The majority of my life has revolved around sports. I would set goals and "five-year plans" based upon upcoming tournaments and Olympic dreams. I sacrificed proms and Friday night dates for training and traveling. I lived on strict meal plans, eating schedules, and had to wait until after the State Championship each year to enjoy my birthday cake. But with all the medals and accolades I received to reward my efforts, none compared to what sports did for me mentally and physically.
Six months ago, I handed six of our martial arts students a folder. In this folder contained everything they would need to know and accomplish by the Black Belt Test. For years they had been working towards this ultimate goal, and now the reality of achieving their black belt was within their grasp. For the next six months they had daily fitness requirements, community service, monthly prep classes and physical assessments, all in addition to their normal training regimen.
Over time, they began to change. They became faster. They became stronger. They answered questions with confidence and were motivated to go above and beyond what was expected of them. They were already champions in their sport, but now they were becoming leaders.
This past weekend, all six tested for their black belts. They made improvements of over a minute on their mile times, destroyed their previous push up numbers, and made significant increases in their flexibility, and that was just the Fitness Test. The actual Black Belt Test itself was five hours long and pushed them to their physical and mental limits... but none of them broke. I could not have done it better myself, and my heart overflowed with joy as I gave them their new black belts.
Maybe they won't realize it now, but their reward for many years of dedication and hard work is not what lies around their waist....it is what that belt represents, it is what they have become.
To accomplish anything worthwhile takes commitment, perseverance, ambition, patience, blood, sweat, and tears. Be proud of all your hard work and the steps it took to get where you are today. But remember to look beyond the promotion at work, the number on the scale, or the shiny trophy, for the person you become during the journey is your highest reward.