An Overlooked Lifestyle That Inspires Success
As I began to write this article, I struggled with how I would convey the key points to the average person without losing their interest due to the typical misconceptions associated with the topic. I realized that I was biased by my own perspective because of who I have become today and the success afforded to me from this lifestyle. Even more challenging, I also realized that most people don’t even know that this lifestyle exists or understands why it is so effective and self-empowering towards success in life. This is mainly because when the average person hears the term used for this lifestyle they think of it more as an activity, hobby, or even a sport. The lifestyle I am referring to is that of a Martial Artist.
After giving it more thought I figured that the best way to inform you, the reader, was to step back in time more than 20 years ago to the beginning of my own journey. Why did I embark on this journey through the Martial Arts which would eventually become my lifestyle and foundation for the great success I have experienced both personally and professionally?
The honest answer is…fear. It is well documented that fear is one of the most powerful emotions we experience as humans. The problem with fear is that it can impact us in many different ways and sometimes we often don’t even realize when it is happening. Think back to when you were a child. You can probably think of some basic fears you experienced depending upon how far back you go. For the sake of discussion, let’s use being afraid of the dark as an example. This type of fear is very obvious when it occurs. Our heart rate goes up and we feel “scared” at that precise moment in time.
But as we mature and enter adulthood, we start to develop more complex fears. I am referring to the fears that are not so obvious since they don’t invoke an immediate physical response. They tend to manifest themselves in the form of stress or lack of self-confidence. It is these underlying fears that have a direct impact on our successes or failures in life because they cloud our judgement resulting in poor decisions.
Going back to the beginning of my own journey, now with hindsight and more knowledge of how these fear mechanisms work, it is clear that the following fears had some degree of control over me and were limiting my potential.
– The fear of being unsuccessful in my career (failure).
– The fear of being financially insecure.
– The fear of being unable to physically protect myself or my family if necessary.
– The fear of getting out of shape physically both in appearance and health-wise.
– The fear of never making a positive contribution to society (legacy).
Boy, what a basket case I was huh? So many insecurities. Well, not exactly. These fall into that category of underlying fears. They were not obvious to me let alone others that would come in contact with me. I outwardly appeared “normal” if there is such a thing. But I did know even back then that something was holding me back in general. I also felt more stressed-out than necessary considering I appeared to be on a successful path in life. I could sense the inner turmoil and lack of self-confidence when making decisions. Not being fully aware of the forces at work, I still realized that I needed to make some changes.
In my case, having a wife and two children in my early twenties, it was the fear of not being able to physically protect my family that seemed to present itself quite often. Before I had a family, it was only my own neck that I had to worry about. Now I found it increasingly stressful when out in public with my family. The need to be able protect them from danger was even more powerful than the need to protect myself. It was at this point that I began to research local Martial Arts schools. My thought was that in addition to learning self-defense, I would also be staying in shape and burning away the stresses of everyday life.
Sometimes it is that unexpected experience in life that ends up having the biggest impact. After training in the Martial Arts for a period of time I began to realize that there were many other benefits. It is these other benefits that were completely unknown to me and therefore overlooked for some many years. Martial Arts was certainly more than just punching and kicking. When given quality instruction and foundational guidance, the training emphasizes balancing of the mind, body, and spirit. It also promotes gratitude, satisfaction, respect, and humbleness as you achieve your goals. When taken seriously, you naturally begin to apply personal discipline to your life every single day in the quest for this mental, physical, and spiritual balance. It is a never-ending journey since there are always forces (both internal and external) that try to throw us out of balance as humans. It is this discipline and indomitable spirit that makes being a Martial Artist a lifestyle.
Time to look in the mirror and be brutally honest with yourself. How many underlying fears do you possess today? You may have others that I didn’t mention depending upon your upbringing, a traumatic experience, or even your culture. Really think about it. Is it possible that your underlying fears could be holding you back? If you answer yes, you may fit the personality profile of a person that would be transformed by living the lifestyle of a Martial Artist.
