In order to accomplish and succeed in life one needs energy, skill, knowledge, right attitude, personal organization, direction, drive, and many other qualities. One additional trait that stands out amongst the most successful of people is psychological strength. Those who show toughness, are unflinching in the face of adversity, are willing to take action when others would shrink demonstrate innate strength that invariably brings success. In fact, those who demonstrate such "intestinal fortitude" not only are more likely to invite success into their lives, but can evoke powerful and most unexpected positive responses from the environment. Sometimes the response to one's exercise of strength -- especially in the face of prior weakness -- can alter the course of one's life and propel one to the pinnacles of success. Such was the case for one young queen of 16th century England.
History tells us that Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the second of Henry's six wives. When Elizabeth was only two years old, her father ordered the beheading of her mother. Then when King Henry died, his son, the nine-year-old Edward, who was Elizabeth's half-brother, succeeded him. After Edward died, six years later, Elizabeth's half-sister Mary became queen of England. Mary, who was Catholic, earned the name "Bloody Mary" for her persecution of Protestants during her reign. Because Elizabeth herself was Protestant, and because Mary feared Elizabeth might be plotting against her life, Elizabeth was held in prison throughout most of Mary's reign. However, in the end, Mary reluctantly accepted Elizabeth's right to the throne, and after the queen died, the very-young Elizabeth ascended to the throne of England.
As it turned out, just at the time Elizabeth took up the reigns, English society was being torn apart by the conflict between the Catholics and Protestants. With each side seeking to win favor from the young queen -- frequently accompanied by threats of retribution if she did not bend in their favor -- each day Elizabeth lived in fear; not only that her regime would topple, but worse still, that she herself would be killed.
As portrayed in the film Elizabeth (1998), one day Elizabeth calls a meeting of the leaders of the two religious groups in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. Though she felt that she was in an exceedingly precarious position, she managed to hold back her fears, and began the meeting by making the extraordinarily bold statement that "no group had an exclusive claim on God". As a result, gasps and shouts of "outrage" and "heresy" were heard throughout the chamber. And yet, instead of cowering before the protestations of the religious leaders, Elizabeth gathered herself and the strength and courage to continue her presentation before the gathering. She then went on to argue that that all sides had to work together for the sake of the people of England, not for the narrow interests of a particular religion. In fact, she insisted on this point, and would have it no other way. She argued that as representative of the people's interests, it was her duty to bring the two conflicting religious parties to a decisive settlement.
Quieted by her persuasive arguments, and her unexpected forcefulness and show of strength, both sides did in the end come around to her point of view -- with a majority voting to support her proposal for a common English church. This was in fact one of the great turning points in English history, as it overcame the conflicting sectarian interests, subdued and weakened the power of the church, strengthened the central authority of the monarchy, and increased the power of the people in determining the nation's destiny.
The story did not end there, however. Despite Elizabeth's considerable achievement, dark forces continued to gather around her. For one, the Papacy in Rome was very displeased by her actions, and, at one point, actually sent an emissary to have her killed. Though the plot was foiled, Elizabeth's problems continued, as members of her own cabinet now begun to plot against her. Elizabeth's life was still in grave danger. In fact, she now appeared threatened from nearly every quarter.
With the circle of malice tightening around her, she knew that something had to be done. And so, the queen searched deep within herself to find a solution. Then drawing on an unknown inner strength, Elizabeth came to the one and only conclusion that made sense, considering the current dire circumstance. Making perhaps the most important decision of her life, she ordered her enemies arrested or killed.
Not unlike what Krishna demanded of Arjuna at the battle of Kurukshetra in the Indian epic the Mahabharata, Elizabeth did what had to be done -- what was right and just, despite its sometimes-brutal nature. As a result of her action, not only did she establish security around her, not only did she establish the solid underlying conditions that would allow her to reign for forty years, but she was afforded a lifetime of opportunities to express all of her innate talents. In the end, Elizabeth's reign would come to be known as England's "Golden Age." In the short and long term, life had responded out of all proportion to a young woman's overwhelming courage, determination, and exercise of strength in the face of the most dire of conditions.
In this light, we can examine our own lives and see where we lack strength and toughness; or where we feel helpless, powerless, and not in control; or where we are shrinking, cowering, and overly deferential; or where we are fearful and lacking in courage. If we then reverse that position, taking to the necessary level of psychological strength, life will respond out of all proportion, propelling us to the heights of success, while eliciting a deep happiness from within.