You’re having difficulty making a change in your life—with your martial arts training, your diet, or something else. Here’s an activity that will help you understand WHY you’re not changing, and make it far easier to finally make that change in your life.
But before we get into it, I need to point something out: change is difficult. When we contemplate making a change in our lives, what typically happens is we experience ambivalence. We experience a resistance to that change. This reluctance, however, does not make us weak. Does not imply that we’re unmotivated. Does not mean that we’re lazy or messed up. “What’s wrong with me? I want to make this change but I can’t get off my butt!” Nothing is wrong with you. That resistance is totally normal and expected.
Let’s do this activity now so that you can see why.
Pull out a piece of paper and a pencil or pen. You’re going to answer four questions. But first, what is the thing you want to change in your life? Write that at the top of the page. Is it a change in your diet? Is it a change in your martial arts training? Do you want to get more sleep? What is it? Write that down now.
The example I will use as we go through these questions will be training at a dojo a few nights a week, for someone who has not been doing so regularly. So this person has been skipping classes or hasn’t been in awhile, but wants to train regularly, but has had a hard time making this change.
So now we’re going to answer the four questions.
#1 – What is GOOD about NOT changing?
What are the benefits of not making this change in your life? What are the benefits of staying the same? The way things are now: how is this working for you? Because you’re doing things this way for a reason. There’s some value in it for you, or you wouldn’t be doing it. So what is it? Write this down now.
Let’s consider the example of this person who wants to train at the dojo regularly, but hasn’t been. What is good about not changing for this person? Well, if they don’t go to the dojo, they get to do other things. Maybe they get to watch their favourite tv shows. Maybe they get to read a good book. Maybe they get to have quality time with their partner or family or friends. Maybe they get to have some quiet time to themselves. Maybe it’s the only time of the day when they don’t have a zillion things to do, and they enjoy having that free time and not filling it with something else.
There are good things about not changing.
#2 – What would be BAD about changing?
How would this change disrupt your routine? What might you have to give up or lose? Because you will have to give something up. You will need to change your routine. You will need to sacrifice something or make some trade-off. So what is bad about this change? Write this down now.
Back to that example. If this person does start training at the dojo, they will need to give up their relaxing evening on those nights, and give up that time to watch tv or read or whatever else. They will need to travel to the dojo, possibly through busy traffic. They will need to train when they get there, even if they’re feeling tired or stiff from working at a desk all day. That workout might be really difficult too. They might feel exhausted after. They will need to shower when they get home, and wash their uniform, and possibly make another meal if they’re hungry, so they can’t even relax right away after that training session. All of this might mean a later bedtime than usual, so on those nights they might get less sleep than normal, which might mean they’re more tired the next day. And they might be sore or tired the next day from the training sessions themselves.
There are bad things about changing.
Answering these first two questions can help us see that our ambivalence to changing is totally normal and expected. Look at all the good things you’d have to give up! Look at all the bad things that go along with that change! Of COURSE you’re reluctant to change. It makes total sense when you look at it this way.
But of course, you do want to make that change. So we need to answer two more questions.
#3 – What might be GOOD about changing?
If you made this change, how would this help you? What are the benefits of changing? What new possibilities or opportunities could open up in your life if you make this change? Think about this now, and write it down on your piece of paper.
Back to our reluctant martial artist. What is good about training at the dojo regularly? Well, this person will become better at martial arts. They will become more experienced, and be able to move up in rank. Their fitness level will improve. Their health will improve. Their body composition will improve. They will feel more confident in themselves. They will have a healthy outlet for stress and aggression. They will be part of a community, which will offer social support and friendships. Their mental health will improve. They will develop strength and resilience. They will look like a badass and be able to post cool selfies online.
There are good things about changing.
#4 – What might be BAD about NOT changing?
If you don’t make this change, what bad things could happen? If you carry on the way you have been, what might your life look like in, say, 10 years? Or 20? What is the downside of not changing? Write this down on your piece of paper now.
So back to our example. If our martial artist doesn’t change, and continues to enjoy couch time every night instead of going to the dojo, there will be negative consequences to this. Their fitness level will decline. Their body composition or weight will change for the worse. They’ll start losing muscle. They’ll get worse at martial arts—if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, and this person will definitely see a decline in their ability. They won’t move up in rank in their martial art. Their health might worsen. As time passes, their confidence might go downhill. Their mental health might worsen, as they don’t have that social outlet and that physical outlet for stress. They will lose strength. They will feel disappointed in themselves. And they will be filled with regret over their decision to not make that change.
There are bad things about not changing.
Four simple questions, but they can provide a wealth of information. Change is difficult. There are good things about keeping things the same way. And there are bad things about making that change. No wonder you’ve been feeling ambivalent. It makes total sense now. Your hesitation is valid and legitimate, and you have NOT been sabotaging yourself after all.
But trying to force yourself or bully yourself into making that change when you’re already feeling reluctant: this often results in us pushing back and resisting even more. No one wants to feel pressured to change. Pressure from others or ourselves makes change far less likely, as it just creates more resistance.
You want to make that change, but beating yourself up doesn’t work. But what CAN help is giving yourself the option of NOT changing.
You can say, “Okay. I want to make this change, but I don’t HAVE to. No one is going to force me to do it. I really do have a choice.” And when you say this to yourself, and actually give yourself the option of keeping things exactly the same as they already are, paradoxically, you will probably start to feel a lot more willing to change.
No pressure. No bullying. Just a real, actual choice, with no judgement.
By doing this activity and answering these four questions, you’ll realize that your hesitation is totally normal because change is not easy. You’ll see that you WILL have to give something up. But you will also see that you are giving something up by keeping things the way they are. And seeing it all laid out like this, clear on the page, you will know exactly what you need to do in order to grow. And then when you are ready, and willing, and able to do so, you can make that change in your life. Even if you’re ambivalent. Even if you’re hesitant. No pressure. No bullying.
You’ll make that change because it’s worth it for you.
Show Notes for Episode 17
Change is difficult. If you’ve been struggling with making a change in your life—whether in your martial arts training or diet or elsewhere—the activity we discuss in this episode will help. You’ll figure out the real reasons behind your struggle, and you’ll develop a greater understanding of what will drive you to make that change once and for all.
Thank you for joining me on my martial arts journey, and in the exploration of all the ways we can perform better in life and martial arts.
You can also find me on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/thekarateshrimp
Check out my online courses here: https://thekarateshrimp.podia.com/
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Thank you for listening! Together let’s build a community of strong, healthy, awesome martial artists.
If you prefer the video version of this episode, you can watch it here:
How did you feel while doing this activity? Did you notice a shift in your willingness to change? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section below.