Is it a promotion? A raise? A date with that person you've been flirting with for the past month?
Well, in my case, it was a stripe. Let me give you some background. I started Hung Gar Kung Fu in November. There are five belt colors, and within each belt, there are four levels to pass before one is eligible to advance to the next. At my level, the stripes are correlated with learning/mastering a "form."
So I recently mastered the "first form." And expected to get a stripe. THAT DAY. However, I didn't. Nor did I get a stripe at the next class, or even the next, even though I was now beginning to learn, and even about halfway through the next form ("Second form").
Now I was really starting to wonder. Was Sifu (the master) upset with me? Had I done something wrong? Perhaps I wasn't doing the form properly? Was there some other lesson I needed to learn?
I had heard that sometimes people didn't get their stripes right away, that sometimes Sifu waited a little, and that he had his own way of doing things. In one sense, I was definitely cool with this; on the other, I kept trying to figure out what I was missing...
Was I missing patience? Certainly. Was that what he was trying to teach me? Unlikely.
How about perfect placement of my feet in "horse stance?" Nah, probably not that, either, since it often takes a long time to perfect that.
After the third class of no stripe, I was crushed. You've probably figured out about me that I'm driven, that I like to achieve goals and that I like to advance measurably. I began questioning whether he wanted me in the program, whether I was good enough, liked, etc. No negative thought un-had!
It's the fourth class after mastering the first form, and I'm deep into the second form. Sifu walks by me as I'm lumbering my way through, and as he is walking by, he looks at me and seems a little surprised. Then he says: "You don't have a stripe yet?"
"Not yet," I replied.
Right before we complete the class, Sifu calls me up to the front and gives me my first stripe! Truly, I am elated. I'm not a complete failure at Kung Fu, I guess he does want me in the program, etc.
Turns out, not giving me a stripe didn't have anything to do with me, really. There are over 150 students who take Kung Fu where I do, at every level of belt and stripe-ness. The permutations are endless, and I imagine, difficult to keep track of. And that's what happened with me; it just got overlooked.
But the greatest reward for me was not in the negating of all those awful thoughts about myself I had, which went away when I got the stripe. It lay in recognizing that all those thoughts I had were things I MADE UP, and weren't based on reality. Not one of them was true, or even valid.
So I ask you. What things are you "making up" about yourself, your life, or the people in it, that are not only not true, but making you feel things about yourself that are not-so-great? I'd be willing to bet that, like my thoughts were, there's likely little basis in reality.
Yes, I am inviting you to question your beliefs about yourself. Yes, I am inviting you to try to see events for what they are, or make up a meaning for them that doesn't leave you crushed.
What are you waiting for?!