I really enjoy the process of fighting. Not from a physical violence aspect nor as a way to settle something (it is not). But for what it represents as a metaphor in life. If you want to win you have to commit to it. I struggled with this concept for years outside of my study in Japanese martial arts. By nature most people are cautious and getting more information is a measured way to support a safer conclusion. But sometimes we can over analyze a situation, something referred to as “analysis paralysis”. I see this all the time in business settings for example. A decision gets put off until another study is done, or more people are consulted. Or in a personal development setting it’s pretty common for someone to look at themselves and know they have a problem that needs action but refuse to really do something to make their situation better. That can be anything from changing careers to quitting smoking. I never fully appreciated what committing to something meant until I decided to test for black belt. I knew I wanted to be one but there was always a tentative feeling of “can I do this” or “am I ready” in the back of my mind.
Are You Exploring or Just Being Tentative?
When we don’t commit to either starting something or we have told ourselves that we will take a specific course but don’t willfully follow through we are either searching for more information or are being tentative. This really applies to very vanilla situations we face in our lives whether that is setting a goal, undertaking a new activity (I want to start working out), looking at a new way of doing something (“I am not going to date another bad boy – Oh he’s cute”), or making a change in direction in life (“I want to spend more time with my kids instead of working”).
When change isn’t occurring its pretty common to fall back on the crutch of still exploring or gathering information or deciding that we want to do “this” whatever this is. There is nothing wrong with getting more understanding about something but at some point:
You have to commit to make a change and then you have to escalate momentum as you go for it.
This seems obvious but it isn’t in a personal development context to go from thinking about committing to actually doing it. It’s actually worse to partially commit, where you say to yourself you will do something and than it is only halfhearted. And that’s what this post is about – escalating the process of committing.
The Greatest Athlete You Never Heard Of
I am martial arts geek. As I said above, I love fighting. Watching it, analyzing it, it’s my thing. The final of American Idol is on right now? Sorry, I’ll be over at ESPN classic watching Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns. One of the greatest modern day fighters of the last 40 years is a relative unknown in the US and much of the world. His name is Fedor Emelianenko widely considered to be the greatest mixed martial arts champion in the world. He has been compared in the sports world by other major athletes to Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. I’m a big fan of Fedor. Aside from his incredible level of talent, his work ethic is astounding and he is a very humble person. By comparison to others he is not necessarily bigger in size and if you look at him on video or in a picture he doesn’t have the physical stature that you would expect. He has a bit of a belly and he isn’t particularly muscular compared to his peers. And it doesn’t matter.
Fedor, like any good black belt, commits when he attacks. It takes a lot of physical training to sequentially and simultaneously throw kicks and punches at an opponent without stopping. More importantly, it takes serious mental resolve to start an attack and not stop it until you get to the conclusion you need. It takes full blown commitment and achievement to commit and win.
Escalate and Don’t Stop
Once you have decided you want to change you need to actively work to break out of the situation you are currently in. This is not easy and a lot has been written about this. One of the techniques we teach in karate is increasing severity of escalation in attack. The idea is that you start with a basic technique and increase the severity and lethality until you either get compliance, the opponent backs off, or worse (for the opponent). I turns out this same general principle can be applied to increasing momentum for change in habits or behavior.
Below is video of Fedor Emelianenko that I’d like you to watch to get this point. I am a big fan of visual teaching, as I have written about here. Don’t concern yourself with the first couple of minutes unless you are interested in his life story (which is very inspiring). Also, I’ll warn you now that this is a little brutal as this is a mixed martial arts match. So if you are true pacifist you probably won’t want to watch this.
I’d like you to pay attention at 3:03 in the video and then for the next 30 seconds. Look at the following:
- Commitment to the goal (he starts the attack)
- Escalated level of commitment to get momentum on his side (increased severity with more punches and strikes)
- Tipping point that changes the dynamic (escalates by bringing the fight to the ground)
- New position provides control (successfully changes the rules to get the outcome he wants)
These 30 seconds represent a framework for change. He commits to his goal, goes for it, doesn’t stop, adjusts to keep his momentum going and ultimately wins the match. A lot of training had to occur for him to do this. But it doesn’t really take that much more to change your own personal habits to do this in any situation. OK, don’t go off and slug somebody, I am not saying that. But once you commit to something, go for it and escalate your own involvement to keep yourself in the frame of mind until you get momentum. That can happen quickly if you focus on it and don’t let off. If you don’t do this you’re the person Fedor just took down. I use the process described here for personal change all the time.
Step into the battle of self and mind and commit to winning over fear and acting tentatively. To pursue commitment of purpose is to have dedication, one of the 6 Elements. I hope you see what I am getting at and can make the jump from the fighting ring to your own life’s goals.
And the reason people don’t “go for it”? It’s because they don’t want to get hit in martial arts parlance. Thanks for training with me.