Once upon a time (last year), after I’d moved to yet another state (NY) and found a place to live in a tough market in a rather unreasonable amount of time (three weeks), someone who loves me very much called me “determined.”
I translated that affirmation as “willful,” and I laughed as I thanked her for it.
Willfulness involves a strong intention, the ability to drive from concept to act, and the power to push through resistance. It’s a trait I inherited from all branches of my family tree, and so no one who knows my people should be surprised that I’m good at it and only improving with age.
As I type this, I’m mostly laughing at myself. Willfulness can mean drive, and it can also mean fact-resistance. I have the capacity to keep on pushing despite jeers and storms, and I also have the capacity to be stubborn and stuck.
Determination and willfulness are both ways to honor purposeful commitment. I only offer the full force of my intentions when I believe something is worth committing to, and I think most people are similar to me in this.
In other words, one of the things that irks me most about my fundamentalist brethren—doggedness—is a trait I have too.
It means I’ll almost never give up on a course too soon: I’m more inclined to turn my ship a little late. Because I know that my default is Hanging In There™, I use all possible evaluation tools to disrupt my default, to keep me strategic and “on time.”
I’m learning from my own experiences and my observation of others’ experiences that nothing thwarts progress so easily and so thoroughly as failure to rightly read the data and integrate it into new action.
If something doesn’t work or isn’t healthy, a teacher told me to my face last year, don’t do it again.
I reread that line this week and felt exposed. Because it’s really that easy to self-delude: to imagine there are more degrees of flex in a rule than there are, to perceive a wider span of openness among relatives than exists, and to assert greater freedom in an organization than actually goes to participants at my level.
After my face flushed, though, I was able to swallow the wisdom again.
In every context where my choices matter, it’s up to me to pay attention to the outcomes of my assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors. And if those outcomes aren’t up to snuff, it’s up to me to change something.
Ultimately, the thing that proves learning is changed action.