The Power of One Little Word

A Commitment to Yourself

By longtime reader Gena VanOsselaer.

On the recommendations of former colleagues, I recently read “One Word That Will Change Your Life”, a book about beginning the New Year with one word (instead of a list of resolutions or goals) to be your driving force throughout the next year. Short, simple, impactful.

I scanned the list of words chosen by others: gratitude, loving, focus, acceptance, clarity, passion … all great words, all words I could work with, but suddenly MY word came to me, and that was IT. I didn’t choose it, decide on it – it just clearly came through that this was My guidance for 2014.


“Commitment” was immediately followed by other words, in an uncanny order where one statement naturally led to the next. The first was “Commitment to owning my own value.” Wow, you mean I haven’t? The second was “Commitment to my health.” Which I definitely have not been until this past year forced me to make more conscious choices. Followed by “Commitment to Tom [husband] and our kids, my dad.” For me, that means being more present with my family.

More statements poured forth, unsolicited: “Commitment to pursuing meaningful work and income”, “Commitment to living life more fully”, “Commitment to investing more in meaningful friendships”, “Commitment to having more fun”….

Each statement somewhat connected, almost dependent on the earlier ones.

I liked my word. I found it to be inspirational, meaningful, hopeful. I thought I was ready for whatever “commitment” might bring over this next year. What I didn’t realize was how quickly and often my “commitment” would be challenged, especially in the first 15 days of January. Each challenge offered a lesson, which I could accept or run from/postpone. I could learn from it now, or wait for it to show up later in another form. Here’s one lesson I fought, reluctantly accepted, and the experience has already made a huge impact on my life going forward.

Let me start by clarifying: I am Not a natural athlete in any capacity, I am Not particularly coordinated, strong, flexible or even in good cardiovascular shape. No upper body strength—I can’t even do a pushup. I’m left-handed but was raised doing most things with my right arm, which unfortunately doesn’t mean I’m ambidextrous—it just means I’m not particularly coordinated with either. My entire spine is fused to a steel rod so I can only bend at the neck and hips. Last, but not least – I am 55 and at least 20 pounds overweight.

Last spring, I decided to try a new martial art, created by a Sensei (instructor) I’ve known for years, trust implicitly and deeply respect. I missed most of the spring/summer classes due to health issues, and only began training regularly in late September. I’m the only female in the class. (At least so far!)

We had our first belt exam/demonstration last week. I had to miss two of the last three practice sessions. I scheduled an ‘extra’ practice session with another Sensei, only to walk in while a classmate was demonstrating a technique I’d never seen before. As my daughter would say, “WTF???”

Panic set in. I over-prepared by watching some of the techniques on the website and taking detailed notes, until 5:00am the morning of the exam. Slept 2 hours. Couldn’t eat. I downloaded ‘inspirational’ music onto my laptop, couldn’t find CDs to burn it onto, so I put my laptop in the passenger seat of the car so I could play the music on the way to the dojo to calm and inspire me. Two miles from my house, my water bottle fell over and water flooded my keyboard and my 8 pages of detailed notes. I arrived with no inspirational music, no notes, no water to drink during the class, and a now water-logged screwed-up laptop. (Thank you Trevor for the tip to let my laptop rest for 3 days submerged in rice. A few keys are still a bit sticky, but overall it works again!)

By this time, I was truly panicked. I couldn’t think. I was so focused on trying to remember ‘what’ to do that I forgot to let my body remember ‘how’ to do it. None of the techniques I’d practiced and learned came back to me easily. I miserably fumbled my way through the one technique I’d never seen before. Self-consciousness invaded my thoughts, and my body. Not able yet to do rolls because they terrify me, (which is a key part of almost all martial arts) I threw myself head-first/shoulder-first at the ground anyway, just hoping I could get back up. Awkward, embarrassing, Ugly. But I was determined to at least try.

Still, I left feeling pretty damn good. Tom and the kids were out of town, and left voicemails of encouragement, and I had three girlfriends there to support me. They each told me in the parking lot that I’d done great, and I responded by bursting into tears. We celebrated afterward with champagne! I was Proud of myself for “committing” enough to just show up and put myself out there.

Next day: huge remorse, emotional hangover. Woke up feeling humiliated, ashamed, and feeling very aware that while I’d done my best, my best sucked! Misery, embarrassment and humiliation continued to dominate my thoughts and feelings for the rest of the day. Finally, I left a voicemail for our Sensei expressing that I wasn’t sure I should continue doing this because I was so lousy at it.

His message back?

“Bullshit, quit feeling sorry for yourself, and get out of your self pity.” OUCH.

The next day, still stinging from the ‘self-pity’ remark but a little more open to looking at this differently, in spite of how it felt, I began to open more to the idea of what Commitment truly is. I’ll spare the details of the roller coaster of my thought process, but where I finally landed is that Commitment is all about SHOWING UP AS YOU ARE. It’s not about showing up as you want to be, or think you should be.

It’s about just showing up wherever and however you are, and being open to the lesson offered.

And, real Commitment is not easy, but the truth is: Nothing of value is.


Category: Belief


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