Polished Personal: Influencing Beliefs and Dreams

Prompt: What is your opinion of the idea that our beliefs are influenced by the actions of others?

This is a personal response in the format of a personal-analytical essay (a hybrid) to an excerpt from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, in which the narrator describes his childhood experience of watching the lunar module landing.

Theme Statement: When the actions of others inspire an individual, their belief in themselves can be reinforced – that, in turn, may allow for the realization of their dreams and cause advancement, not only in our understanding of the world, but also in one’s understanding of themselves.

Influencing Beliefs and Dreams

As scientific and technological breakthroughs expand our concept of what is achievable, we often encourage the younger generations to “dream big” with the hope that they will continue to make advances. Children, in particular, are usually targeted because they have the tendency to form dreams and aspirations when they develop an appreciation for the actions of others – they are easily able to form role models. The development of humankind, however, does not occur without innovation; a child cannot simply be inspired to repeat the past feats of someone they admire – they must dream of surpassing the achievements of others. Oftentimes, it is our sense of self-doubt, or a lack of belief in ourselves, that prevents the creation of this desire. In order to overcome their insecurity, an individual may look to the actions of those who inspire them to strengthen what they believe about their own capability. By doing so, it is possible to overcome uncertainty and reach for one’s dreams. Therefore, it can be argued that when the actions of others influence – or, inspire – an individual, their belief in themselves can be reinforced – that, in turn, may allow for the realization of their dreams and cause advancement, not only in our knowledge of the world, but also in one’s understanding of themselves. In The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, the narrator’s childhood recollection of the first moon landing is used by the author to suggest that ultimately, it is admiration for others that allows an individual to reach their full potential.

The passage begins with the narrator explaining his experience as a child at the time of the lunar module landing. He states that the event seemed to give everyone “permission to dream big dreams” – the narrator notes this as a powerful moment, and therefore, introduces the particular importance of the moon landing as a major source of inspiration for the narrator and others around the world. Through his choice to emphasize the landing of the lunar module, which is widely viewed as an empowering moment for humanity, Pausch shows that an accomplishment can inspire people to rise above their lack of belief in their own abilities. Essentially, he asserts that inspiration is the “ultimate tool for doing good”; that is to say, inspiration – which stems from the actions of others – can be used to motivate individuals to fuel the want to reach for their dreams. The author then explains that dreams are necessary for advancement; while attempting to solve issues such as world hunger through funding is of “great value”, the greatest issues humanity faces can only truly be solved by individuals who have dreams, because by believing in the power of their own potential, they are able to be more successful than previous generations. Because one needs inspiration to form such dreams, the text shows that the influence of others is key to creating an individual’s beliefs – particularly when considering what one is capable of. The narrator asks that readers “give themselves permission to dream”; by saying this, the author suggests that the individual’s beliefs about their own abilities can prevent one from aiming to achieve great things, which would hinder the ability for others to dream. In the case of the narrator, this would be when the camp counsellors sent the kids to bed early. Pausch asserts the absolute cruciality of dreams because he acknowledges that one’s belief in self is influenced by their understanding of what they are capable of. Major accomplishments, such as the moon landing, inspire humankind and can motivate others to act – thus realizing “the maximum of human potential”. If humanity continues to strive for greatness, a cycle of action and inspiration will continue to feed dreams and cause development that may have been unimaginable in the past.

I, like the narrator, have also experienced the impact of inspiration from the actions of others – in fact, the people I admire have had a significant influence on who I am today. When I was little, my mother wanted me to explore my interests. She put me in several different classes for singing, music, and dance, hoping to find my passion; however, I was apathetic. I refused to believe that I could become great if I put in effort – I did not have faith in my potential, and as a result, was unwilling to commit myself to any goals. My worst fear was the thought of wanting a skill, but never being able to attain it, no matter how much effort I put in. As a desperate final attempt to find something I cared about, my mother entrusted me to a friend of our family – she was a painter. When I first saw her draw, I was left breathless; her art conveyed the sublime beauty of nature – it enthralled me. Seeing her paint changed me dramatically. That was, for me, the first time I had genuinely admired someone else’s abilities on my own. Until then, I had only thought highly of people who I had been told to respect. My deep veneration for her skill allowed me to overcome my aversion to devoting myself to a pursuit. I gave myself “permission to dream” – I wanted my art to radiate with same quality that hers did. She took me under her wing, and for several years, she taught me. We tried many different mediums together; my art teacher was always willing to take risks and try different techniques with her work. Because I knew she encouraged my dreams, I was never afraid of failure when we were together. Her lessons may be in the past, but they are the foundation for my love of visual art, a love that I cannot imagine myself without. By giving me her support, she helped build my self-confidence. Now I am able to see the beauty in the world around me, and I try to reflect that in my pieces. Art has become a part of my identity; it is a manifestation of my potential and my self-belief. That childish dream of being like my role-model caused more growth than I could have ever anticipated.

Because of how the actions of my art teacher inspired me, I was able to believe in myself. I developed dreams, and, with each drawing I do, I get closer to reaching them – hopefully, my desire to reach my dream, and perhaps even surpass it, will inspire another. It is for this reason that I encourage others to also believe in their own potential; if we become too caught up in our own insecurities, we will be unable to move forward. Though all of us may not be able to land on the moon, choosing to be influenced – and, most importantly, inspired – by the actions of others can cause the development of an individual’s belief in themselves. If we use each other as role-models, we may be able to become stronger, more confident individuals, and continue to innovate and make advances as a society.

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