The Genius of Goethe

January 17, 2024

The first course as an undergraduate that I had a true interest in was Psychology 101, the basic introductory course in what later would become my profession. When we got to the chapter on intelligence, I was curious that Goethe’s IQ was estimated at 200, which represents a perfect score. After practicing as a psychologist for 10 years I came across one of his quotations that intuitively resonated truth and I used it as a teaching tool for over 25 years in my practice. I made my own slight interpretation from the original to make it easier to read from the German translation. It’s about commitment and an observation that I have found to be consistently valid not only for my own life but for the life of others.

Goethe on Commitment

Until you impose a duty and moral obligation on yourself to achieve what you want, you will find yourself uncertain, tentative, timid, indecisive, and vacillating. You will be reluctant to take the most direct path in achieving your goal. You will keep giving yourself a chance to draw back. You will wind up being consistently ineffective. Your initiative and creativity will be far less than your capabilities.

You must keep in mind a basic truth that, if forgotten, will stop your progress and thwart you from achieving your goal. This truth is that the moment you decide to clearly and fully commit yourself to your goal, then events happen that could only be explained as divine intervention. It is as if God’s hand was reaching down and controlling events in your favor. The only way that this can be created is to focus your intent in a positive, precise, explicit, and unequivocal manner.

When you stay in this mindset, all sorts of things occur to help you that would never otherwise have occurred. A stream of events begin to flow in your favor. There will be chance meetings with those who can help. There will be fortuitous happenings that will speed your progress. There will be unforeseen financial assistance. None of these events could have been predicted.

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, the time is now to boldly begin. Boldness means not hesitating in the face of actual or possible rebuff. It is to be courageous and daring. It means to go beyond the usual limits of conventional thought or action. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin pursuing your goal with commitment now!”

My Interpretation

Here is what I believe Goethe is saying. You want something and it’s important to you personally. You’ve doubted yourself, made false starts, convinced yourself there are too many obstacles, or told yourself it just requires too much effort. Your progress has been very slow, if at all. Your internal debate about whether you should proceed or not leaves you being ineffective. You have denied any actual opportunity to achieve it. This becomes a tragedy to you and leaves you feeling disheartened and victimized. You really do want it and you intuit that your life would be better if you had it.

There is a critical step you have yet to take, and must, if you are to be successful. That step is making a full commitment to a precisely defined goal. You become clear about what you want and internally decide you are going to make it happen, regardless of what obstacle or excuse shows up. You reframe it as a duty and a responsibility to yourself. You focus your attention on this obligation to create the energy and drive. You are now ready and willing to move forward, even though there may not be a clear path in front of you. You just know you want it and are willing to do whatever it takes, both morally and ethically. You trust that things will come together.

By keeping this mindset, fully focused on your firm decision and desire, events begin to happen that would have never otherwise occurred. Your energy field begins to shape future events. The universe starts to support you. There will be synchronicity. By chance you will meet people who are supportive and capable of helping you. There will be seemingly random happenings that will advance your progress. Money will show up from unexpected sources. To have this kind of hidden support, you must remain bold in your action.

Society has a mixed reaction to those who are bold, sometimes yielding and sometimes rejecting. When you are bold you don’t hesitate to move forward even when you are rebuffed. You become courageous and daring. You discover that much of the discouragement you expected was imaginary. You are willing to challenge your pre-existing beliefs and go beyond the usual limits of conventional thought or action. If one path is blocked, you ask yourself how else can you make it happen. You trust your creativity in finding a solution. You don’t back down or slow down. You stay focused on your intention, remain convinced, and fully confident that you will succeed. This is when all the magic happens.