I was on LinkedIn (as I am want to do these days) and saw an amazing video of a man with no legs complete a "Spartan Race" type of event. The video showed him doing every event alongside other ambulatory participants. I couldn't help but be inspired by watching this man who lost his legs at the age of six and now was coming across the finish line of what is a tough event for anyone, even someone in peak physical condition.
Above the video, the person sharing the post said: "Now, this is called DETERMINATION!" I thought about that pronouncement for a long while (as I am also want to these days because I have the time.) At first, I agreed. The video certainly seems like the perfect visual image to describe "Determination." But then I started to think about language and the ways words come to mean certain things to a culture and yet, all the while, each of us may have a completely different definition of the same word. Perhaps just semantics, but should it be "Now this is what I call DETERMINATION!?"
I have been spending a lot of time recalibrating my definitions of "Success" and "Purpose" to a point where I barely have the confidence to define those concepts as they relate to me, let alone others. But those aren't the only words that we might want to pause on before defining for others.
So take "Determination" for instance. In my experience, I have always viewed people who had physical disabilities, yet still finished races like the man in the video, as "determined." And I still do. But is the man who is a double amputee and still completes a tough event any more or less determined than the person who is clinically depressed, yet still finds a way out of their bed each morning? Additionally, does the man who completes the race consider himself determined? I would think so, but how do I know? Unless I ask him.
I think the big change that is happening now for me, in fits and starts, is this questioning of my judgments and who I am to even make these judgments in the first place. In my universe, the disabled man powering through and making it to the finish line is an example of determination. But, in my world, someone who questions a bias they have is also determined. For instance, let's say a friend of mine were brought up by his family to think homosexuality should be illegal, and then in his 40s he decides to challenge that assumption. He decides to ask questions and meet new people and admit that maybe his underlying view he heard every day for decades, under his own roof, could be wrong. In my mind that is also called DETERMINATION!
Is my friend showing more or less determination than the racer? In my opinion the word applies equally to the actions of both men. The point is not to take any of the accomplishments away from anyone. But it might make sense before we pronounce a caption on an image, that we pause and consider that we may be taking the definition of a word or concept in our universe and applying it to the entire universe. Perhaps each person defines words like Determination for themselves so that there is no ubiquitous definition of that concept. Perhaps they do not.