Just over two weeks ago, I took the next step on a journey I have been on for the past 7 and 1/2 years – I passed the black belt test for the organization to which my Aikido martial arts school belongs. This is longer than the average person takes, and I will readily admit that had I put my mind to it, I could have achieved this two or possibly three years ago. Which brings me to the subject of today’s discussion.
In reaching this achievement, I learned many, many lessons. One of the things I learned towards the end of this process was that making a decision wasn’t enough. I had made a choice some time ago that I wanted to study a martial art – it turned out to be Aikido, though I’m sure I could have done others and been equally happy. I also made a choice some time ago that I wanted to reach black belt level and teach. During this time, I had periods where I would go to class regularly for a little while, reach the cusp of advancement, then stop going for a little while. This cycle would repeat for a number of years.
In the months prior to my test, I discovered it wasn’t enough to just make a choice – I had to put my will behind that choice, to become determined. It’s determination that separates choices from decisions. I can make choices all day long, but my decisions are immediately evident – because I put the necessary action behind them to bring them into being. When I made the decision to become a black belt, I determined that I was going to do that, whatever it took. I took action in line with my goal that I knew would help me get there.
Although I’m talking about something very specific, this applies to everything in life. How many times have you made a choice, only to go and do something that totally undermines that choice? The classic example of this is the new year resolution. People make all sorts of choices, and in the end, discard them not long afterwards. Most often it’s not lack of determination, but too much change too soon because of misdirected determination.
As Americans, our culture as a whole is one of instant gratification. We want everything, and we want it now. But the fallacy is, these conditions didn’t come up overnight, they’re not going away overnight. If you truly have decided to change, you must have the determination to do what is necessary to bring it about.
So, what have you chosen? And more importantly, what have you decided? What are you determined to do?