Are You a When I?

Are you a When-I?

You know, the person who refuses to be happy, or even satisfied, until they reach some future accomplishment? They can be found saying things like, “I will be happy when I get a million dollars,” or “When I find that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, then I will be happy,” or “I will not be satisfied until I get that promotion”, or “…a new car,” or “…a new title on my business card.”

I call these “when-I’s.”

It is that person, and we have all been there from time to time, who keeps pushing themselves to reach that next step, that next stage, that next place of accomplishment. Some people even chase that sense of achievement into the afterlife; thinking that whatever misery they endure or and sacrifice they make now, will be satisfied with a higher appointment in the ever-after. Some even try to speed the process along, thinking that their happiness will be found once they escape this world. Sadly, they realize, all too late, that happiness, contentment and satisfaction was right here all along. In this moment.

You see, happiness and satisfaction do not come in reaching some destination, or in acquiring an object. It is found in the journey. It is found in appreciating the adventure you are on and enjoying the human experience in all its failures and glories. 

All those titles and trophies are wonderful marks of achievement, but they are not what this is about.  

I will never forget, years ago, when a student asked our Hapkido instructor, Grand Master Bong Soo Han, when he could test for his black belt. Now, Grand Master Bong Soo Han was a man who grew up in occupied Korea after World War II. He was a man who learned martial arts under Japanese occupation. He was also the man who brought the art of Hapkido to the United States. He was slight in stature, but so quick and powerful. He was also very, very wise.

He looked at this student and smiled. “The test for a black belt is a formality. It is an event. It marks what we already know to be. We know when we invite you to test that you are already a black belt. We watch how you carry yourself, how you act. So, do not worry about being invited to test. Worry about living your life, every day.”

No, that student was not invited to test that day or that quarter. But we all noticed a change in him. As a red belt, he began acting as if he were a black belt. He began to approach his exercises with newfound sense of humility and a sense of focus on the moment. He changed from being a When-I, to being an I-Am.

Which are you?