I remember in elementary school whenever it came time to do a speech, half of the class usually opened with a line like “Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘courage’ as…” As a 9-year-old boy I decided I never wanted to use that introduction in my speeches because it sounded too boring. Luckily though, this is a blog, and not a speech.
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines the word ‘prove’ as a verb meaning to establish the truth or validity of something by presentation of evidence or argument (I hope I got at least a chuckle out of a couple of you there). I wanted to provide this definition here because the wording is very important to the purpose of this blog. As people, when we work out everyday at the gym, or play basketball our entire lives, or study hard at school, or work our butt off at a job to get promoted, we are proving ourselves in some way or another. We are trying to prove to those around us that we are stronger, greater, better, faster, or more intelligent than most. But there’s a critical error here: THE WHO.
Over two months ago I decided I was going to take a beginner Korean class at a nearby university to help jumpstart my learning of the language. So, in the meantime, I put in about 50% effort into learning new words and phrases, and began telling people that I was going to take a class at a nearby university. Over and over again I caught myself saying the very same thing to new people and each additional time something felt strange inside me. I didn’t quite know what it was until my carefully built plan crumbled before my eyes. I found out one week ago that the class was cancelled because there weren’t enough people signed up. My initial reaction was one of despair… but then, it dawned upon me. As I walked to school the next morning, looking up at the bright sky, I realized that I wasn’t taking the class to help me learn Korean; I was taking it to prove to other people that I was learning Korean.
Then I thought of how often in my life I had done things simply to be able to say that I was doing them. It was almost as if the social validation I got from telling people that I was “going to” do those things was enough for me to feel like I had already done it! Then I remembered all the books on my shelf that had bookmarks only 40, 60, or 80 pages in. Then I remembered the piano that sat in my house for years, virtually untouched, and the single complete song I still know how to play. Then my whole life seemed to unravel. All that remained was one, solid and solitary thought:
All I need to do is prove this to myself… after that, it is true.
It seemed so amazingly simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it for my entire life thus far. But now that it’s there, it’s not going away.
THE TAKEAWAY: I think all too often we get caught up thinking that in order for something to be true, those around us have to believe it. And so we walk around as an advertisement for ourselves, selling our qualities and beliefs to those we meet as if it were Black Friday. But in the end, we are never really satisfied. Maybe this is true for you, maybe its not. Nevertheless, it would certainly be beneficial to ask yourself, “What have I proven to myself lately?” Because when all is said and done, only the things that you have proven to yourself will have any real meaning.