Change. Many of us spend a great deal of time, money and energy trying to avoid it yet somehow it always seems to find us and often at the most inopportune time. It is an understatement to say the past few months have brought a lot of change for many people. Some falter because of it, others flourish.
Resilience is a person’s ability to cope with change. It is generally understood and agreed that more one becomes able to cope with change stress, anxiety and depression are less common. So, if change is inevitable, the question becomes how do we become more resilient and better able to flourish rather than falter?
There are numerous approaches a person could take to become more resilient. Many are effective and each person must explore, experiment, and discover what works best for themself. I am partial to the martial arts and here’s why.
Becoming more resilient means being able to better handle stress and adversity. The only way to truly do that is experience it as much as possible in a controlled environment. The dojo literally translates to the “place of the Way” in Japanese; meaning a training hall where the person finds their way. It is a place of support and growth through trial and adversity.
School and university settings tend to spoon feed information, providing some challenge via testing and case study, but do not use failure as its primary driver for advancement. The martial arts dojo is one of the very few places where adversity is promoted and a critical component to the development of each student. Information and mastery of technique are incredibly important, but foremost is the holistic growth of each student. Confidence. Esteem. Respect. Fortitude. Toughness. No amount of memorization produces those qualities. Only trial and tribulation.
Anyone who has ever been on the mat with a room full of grapplers the first time will attest throughout the next hour of rolling you face some demons, feel a plethora of emotion, experience physically and mentally exhaustion while contemplating quitting countless times. Nearly every effort put forth is discounted and discarded like a bear playing with its cubs. It is a harsh reality check of how vulnerable you are as a person and how broken you can feel.
Intense training and sparring forces a person to be in the present; focused on the task at hand or get pummeled (figuratively and sometimes literally). Mindfulness and self-awareness bring your thoughts back in tune with your body and emotions. Students are forced to acknowledge their “losses” and make changes accordingly. The support and camaraderie within the dojo creates an environment conducive to growth as everyone is participating and at various stages of the process. Students help one another, passing on tribal knowledge and ways they pushed through their own plateaus and barriers.
If training intensity is gauged properly then those losses continue over and again at each stage of progress. Time, consistent training, and deliberate practice begin to change the person’s reaction to those losses. Despair wanes and confidence grows. Confusion is replaced with calm. Failure and discouragement are cast aside in favor of a growth mindset and opportunities to learn. Mental and physical toughness become part of the student’s fabric. These traits begin to carry over into other facets of their lives. Stressors and issues at work, life, and home are less dramatic and managed easier.
Once you have stood in front of someone intentionally trying to punch you in the face, I am confident the co-worker who once posed a threat and undue stress will no longer. Starring down the barrel of a gun puts a lot of things into perspective. Do it enough times and you begin fear a lot less.
Everyday Is Training Day – Reap What You Sow!