Keep Your Focus on You: Comparison Is a Thief of Joy

“If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself” 

Max Ehrmann

Walking into any Muay Thai gym, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to those around you. 

One Nak Muay’s kick may be more powerful than yours. Perhaps, your training partner has better overall technique or more raw talent. Maybe they are younger, faster, stronger or more aggressive in their style. 

Everyone really is on their own journey. It’s a cliche, but it’s no less true for that. 

Each individual’s life is a collection of wildly disparate variables. Just as you’ll never really know where each person starts with, you don’t know what it took each to get to the point they now inhabit. 

You don’t know how much or how little they’ve trained, how clean their diet is, or how many hours they put in at the office that week. 

You may be battling injuries, illness or mental health issues. You may have a family and a couple of kids at home that is robbing you of sleep. A lot goes into making a good Muay Thai athlete. Some people are physically gifted, it’s true. Others train twice a day and don’t know what a cheat meal is. 

Luckily for you, none of this stuff is any of your business. Just as all the variables that make up your life are no one’s business but yours. 

Comparing where you are on your journey to where someone else is on theirs will leave you feeling one of two ways. Either you’ll feel smug that you’re further along than your teammate or you’ll find yourself lacking, neither of these is useful to your progress. 

There will always be someone who struggles more than you. There will always, always, always, be someone better.

Your job isn’t to compare yourself to your teammates or training partners, your job is to work on your own skills and techniques. 

Instead of looking outwards, ask yourself these questions: Are you improving? Are you faster than you were two weeks ago? Is your footwork better than it was a month ago? Are you able to land more shots when sparring? 

If you can answer yes to questions such as these, you are on the right path. Continue. 

If you answer, “No”, then it’s time to ask yourself why you aren’t improving. Do you need to make a deeper commitment to training? Eat better? Rest more? Only you are privy to all the information required to make an honest self-appraisal.

Let others navigate their own journey. Focus on being better than the you that showed up yesterday.

As is so often the case, Anonymous sums it up best:

“I am in competition with no one. I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone. I’m simply trying to be better than the person I was yesterday.” 

Getting Back Training in a Post-Lockdown World

These strange times have thrown us all for a loop. But, with society beginning to reopen again, the call of the gym can be heard over the endless pessimism of the daily news cycle.

For many of us, the prospect of getting back training stirs mixed emotions of equal parts excitement and anxiety. Momentum is all about getting that ball rolling. Let gravity do the rest.

Overcoming Anxiety

Get the mind right, and the body will follow. Mercifully, for most of us, our primary battle isn’t with the coronavirus but rather the mental toll of the lockdowns and other restrictions. Here are some tried-and-tested methods of getting your head into a suitable space to get restarted.

  • Breathe Right to Feel Right

When we’re anxious, we tend to hyperventilate – often without being aware of it. Hyperventilation can trigger the sympathetic nervous system causing the stress response. This makes us anxious, which increases our hyperventilation which in turn increases our anxiety. And the vicious cycle continues.

To reset your nervous system, try this simple breathing method. It’s backed by the weight of scientific research.

  1. Breathe in through the nose for a count of 4.
  2. Breathe out through the nose for a count of 6.
  3. Repeat for 10 minutes or more.
  4. Do this 3 times per day.
  • Check Your Thoughts

Your mind is where you live. If it is a toxic environment, you’re in trouble. One way to whip your thought patterns into shape is to fact-check your thinking. Don’t let negative thoughts about yourself and the world around you spiral out of control. Layout your thoughts in front of your objective self and analyse them rationally.

Getting through the Gym Door

The first session back will be the hardest. But you’ll remember what it’s like. Halfway through the session, you’ll be wondering why you had to fight with yourself to get here. There’s no reward like the reward you get for putting in the work. But, first, you need to get your butt through the door.

  • Set Reasonable Expectations

Jumping into two-a-days may not be sustainable for you – at least not yet! Starting from a cold start, you’ll want to set yourself up for success by aiming for an attainable number of sessions your first week back.

  • Build on Your Accomplishments

Once you gain a little momentum, set yourself a challenge. Can you add an extra class per week? Define your goals. Is it three classes per week? Five? Twice a day? Your exact target will depend on your circumstances, but you need to set it regardless. Remember, you can’t hit what you can’t see.

