The topic on my mind lately has been the pursuit of goals, and no wonder since I have been thinking a lot lately about my own goals in the sport and whether or not I will be able to come out of retirement and return to what I love (read more about that here). Regardless of whether you are chasing athletic goals, weight loss goals, career goals, or goals of another sort, many of the keys to success are the same.
In Part I of Staying the Course, I discussed the value of community. While being a one man show is often possible in many scenarios, surrounding yourself with a community that supports and enhances your journey will only increase your odds of success and enrich your life.
Part II of Staying the Course focused on finding the right mentor to gain the knowledge necessary to achieve your goals. No goal is possible without the proper knowledge, and it is important to embrace the fact that not all sources of information were created equal. Whether you gain the knowledge you seek through books, instructors or mentors, make sure the teaching style is appropriate for your learning style and know the credentials of the person you turn to for that knowledge.
Part III and IV switched to a more fitness related focus on goals. I explained the dangers of becoming too attached to the scale, focusing on health factors instead of aesthetics, and practicing patience by adopting maintainable lifestyle changes instead of playing into the yo-yo fad diets that have become popular in today's society. However, while I discussed the scale and maintainable lifestyle changes in regards to diet and fitness, the same concept should be kept in mind for any goal. You have to become an expert at practicing patience. Yes, work hard, but cut yourself some slack if your success doesn't manifest overnight, and stop measuring your progress or comparing your success to the success of others every day. All good things take time. Patience. Patience. Patience my friends.
And finally, I would like to close out this series of articles with the best advice I can give on the subject of chasing your dreams. Embrace the journey... ALL of it. No matter what type of goal you are chasing, you are going to have extreme highs and extreme lows in the journey, and it's important (and valuable) to embrace both "altitudes". Nothing outside of my career in combat sports has better shown me that it's in the middle of life's struggles where we learn the most beneficial lessons. When I win, oh man does that feel good (SWOON), but while I try to remember that no fight, even a fight well won, was fought perfectly and there is always room for improvement, it is very difficult to see the flaws in your performance while your hand is raised in the air. On the other hand, when yours isn't the hand raised, it is much easier to see where you need to improve and thus continue moving forward toward your goals with an educated plan.
In the case of athletics, if my head is too high in the clouds after a win I have my coaching staff there to ground me and, despite walking away with the win, seeing where I need to improve for the next fight. However, not all "goal-chasers" have those people to guide them, so it's important to remember in your journey that when things are going really well enjoy that, but don't ever forget to look for where you can improve as well, and when things are getting tough and not going the way you want, learn from the lessons you are being shown. An important point to make as well is just as you can improve despite winning, there are still things you did perfectly despite losing.
You may experience some major setbacks as well. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it. In my case, the setbacks came in the form of injuries, but in hindsight I can see those injuries were actually blessings in disguise. They helped guide me in my self-improvements. When I broke my hand in October of 2012, I wasn't much of a kicker in my fights. I was more of a grappler at the time so my interest was in getting on the inside so I could take it to the ground so I tended to "box" my way in. Muay Thai is known as the art of eight limbs though, so when I broke my hand I took that as an opportunity to improve my kicks. In fact, there is a video of me working my kicks on the bag right after breaking my hand with my arm in a sling and me doped up on pain killers to take the vibration the kicks were sending up through my body. Now, I'll admit a GREAT deal of stubbornness and unhelpful anger is being shown here. Really what I'm doing here is throwing an adult version of a three year old temper tantrum. I lost my fight because of breaking my hand in the first 15-30 seconds and I was pissed about it, so I had NO patience to wait on improving. However, it serves as a great visual that while my hand was useless that did not mean I couldn't work on improving elsewhere.
By the time my hand was healed and I was released to start training again in January of 2013, I was a much more confident kicker. In fact, I had become so comfortable with setting up my kicks off my jab that I essentially quit using my hands in sparring. Plus, I'll admit after breaking my right hand I was a bit gun shy to use it. So another gift in the form of a setback was provided me just a month and a half after returning to training when I tore my LCL and hamstring when a training session turned south in February of 2013. That was a devastating setback as it took me out of training for a full year. I was allowed to do very little stationary training (upper body lifting and light mitt work as long as there was absolutely no pivoting of my lead foot), but refusing to accept a year hiatus, I trained what I could and was forced to find my comfort zone once more in boxing.
While at the time I thought those two setbacks were going to be the end of my career, they made the time and space I needed to focus on improving as a fighter so I could enter into my professional career. When I was released to begin training again in March of 2014, I was immediately offered my professional debuts in both kickboxing (with Glory World Series in May 2014) and MMA (with Resurrection Fighting Alliance in July 2014).
It took a while for me to really embrace that all things happen for a reason and if we can find the gift within the setbacks we'll both enjoy and grow from the journey that much more. Since then my journey has been fraught with many more perils and setbacks, but I have learned to embrace the lows with the highs. Doing any less will detract you from your goals, or worse simply drive you crazy. I know this is not unique to my journey, which is why I chose to close out this series of articles with this gentle reminder: All journeys are a roller coaster, and remember at some point in our lives most of us liked roller coasters.
A lover of words, magic, and the idea of changing the world by encouraging the pursuit of one dream at a time. Living the dream myself as a professional boxer, kickboxer, and MMA fighter.