To achieve your goals and be successful in life, you must have the ability to both identify and control these underlying fears rather than allow them to control you. This is where the transformation takes place and gives you an unfair advantage over the average person. One of the outcomes of the Martial Arts lifestyle is the development of internal awareness and control over your emotions. This comes along for the ride with that quest for balance I mentioned earlier. So how does the Martial Arts lifestyle enable this outcome? Below are three key drivers:
1) Development of a Goal and Success Oriented Mindset
Earlier in this article I mentioned the need for quality instruction and foundational guidance. All “good” Martial Arts schools will help you to develop a goal and success oriented mindset. This is due to the simple fact that there is always some form of promotional process that clearly defines the roadmap from one proficiency level to another. Whether it is a formal process as in the case of a belt ranking system, or an informal process in less traditional styles of instruction, there is always a process. Keep in mind that a Martial Arts school is still a business and such a process must exist to show students a roadmap for improvement or there would be little motivation to keep training. It is similar to a college education in that respect. You wouldn’t pay money to attend a college if they didn’t show you a roadmap to obtain your college degree would you? The key difference however is that a good Martial Arts school will also teach you how the Martial Arts mindset can be applied to other aspects of your life.
2) Development of Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is initially developed through the physical aspects of the Martial Arts training. When you become more proficient in the techniques, your improved physical strength, balance, breath control, and overall energy level will make you feel more confident. As you gain more confidence in your physical abilities, the goal oriented mindset wheels begin to turn. With each new goal you set and achieve, you gain more self-confidence to set bigger goals for yourself. It is at this point that most Martial Artists begin to notice positive changes in other aspects of their life. Some examples include:
– Heightened senses and awareness of their environment.
– Improved state of mental and physical preparedness to deal with any situation that arises.
– Accelerated advancement in their professional skills or career due to the goal setting mindset developed.
– Willingness to take on new challenges, relationships, and changes in their lives (not held back by fear).
3) Development of Personal Discipline
Your personal discipline defines the day-to-day activities of your lifestyle. It includes the tangible and actionable components of the goal oriented mindset and is fueled by your self-confidence. Your personal discipline is how the balancing of mind, body, and spirit actually occurs. This is the most difficult driver to explain since everyone is different and what works for me on a daily basis from a discipline perspective might not work for you. With that said, below are some practical examples of my own personal discipline to give you a better idea of how my Martial Arts training and mindset have become ingrained in my lifestyle.
– Each morning during the work week before I set out on my day I practice some combination of physical and mental exercises that I have learned over the years from my formal Martial Arts training or interaction with other Martial Artists. I keep this solo practice to 15-30 minutes during the work week so that I can always fit it in. Whatever the combination of exercises may be for a particular day, my goal is to ensure that I get my heart rate up and clear my mind. I need for both of these things to happen to get the most out of the practice session and ultimately my day. These exercises, practiced in different levels of intensity and combination based upon what I feel I may be lacking at the time (that self-awareness I mentioned earlier) may include stretching, strength training, basic movements and footwork, striking/speed drills, weapons training, power breathing, and meditation. The combinations are limitless and therefore my morning routines never get boring.
– I always ensure that I am on a path to continue my Martial Arts journey and development whether through formal class-style training, seminars, or personal interaction with other Martial Artists.
– Last but not least, I always ensure that I have clear goals set in all aspects of my life and continually adjust them as necessary when off track or in need of change due to new insight. These goals typically answer the following questions: What kind of person do I want to be including my relationships with family and friends? What career, professional, and financial goals do I want to achieve? What do I want my legacy to be, however small or large on society?
Are You Ready to Take Action?
The three key drivers above reflect my personal experience and that of the majority of other Martial Artists that I have connected with over the years. There is clearly a commonality in lifestyle even though as individuals we all have different lives. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I never said this was an easy lifestyle. Like anything worthwhile, you have to be willing to be patient and persevere especially through the early foundational training, sore muscles, and physical fatigue that will challenge your resolve. Once you begin to experience the other benefits you will start to see the big picture. Managing the physical challenges of the training then becomes more natural and allows your mental and spiritual balance to occur. It is at this point in the personal development process that most people make the transition from average person to a true Martial Artist. It is at this point that like me and millions of Martial Artists around the world, you cannot even imagine living any other lifestyle. It is at this point that you surely have an unfair advantage over the average person with respect to achieving success in all aspects of your life.