  • Harness the Power of a Partnership

“Two shorten the road,” goes an old Irish saying – and for a good reason. Having a training buddy who can hold you accountable is a powerful tool to help you reach your goals. If you’re lucky enough to have such a relationship with someone, leverage it for the benefit of both of you.

Once you’ve shown up, the hard work is done. Just be sure to warm up thoroughly and drink plenty of water. Respect your body’s need to recover and you’ll be back in the swing of things in no time!

Know Your Why – In Muay Thai and Beyond

There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it. 

Napoleon Hill

Most of us know what we want to do. Often, we have a long to-do list to remind us. Unfortunately, for many of us, the items on this list will forever remain undone.

That’s because, though we might be clear on what we want to do, we haven’t drilled down into why we want to do it.

Finding Your Why

Getting to the heart of what motivates you requires self-awareness that can only be gained through reflection. Take the time to uncover the reasons why each item has earned a spot on your list.

For example, one item might be to make it to Muay Thai class three times per week. Your reasons might be losing weight, learning self-defence, and building self-confidence. This same process can be applied no matter what aspect of your life you are examining.

It’s so much easier to fail at your goals when you don’t know your true purpose. 

There are many reasons that it’s essential to define your purpose in all aspects of your life. 

Let’s take a look at the most important of these.

Live a Life Aligned to Your Core Values

Your life takes the shape of the meaning you give it. 

When you know who you are and what you stand for, it is so much more difficult to get blown off course. The decisions you make and the actions you take will express the essence of who you are. 

Develop a Laser-Like Focus

When you know your purpose, distractions fall by the wayside, and all that remains are the things that matter the most in your life. By cultivating a single-pointed focus, you will find a clear path through life’s obstacles towards achieving your goals.

Achieve Clarity

Life is filled with noise. Like a half-tuned radio, it can sometimes be difficult to make out the music. When you know where you are going and why you are going there, your mind will achieve clarity. Your actions will soon follow. The white noise of futile effort will quickly give way to an exquisite melody that will make sense of it all.

Develop Resilience

It’s easy to lose your way, especially in these unprecedented times. Doubling down on your purpose helps you bounce back from those inevitable setbacks that life will throw at you. Fighters aren’t fighters because they win. Fighters are fighters because they don’t lose sight of their desire to overcome obstacles. When the going gets tough, the tough double down on their why.

Live Longer and Prosper

Of course, results may vary! But, we all know stories of people in seemingly perfect health, only to die soon after losing a much-loved partner. There’s a wealth of research out there that has shown that having a clear purpose in life helps us live longer — sometimes, knowing your why can be a matter of life and death.

In the Final Analysis…

Success in life requires hard work and discipline, but none of this is sustainable without a powerful emotional attachment to your purpose. 

Know your why. Make it the engine of your achievement.

What Happens When the Motivation Wears Off?

How to create good habits and develop the discipline to keep training in Muay Thai

There’s no doubt, motivation is a powerful force, but it will only take you so far.

Maybe you decided to train Muay Thai three days per week for fitness and self-defence purposes. Then, lockdown hit your area, and that knocked you for six. 

But there’s always home training, right? Be honest. How long did you manage to keep that up?

You might think your problem is motivation. This is a common mistake.

If you still want to get fit and learn self-defence, you still know what you want to do and why you want to do it.

Lack of Motivation Isn’t the Problem

The real problem with motivation is that it relies too heavily on your mental state. And, like your emotions, your mental state can ebb and flow like the ocean tides.

The real engine of improvement is not motivation. It’s habit. 

Habit will drive you to places inaccessible to mere motivation. Habit is motivation automated and on steroids.

To get your Muay Thai training back on track, start by building powerful habits. 

Here’s how to do just that.

  1. Start Small

Walls are built one brick at a time. The harsh truth of substantial transformation is that if you try to do too much at once, you’ll set yourself up for defeat. 

Minor changes are easier to automate, and they compound over time. From a cold start, get to class once a week and build from there.

  1. Stack Your Habits

One of the most effective ways to create a new habit is to tie it to an existing one. This helps reduce the friction and resistance that works against you.

