Breathe in an inch …
Breathe out a yard …
Go the extra mile …
How do we measure progress?
Strategically, we want to make the smallest change to make the biggest difference. Usually we make the biggest change that makes the least difference.
The devil is in the details. So are all the angels.
Inch: (1) unit of length -- 1/36th of a yard or 1/63360 of a mile, (2) small amount, (3) unit of atmospheric pressure, (4) move or edge your way slowly
All journeys of 1,000 miles start with a single step of a few inches. The overcoming of inertia and making that first step probably takes more clarity and courage than many of the miles ahead.
I remember when I first started Aikido; if Sensei corrected me within a foot I would consider it a compliment. Later I started to calibrate and measure any progress in inches.
In the dojo, perhaps we start measuring progress just by signing up, showing up, suiting up, and learning how to bow in. It is hard to tell people that the fastest way to make progress is slowly, one day at a time and one inch at a time. They say patience is a virtue and is a very valuable perception of time to cultivate. We may think we are initially training our bodies to perform certain techniques, but in reality we are disciplining our thoughts and emotions. We may start with our attention and intention on one thing that is miles (and years) ahead of where we currently are. Perhaps we are aiming too far for the possibilities of the opportunity we are presently given.
In life, we often live in fear and seldom just take a leap of faith into the unknown. We usually like to know exactly where we are going and what it is going to cost us before we commit to anything. We want to be guaranteed to destination before we start the journey. There is nothing wrong with being prepared and gathering as much information as possible before we act. It is wise to engage our intelligent minds before we engage our emotions to direct our actions. Yet, the real mysteries of life (and love) usually start with the least amount of knowing and a greater measure of curiosity and excitement about the unknown.
Sometimes to see further down the road, we have to have the courage to walk further down the road making progress slowly one day and one inch at a time.
Yard: (1) unit of length -- 36 inches or 1/1760 of a mile, (2) spar supporting sail, (3) one-hundred dollars, (4) one-billion, (5) the totality of full extent of something, (6) land around a house, (7) railroad storage area, (8) livestock enclosure, (9) winter grazing area
After we get used to measuring our progress in inches we begin to measure it in yards.
In the dojo, we begin to wear colored belts and sit further down the row as we bow in. We know more techniques. We become a more senior student and are looked up to by those who are just beginning. We make progress faster because we already have a base to work from. We are beginning to understand and apply how to learn (not just what to learn). We may think we should have been promoted earlier. We may think we have covered a yard, but our instructors think we are only inching toward our next belt. On the other hand, if we have paid attention to inching along though our training, we may not notice how many yards we have progressed. Subjective perception of our own progress is different from the objective perception of others. To learn, perhaps we need to be less concerned with our own thoughts and listen to the valuable feedback we receive from our Sempai and Sensei.
Progress can be measured in physical distance and the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task.
In life, every inch can seem like a yard, taking a lot of emotional energy and fear, or it can seem as if we are caught up in the moment and time and distance/space becomes unimportant. Perhaps the secret to making the yardage is to enjoy the inches by enjoying the present. We think we live by the tick of an objective clock. But time does not pass the same for all of us. If we are enjoying our lives, life often appears subjectively to fly by and if we don't enjoy what we are doing, every minute can seem like an eternity.
Perhaps the secret for progressing from inches to yards in anything is to listen to the people we are with and enjoy our relationship with them. If we are not making progress, perhaps we are with the wrong people.
Mile: (1) unit of length/distance -- 63360 inches or 1769 yards, (2) a long way, (3) an extra or special effort in order to achieve something
The loneliest part of any journey is the extra mile it takes to reach beyond the stated destination.
In the dojo, we see many people train the same inch many times thinking they are making progress. Others are only repeating the same yard over and over again (expecting a different result). In the time it takes to earn a black belt or cover the miles they have made very little progress. Others are willing to go the extra mile by studying outside the dojo mat and training in subtleties and principles of the technique.
If life is a bell-shaped distribution curve, some people will only travel/progress inches. The majority of people will travel/progress yards, and only a few people will put in the extra mile/time/effort truly to try to understand and master their art.
In life, most people will not go the extra mile for themselves much less someone else. Often the extra mile is where we lose ourselves in our activities and relationships, and find what really matters and makes a difference. Many people will do what it takes to get a relationship but will not continue the effort to maintain it. The difference between those few who live with success and abundance and the majority of people who live in fear and scarcity is the willingness to go the extra mile, see beyond their own interest, and find something greater than themselves.
How far we go in any endeavor is in proportion to the extra thought and effort we put into it.
How do we measure progress? Do we measure ours lives by the inches, yards, and miles we have covered or the inches, yards, and miles we have yet to go? While the past tells us how far we have come, perhaps how far we can go is the real mystery. Perhaps it is not all about the past, the future, the distance covered, or the distance to go, but in what direction we travel and how we live and love today.
Breathe in an inch …
Breathe out a yard …
Go the extra mile …
Thanks for listening, for the opportunity to be of service, and for sharing the journey. Now get back to training. KWATZ!
Lynn Seiser (b. 1950 Pontiac, Michigan), Ph.D. has been a perpetual student of martial arts, CQC/H2H, FMA/JKD, and other fighting systems for over 40 years. He currently holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) from Sensei Dang Thong Phong of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation and Sensei Andrew Sato of the Aikido World Alliance. He is the co-author of three books on Aikido (with Phong Sensei) and his martial art articles have appeared in Black Belt Magazine, Aikido Today Magazine, and Martial Arts and Combat Sports Magazine. He is the founder of Aiki-Solutions and IdentityTherapy and is an internationally respected psychotherapist in the clinical treatment of offenders, victims, and families of violence, trauma, abuse, and addiction. He is a professor of clinical and forensic psychology with an expertise in family violence and treatment. He currently lives in Marietta, GA and trains and teaches at Kyushinkan Dojo, Roswell Budokan.