On an indomitable spirit

When I was young, my first school of martial arts had an oath which included the phrase: “I will foster an indomitable spirit”.

And at the time – I was beginning high school – it was easy to see how that applied. When you were stretched out to your maximum capacity, on your last push-up, or the final kick your leg and kick could throw, or you’d finished every move of your form with as much vigor as you could put into each piece and you were exhausted – that you could somehow go beyond. That when you’d reached the very limit, you could break that limit.

And that’s true. But oddly enough, that’s tiny.

In some ways, it’s not so hard to foster an indomitable spirit when your back is to the wall; when you’re clearly exhausted and something huge is asked of you; when you feel like you can’t handle any more and there’s another crisis. You do it because you have to. In the moment of some huge, overwhelming trouble, it’s sometimes not as hard as one would think to square your shoulders and say, “I’ll do this.”

Do you know when a truly indomitable spirit is needed?

For the little things. For indignities that you might let pass, at the cost of giving ignorance a small victory. For the days when taking a shower and putting on clothes seems to be as impossible as crossing an ocean. For the hundred little pieces of stress or micro-aggression that build up in a day until you’re full enough to explode – or so weighed down that taking even a step is like trying to move across the surface of Jupiter.

It’s a picture of your ex. It’s a mistake you made and need to deal with. It’s something unfair that you can’t fix.

Everything from medieval ballads to movie montages teaches us to be strong in the face of impossible odds. Win The War. Stop The Attack. Find The True Answer. Do Great Things.

Let me teach you this fractional piece of survival. It’s taken my forty years to find:

Let yourself realize that the small difficulties you face are actually as large as they feel, not as large as you think someone else would perceive them to be.

You have to write a 40-word thank-you email, and it’s just not happening? No, it’s not going to change the world; it’s not as “important” as battling world hunger or disease or poverty. But maybe it is every bit as hard as something that seems much, much bigger. Maybe this is the moment that deserves a montage. Maybe this is as hard as a life-and-death struggle. Maybe it is.

It doesn’t matter if the thing itself feels trivial. If it’s hard for you to do, then it’s hard for you to do. Recognize that. Square your shoulders. Face it head on. Get yourself just as ready as you would if it was The Big Game, The Final Battle, The Moment Of Destiny.

Because the world’s not changed by the sudden appearance of Big Things. The world is changed by tens of thousands of little things, bubbling up and lifting until they become a massive wave.

Do the fucking thing. Realize it was hard. Recognize that you deserve credit as if you just changed the world.

Because you just did.

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