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Q: As the Year of Hope and Victory comes to an end, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved my goals yet. What can I do to change this?

Photo by Hosea McBain

A: You may have started the year with fresh resolve. When the year didn’t pan out quite as you had hoped, it is easy to feel defeated. If you feel like you have some regrets, don’t worry! Buddhism teaches that you can make a firm resolve now, to make tomorrow and the coming year a great success, no matter what.

Let’s learn from Ikeda Sensei on how we can combat these feelings of defeat.

Looking at the world today, it is easy to feel despair. A kind of powerlessness seems to be the prevailing mood in the world today. Decisions about important issues all seem to be made somewhere beyond our reach. What can one person accomplish in the face of the vast forces that run our world? The current of the times can seem so fast-flowing and complex as to be overwhelming. …

An inner change for the better in a single person—one person becoming wiser, stronger, more compassionate—is the essential first turn of the wheel toward realizing peaceful coexistence and fulfillment for the whole human race. I firmly believe that a great human revolution in just one person can be the start of a transformation in the destiny of whole societies and all humankind. And for the individual, everything starts in the inner reaches of life itself.

When we change our inner determination, everything begins to move in a new direction. The moment we make a powerful resolve, every nerve and fiber in our being will immediately orient itself toward the fulfillment of this goal or desire. On the other hand, if we think, “This is never going to work out,” then every cell in our body will be deflated and give up the fight.

Hope, in this sense, is a decision. It is the most important decision we can make. Hope changes everything, starting with our lives. Hope is the force that enables us to take action to make our dreams come true. It has the power to change winter into summer, barrenness to creativity, agony to joy. As long as we have hope, there is nothing we cannot achieve. When we possess the treasure of hope, we can draw forth our inner potential and strength. A person of hope can always advance.

Hope is a flame that we nurture within our hearts. It may be sparked by someone else—by the encouraging words of a friend, relative or mentor—but it must be fanned and kept burning through our own determination. Most crucial is our determination to continue to believe in the limitless dignity and possibilities of both ourselves and others. (Hope Is a Decision, pp. 3–5)

The key is to offer concrete prayers and take action—until results are produced. …

Prayer is not a feeble consolation; it is a powerful, unyielding conviction. And prayer must become manifest in action. To put it another way, if our prayers are in earnest, they will definitely give rise to action. …

As the Daishonin indicates at the end of this letter, where he says, “Do not doubt this in the least” (“The One Essential Phrase,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 923), we need to have great confidence and live with great hope, whether we are young or old. When we manifest great hope, we can calmly survey our former sufferings. We can see that we have been taking small problems and blowing them up, worrying about them all out of proportion. (August 1998 Living Buddhism, pp. 17–18)

Do not become subservient. Do not dwell on every tiny setback in the course of pursuing your chosen path. To do so would be foolish. Victory or defeat is determined by our entire lives. Moreover, our final years are the most crucial. …

Dig right where you stand, for there lies a rich wellspring! (Buddhism Day by Day, p. 373)

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