Wrestling With Your Beliefs


It's been a year since I've suited up for jiu-jitsu. 

I'm sure deep in the folds of my brain there is still some muscle memory left to perform an armbar with precision, but a year is a long time to be away from the mats.

People around me haven't forgotten about my jiu-jitsu life either. Co-workers in my office or my family's friends will bring it up as small talk. Just knowing it was once part of my life seems to make people think I'm still very much into it.

They ask how training is going. It's not. And that's fine. I'm not bitter. Leaving the gym was a consequence of trying to exist in one of the greatest cities in the world: New York. It is not a cheap ticket to take the ride. Jiu-jitsu training was one of the sacrifices I had to make to afford a new lifestyle and focus on new goals. I wanted to explore a world without constant training and getting choked out. 

And the irony is that although no one can take away the achievement of my blue belt, I can't fully accept any compliments paid to the idea that I'm the "fighter" they know. Sure, I've had more experience than most just by showing up at the gym for several years, but what does it all mean for me now?

I can't accept it. While I'm flattered that people consider me a badass, I don't feel like I am right now. If you made the remark a year ago I might have had a different response. But the present feeling is what matters. 

Consider everything you want to be, every goal you want to achieve. Go ahead, really take a moment.

Yes, it's hard to reach your potential and push it even further. If it was simple enough we would have already done it all.

Now consider everything you can do to fake it. If you want to be more fit, what would the fit version of you do right now? If you want to go on a date, what would the most attractive version of you do to make that happen? 

We have the power right now to start on the path to transformation. Jason Silva said it best in an interview with Big Think: "Imagination is the factory that makes legends. It is the beginning of all achievement. To imagine is to perceive many potential futures, select the most delightful possibility, and then pull the present forward to meet it."

This is not The Secret. You can't just imagine something and it happens. I wouldn't just imagine myself a black belt. I would need to join the gym again. I would need to wash my gi, lift weights, eat healthier, and meditate. It would be a process. It would take the next step: action.

AJ Jacobs did this well. In writing The Year of Living Biblically, an exploration of what it would be like to literally follow the words of The Bible, he found himself believing in God just through the simple, daily routine of prayer. 

Reviewing the year with Hunter Maats and Bryan Callen on The Bryan Callen Show, the three agreed that there is some validation to what Jacobs called "deed before creed". We follow the rules and actions we imagine in order to become what we want to be. Maats summed it up in this way:

“It’s easier to act your way into a different way of feeling than it is to feel your way into a different way of acting. That’s the point.”

The mind is a powerful thing. We can lose ourselves to our imagination. We start to wonder: wouldn't it be great if things just happened to us? No work, no hassle, no trouble at all? I'm not too convinced. The struggle of anything worthwhile is finding that belief in yourself. And sometimes the only way to do that is to take the first step, whether you believe there is one or not.