.
When we live according to our values such as integrity, altruism, and generosity, we will feel fulfilled. Our values give us stability in a world of constant change.
5. Don’t Worry About What Other People Think
Aristotle once said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” You will always have people who disagree with what you’re doing or want to bring you down in some way, but you can’t let that stop you from being successful.
“If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.”– Mother Teresa
But you’re the captain of your life, the one who decides your future, the creator of your unique experiences. Your life is yours to direct, yet we often allow other people’s opinions to influence our actions. Do the right thing by working toward your goals without concerning yourself with what other people think about it. Don’t let other people hold you back from fulfilling your dreams.
Final Thoughts on Important Lessons from “Do It Anyway”
So there you have it: five lessons you can take away from this inspiring poem that has motivated people far and wide to be faithful to themselves and their dreams. For some more motivational and inspirational lessons, check out these short stories, which you can also apply to your own life and situation.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.