Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Get up eight?

My friend Al Peasland (completeselfprotection.com) recently pointed out that a Japanese saying, which I had cherished for ages as a source of wise assurance, was essentially flawed.

“Knocked down seven times – get up eight” sustained me through some sparring sessions that I thought were pretty heavy at the time. It kept me going back to training, when I really wanted to get the hell out, in much the same way (with the benefit of hindsight) as the western clich├ęs about not being a quitter had previously kept me in relationships that weren't working and jobs I hated.

Many times I felt grateful to the saying about getting up again – surely it was important to keep pursuing my training goals to the very end, no matter what the hardships on the way might be.

But - without being a quitter I'd still be chain smoking a constant stream of hand rolled cigarettes, and drinking whiskey on my own when everyone else has gone to bed. And worse...

If you get knocked down seven times you only need to get up again seven times, right? (Thanks,Al) Or is the eighth time simply you falling down by your own efforts? Again.

That's how it was for me.

For me the eighth time was always about doing the wrong thing at the wrong time – usually for the right sort of reason, but still, the wrong thing, for me. At that time.

Have a think about that one.

The jobs weren't necessarily bad ones, my partners in the poor relationships weren't intrinsically bad people, and neither did I have to view myself as a bad person when things didn't work out. I just thought all those things because I didn't know how not to.

Similarly, the style I was flogging a dead horse in is an excellent one, and the dojo is filled with lovely instructors who are dedicated to their art.. It just wasn't for me. And I felt awful that it wasn't, but didn't know what to do about it. And got very very frustrated and upset.

It was just another thing added to the swirling mess of racing thoughts which kept me awake at night. The ones that arrived moments after putting my head on the pillow, making sleep impossible, no matter how tired I was.

One silly little thought would lead to another slightly bigger one, and so on, and before I knew it I would find myself overwhelmed by a storm of things that needed doing – a storm so large it had no beginning and no end, and certainly had no discernible way of taking action on it.

The answer? In the end it was very simple. Make a list.

I made a list of all the things that were troubling me. All the outstanding jobs, bills that needed paying, letters that needed writing, vehicles that needed work, articles or stories that were clamouring to be put together rather than sit in my head poisoning me. There were vet appointments to be made, clients to ring, lifestyle changes to be introduced. Ideas for projects to be got off the ground, favours to be returned, new customers to be marketed to, jobs to be applied for, weight to be lost, new habits to be formed. Or old ones to be broken.

Sound familiar? I hope not. But I bet it does.

When I made the first list, later transferring it to a succession of tiny notebooks that are easy to carry safely everywhere I go, I began making a contract with myself, which removed those things that needed doing from my over-busy mind and put them somewhere I can refer to, and, more importantly, do something about; freeing up my mind for more enjoyable thinking. Or no thinking at all. It's up to me now.

Make a list. Do the easy stuff first. Carry the list everywhere and add to it the instant you think of something, even if you are in bed in the dark trying to sleep. Especially if you are in bed in the dark trying to sleep. That way it's not lingering in your mind as a nagging worry. Do the easy stuff for a while, without thought of the big-ticket items, and something magical begins to happen. You grow bigger muscles for dealing with the things you've been hiding from, and you begin to relish the challenges.

Do it incrementally, like learning to drive. You don't go out on the motorway on your first driving lesson. For most of us getting off the driveway is too much at first, but lesson by lesson we get to the point where driving becomes automatic and we can't imagine it ever having been hard.

Practice is all it takes. Put some practical stuff in place, by reading Geoff Thompson, or Jim Lawless, for instance, or about meditation techniques, or by studying your religion a little more closely; and then just practice being whatever it is you want to be.

Don't flog dead horses, and don't expect the same old routines to take you somewhere different. These days I train in environments that are not so different really, to the one I moved on from, I just fit in better is all. No one's fault, it's just the way it is, and it was only a fluke that led to me moving on. I'm not still in my first job, or living with my first girlfriend either, and that's okay too. For everyone.

Learn to trust your own instincts again - and don't worry about getting up more times than you are knocked down ;-) because (and this I promise you) a life that is well lived and free from crippling, but pointless and avoidable worry makes you much harder to knock down in the first place.

Especially when the knocking down is being done by yourself.


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