Aspiration, intention, commitment, determination. These words form a sequence toward doing what we value. An aspiration is an ideal to work toward. I may have an aspiration to be kinder or more organized. It is not something we achieve, but something that guides our movement, like a lighthouse guides a ship. We are not trying to hit the lighthouse, even if that were possible. We are using it for direction.
An intention is a specific or series of acts, thoughts or feelings that we decide to engage in for the purpose of moving toward our aspirations. Sometimes we form intentions and do not carry them out. This leads us to distrust ourselves and to assume we are incapable of acting on an intention. Intention is not enough.
But after intention, there has to be a commitment. Not only an idea of what I want to do, but a promise to do it. We make that promise to ourselves. Whatever means we use to check that we are following our commitment, whether it is an “accountability partner,” a log, or a coach, ultimately the promise is to ourselves. The commitment stands as a reminder of our intention and behind that our aspiration and behind that what we value. In this way, we make our lives match our values.
And with commitment, we begin. But somewhere along the way, and possibly not too far along the way, our motivation flags, our commitment feels like a burden and our everyday life distracts us. And this is where determination comes in. Determination is the inner strength we bring to doing what is difficult, whether it is the last push up or forgoing a desire. Determination is the very ordinary, flawed, human effort that keeps pushing toward what we have decided to do even when that effort seems inadequate or off-base.
In Japanese there is a term–kessen–which means the last battle or the decisive battle. And through our values, our aspirations, our intentions, our commitments, and our determination, we are finally struggling with ourselves to become our own version of an ideal version of ourselves, and this idea is specific to each of us. Fortunately, it takes a lifetime to work at this refinement of ourselves. And really, we need a lot of time to practice.