Recently my friend Christopher Dealy (former guest on the Get Ups & Gis podcast) made a post that I thought was fantastic. He has had a lot of success as a Jiu Jitsu competitor, and the post was in reference to “everyone likes winning, but not everyone likes doing what it takes to win” (paraphrased). That is absolutely true in BJJ, and yet it is not exclusive to that – it can be extrapolated to any athletic or fitness endeavor, and frankly in most areas of life.
Of course, one of the messages here is that success does not happen without hard work and preparation. You can’t just show up on competition day and expect to do well if you have not put in the work to prepare for that day. This could be a BJJ event, a powerlifting meet, a marathon, the day you try for your first chin up, or your SAT exam in high school.
There is another part of the message that I think is equally important, yet seems to be much harder for people to process. In particular I think this is harder to process for people who are heavily “goal oriented.” What I am referring to is basically people who develop so much tunnel-vision on “the goal” or “the competition” or “the race day” or whatever, that they can develop and unhealthy and unproductive relationship with the training process.
Why does that matter? Here is a FACT of training for anything: progress is never linear. You are going to have sub-par days. You are going to have bad days. In fact, every once in a while you are even going to have downright awful days. You might even have something come up that creates a multi-day set back, such as getting sick, injured, or having something unexpected come up that keeps you away from training. The more “goal oriented” of a person you are, the more value you place on achieving your goal, the more easily these bad days can shake you, and possibly even begin to turn into self-doubt and depression.
This creates an interesting dichotomy – a situation that requires an ever shifting balancing act. If you want to accomplish hard things you must be goal oriented to a degree, otherwise you’ll never be able to put in the hard work needed to achieve it. The goal is there to remind of you why you are putting in all the preparation and hard work. Simultaneously, you also need to be OK with the reality that some days are just going to be worse than others – there is no avoiding it. So, how do you find that balance?
I picked up a great saying a few months ago from the late Trevor Moawad in his book “Getting to Neutral.” The saying, again paraphrased, is that when things don’t go your way, “It is OK to have emotions, just don’t be emotional.” I absolutely love this. If you are passionate about your goal, then of course you will be frustrated / angry / bummed / upset when you lose or have a bad day. That is only natural to feel those emotions. At the same time, you can’t let yourself “get emotional” about it – you can’t start telling yourself that you suck, you’ll never win, you’ll never get better, and all of those other negative thoughts. Bad days are part of the journey. Losing is part of the journey. How you process it matters.
Should you be goal oriented? Absolutely.
Will every day be your best day? Of course not.
Should you let yourself experience natural emotions of frustration and even disappointment when things don’t go your way? Yes, that is natural.
The key takeaway: Should you make emotional decisions (such as giving up or quitting) when you have a bad day? Definitely not.
Once again, long-term success is never linear. The people who have the greatest long-term success are able to develop a love for the process of training – both the highs and lows, the good days and the bad days. If you can develop a love for the process – the ENTIRE process, not just the fun parts – it will be one of your biggest assets when it comes to long-term success.