Ikigai
Posted By Matthew

Ryoko’s Reassurance – A Matter of Mindset


Throughout our day we stream commentary on everything we see and do, telling ourselves stories. These stories can range from conscious rants to subtle considerations as we attempt to make decisions. Certain practices, like martial arts and meditation, can help temper that amount of self chatter…but nevertheless, it's persistently there. It has to be.martial arts brain

Our self filters dictate our ability to function in polite society and learn from our surroundings. If we didn't have this capacity for reflection we would be stuck in a permanent state of mental immaturity.

Understanding how we sway ourselves can be highly informative (if we know how to assess it).

Reaffirmation vs Reassurance

Decision making comes with an interesting byproduct: explanation. Sometimes we attempt to justify our behavior using contextual information, reasoning, or lying. Other times we choose to behave in a way that conforms to how we see ourselves. More often than not, each decision results in a different kind of self speak, two of which are reaffirmation and reassurance.

To illustrate these concepts and their differences, I'd like to introduce a character named Ryoko. Follow some of Ryoko's everyday activities and see if you can detect how she reacts to her own decisions.

Reassurance

It was a long day at work and Ryoko was dead tired. She had been straining to reach a deadline, and just barely completed the project before her office shut down for the evening. On the drive home she noticed a distinct grumbling in her belly. Since it was only a few minutes from her house, Ryoko decided to stop at a local fast food chain and pick up a quick burger and fries. She reassured herself that she had earned it with her hard days work, and that she didn't feel like cooking that night. Really, it couldn't be avoided.

Coming out of the restaurant she noticed a cart from a neighboring grocery store rolling toward a nearby car. Unfortunately her hands were full and all she could do was cringe as it made contact against the paint. She reassured herself that there was nothing she could do in time.

The next day Ryoko went back to work. As much effort as she had put in the day before, it simply wasn't good enough for her boss who demanded a wide range of changes to her current project. Ryoko found herself sapped of energy and enthusiasm.

Coming home that evening her arms were weighed down by paperwork and corrections needed. Sure, she could get them done by the new deadline…but the thought hardly excited her. Even worse, it was a dojo night and she needed to get back on the road in two hours.

Between the threatening paperwork and her growing headache, Ryoko reassured herself that she would probably be useless anyway in training and that her time would be better spent at home.

butterfly effectReaffirmation

It was a long day at work and Ryoko was dead tired. She had been straining to reach a deadline, and just barely completed the project before her office shut down for the evening. On the drive home she noticed a distinct grumbling in her belly. Since it was only a few minutes from her house, Ryoko decided to stop at a local fast food chain and pick up a quick burger and fries.

Upon arrival she remembered that there was a grocery store next door, and that she could grab salad and fruit from inside. Doing so reaffirmed that she was indeed a healthy person, conscious of the old saying that "you get out what you put in".

Coming out of the grocery store she noticed a cart rolling toward a nearby car. Despite her hands being full she ran over quickly and stopped the cart with her foot. Ryoko always believed in random acts of kindness, and stopping the cart reaffirmed her desire to be someone who didn't need external thanks for helping.

The next day Ryoko went back to work. As much effort as she had put in the day before, it simply wasn't good enough for her boss who demanded a wide range of changes to her current project. Ryoko found herself sapped of energy and enthusiasm.

Coming home that evening her arms were weighed down by paperwork and corrections needed. Sure, she could get them done by the new deadline…but the thought hardly excited her. Even worse, it was a dojo night and she needed to get back on the road in two hours. Despite the threatening paperwork and her growing headache, Ryoko slapped her hands on the table and refused to listen to her own excuses. She ate, got changed, and made it into the dojo. It wasn't her best performance that night, but getting to class energized her and reaffirmed that she was a dedicated person.

Not Right and Wrong

At first it might seem like the stories above illustrate a simplistic state of right and wrong. Doing nice things is right, being lazy is wrong, etc etc. The truth of the matter is not so clear cut.

When speaking of "right and wrong" in the traditional sense, we are acknowledging the generally accepted human perception of proper and improper behavior. While slathered in gray area, for the most part we've come to a societal collective on critical matters of "good" vs "bad" (hence the penal system).

What Ryoko is going through is much more personal than that. She is facing day-to-day choices that reflect both the context of her situation and her own expectations of herself. Therefore, when she does something that sparks doubt in her mind, she has to reassure herself that it's ok (even if it's not). When she does something that feels right and in tune with who she wants to be, she instinctively reaffirms her path.

The slightest change in detail to the stories above could result in different decision making. Furthermore, following the "Reaffirmation" decision path won't always guarantee positive results (what if Ryoko missed her deadline due to her dojo time?).

Reaffirming Your Way

Like any higher calling, following the martial way can be extremely tricky. Getting lost and sidetracked is habitual and is simply part of the exploration. However, by using the idea of reaffirmation vs reassurance you can FEEL when you are leaving your path consistently. It's not always possible to intellectualize this sort of thing; some of it is pure gut instinct.

Therefore, it is advisable to continue studying and finding individuals whom you admire. Using that, you can build a sense of what you perceive your "way" to be. From there, you can act as much as possible in a manner that allows you to reaffirm the path you had set out on. It won't be a smooth ride the whole time, but you can push forward with belief in yourself.