Think of the shape of your existing day. When do you get up? Commute? Eat? Identify the shape of your day and slide your new habit into a suitable space in that pattern.

Tethering your new habit to an established one is a powerful way to anchor it quickly into your day.

  1. Choose the Middle Way

Buddhists teach the avoidance of extremes in self-indulgence and self-denial. But, you don’t have to be a devotee of the Buddha to learn something useful here.

There’s a viable balance to be found somewhere between degenerating into a Tim Tam-munching couch potato and evolving into a high-octane clone of Jocko Willink.

Choosing the middle path ensures you keep moving forward on your journey at a sustainable pace that also gives you the time to enjoy all that life has to offer.

Build Habits to Avoid Decision Fatigue

The real power of habit lies in that it frees us from the energy-sapping decision-making process. 

Habit helps remove the resistance that waits to ambush us on our way to achieving our goals.

If motivation provides your why; let habit provide your how.

Break Through the Negative Thinking That Holds You Back

Recurring negative thoughts form the biggest obstacles you must overcome on the path to creating the life that you want to live.

These negative thoughts come in a number of forms. Some are obvious; others less so. The first step to clearing these hurdles in your life is to develop the ability to recognise them.

Once you see can see them for what they are, you can begin to break through to become the best version of yourself.

Let’s take a look at a few of these barriers to your self-improvement so you can efficiently recognise and overcome them on your journey.

The Leopard Can’t Change It Spots

It’s true, a leopard can’t change its spots. But you aren’t a leopard and we aren’t really talking spots here.

Often cited as an excuse for failure, this attitude to life presents itself in common statements such as ‘It’s not really my thing’ or ‘I’ve never really been good at x

A little self-reflection here will swiftly reveal the seductive comfort of hiding behind such statements.

Fortunately, there is little scientific evidence to justify wallowing in such a self-defeating mindset. Research has shown time and again that it is entirely possible to create new habits in as little as 3 weeks.

A quick browse on the internet will reveal countless examples of people who have turned their lives around starting from way worse starting points than yours.

Nice try, negative thought patterns – what else you got?

The Curse of Keeping Up Appearances

At the end of the day, you really only have yourself to answer to and there is no hiding place from the man or woman in the mirror.

Most likely, we already know this to be true intellectually, but somewhere deep in our core we often fret about what others think about us. So much wasted energy and effort. Energy and effort that we’d be much better off investing in our martial arts training, or in other pathways to self-improvement.

The truth is, if we act to please others we will be destined to fail. It is simply impossible to please everyone all the time.

To live an authentic life, we need to listen to our own judgments on the best course to take.

While the judgment of others may intimidate, to be judged by ourselves and be found wanting is much more terrifying and unforgivable.

The “I’m Too Busy” Excuse

In the vast majority of cases, this is nothing more than an excuse.

Look, we all live busy lives. Our To-Do lists expand to fill the space available.

But, a brief look at some of the greatest accomplishments in history suggests that the vast majority were attained by extraordinarily busy people.

And you can’t make a few Muay Thai or BJJ training sessions a week?

If you can’t find time to train in your chosen martial art, it’s because you most likely haven’t mastered your time management skills. Or, you have failed to distinguish between being productive and mere busy-ness.

A little time spent correcting these areas will see the necessary space opening up in your previously packed schedule.

The “I’ve All The Time in the World” Excuse

This is the eternal optimist’s answer to the excuse above and, if it’s yours too, know now that you don’t.

If you’re in your 30s or 40s and postponing starting martial arts training because you think you’ll have plenty of time to get around to it in the future, you need to rid yourself of those thoughts right now.

Life is fleeting. It’s what gives each moment its immeasurable value. If you can’t find the time now to do something you are passionate about, what makes you think you’ll find it easier in a year or two?

A dream delayed is a dream denied, to paraphrase a well-worn expression.

A few years back a nurse published a list of the most common regrets of the dying. Topping that list was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.”

It’s at the feet of the negative thinking patterns outlined above that the blame for these regrets lie.

You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, that’s a given.

But, there is no need to suffer the same pointless regret in your later years. Break through the negative thinking that holds you back and you will claim the priceless rewards that lie on the other side.

Believe me, it’s worth the fight.