I love words! I love discovering new words, hidden meanings, pronunciations, dialects, and inspirational quotations. I enjoy playing word games as well. Learning to read at an early age opened a multitude of worlds for me. It still does. I’m happy to share new learnings with those around me, whether in conversation or through my writing. Two word lessons came up this week that caught my attention.

While practicing Tai Chi in my living room via a video instructor, he was explaining the type of early instruction he received from a Chinese master several decades ago. Basically, the master would demonstrate a movement and then expect the student to replicate it and continue practicing until it was perfected. All without any type of correction or feedback.

He called that type of instruction “chi ku” style, which means to bear hardships or eat bitterness. In other words, the master expected the student to suffer toward the perfection of the Tai Chi movements, to struggle through it with difficulty until the student got it right, to figure it out without any additional guidance. Heavy meaning for two small words.

Fortunately, the video instructor did not endorse that style of teaching. He discovered that, when he began teaching Tai Chi in the United States (the West), his students didn’t appreciate that type of instruction. They wanted feedback, correction, input as they were doing the movements.

The second lesson came from a Scrabble™-like game app. I spend far too much time playing this app on my phone, so I was pleased to recognize a valuable spiritual lesson in the process of playing.

Aside from the strategy involved regarding placement of the letter tiles on the board in order get the highest number of points, I love the challenge of creating words – as long as possible – with the tiles given to me by the program. Rarely do I “swap” tiles. I simply work with what I have and, usually, it’s enough. My current stats show I win at least 60% of the time.

The thing is long words are harder to place on the board. If you have a connecting tile available, there’s usually only room for the placement of longer words near the beginning of the game, when the board is relatively open. By midway through the game, even though I might be able to create a five-to-seven-tile word, oftentimes there’s no place to put it. If my intent is to score the most points, I have to let go of the word I created and find shorter words, fewer characters, to place in strategic positions on the board.

It’s the idea of disassembling what I’ve created that causes me angst. I’m faced with recreating a word or vision for what I WANT to do in order to make progress (points) so I can have the best outcome (win the game, if possible).

How often are we faced with that challenge in our lives?

We work and plan and save and strategize to create something in our lives, a dream or goal. And sometimes, by the time we achieve it, the dream or goal no longer suits us… at least, not all of it. We might be able to salvage a piece or a different version of it. Like changing majors in college to fit into an emerging industry. Not everything we’ve done is wasted, and not everything we take with us into the future is what we thought would happen, but there we are… making adjustments to our plans.

The gift I often receive is that the new, shorter word and its placement on the board is usually worth more points than the long word I struggled with and couldn’t find a spot to place it.

We can suffer over it, feel like it’s an undeserved hardship, express our angst… or… we can smile about how we’re able to shift gears, change direction, adapt, and stay in the game. Our response is always a choice. I’m smiling a lot these days.