We tend to think of characteristics in the absolute of the verb to be.
You are courageous.
I am patient.
She is outrageous.
Except we probably weren’t always thus. We became thus.
It’s a small distinction, easily missed and undervalued. I noticed it again when I read this phrase in the subtly brilliant Breaking Out (John Butman):
You become willing to separate yourself from current thinking
That is, by the way, a great question to pose to yourself now or at any time. Are you willing?
While you ponder whether you are willing, notice that the statement actually asks us to test if we have become willing.
1. There is a range of this characteristic. We need not be fully, perfectly, certifiably willing, courageous, patient or outrageous in order to be so. For if we become these things, we started from a state of not being these things significantly enough to claim and proclaim them. We went from zero or a small degree to some remark-worthy degree. And presumably we can gain further degrees if we choose. We don’t have to be all-the way there in order to own and use some trait or situation.
2. Following from #1, a journey is implied. Inside a journey likely much will be learned, experienced, contributed, synthesized, created, observed. In other words, having to grow into a characteristic or condition has much to recommend it, even though most of us would prefer our desired state to be automatic, pre-existing, or by the quick-and-easy button.
3. Those other people–our heroes, models, objects of envy–who possess this characteristic or condition that we want and need, also became so. While some attitudes, skills, traits, and so forth may be to some extent innate or early wired into us, or rather into those lucky others, a lot of practice and polishing (and fumbling and failing) went into the development of that condition into something that is owned, that is a source of strength, honor or success.
This is a nice shift to try on next time you are confronted with a question or accusation (most often from within) about the stuff you’re made of.
Are you authentic, innovative, reliable, ingenious–whatever it is that you’re about to get squirmy about because you just can’t shout Yes, you bet I am!–can shift to Have you become, or are you becoming so?
When you admire or envy the person who really has this trait (in your perception), you can shift from she is so on top of things and they are such a strong partnership to she became on top of things and they became strong partners. None of them started out that way, and none of them are all the way there.
The possibility and the doorway to what’s next are not found in to be. Possibility and what’s next are the province of to become.