Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Were You Thinking?

Have you ever had a bad habit that you wanted to change? Ever noticed how, the more you try to change that habit, the more control over you it seems to have? If you are trying to stop doing something, then the more you think about NOT doing it, the more you want to do that thing. It can be disheartening and make you feel like you are incapable of "getting better" in whatever area it is.

What I have been learning is that, the best way to change a bad habit is not to focus on that habit or on changing it. The best way to change is to focus on the healthy replacement that you want to adopt in it's place. For example, if you want to eat healthier, going around all day thinking, "I will not eat that chocolate. I will not eat that chocolate," will make you think about how much you want chocolate. You'll be binge eating snickers and kit-kats by 4 pm. But, if you spend your thoughts thinking about creative recipes that are healthier, you will be more likely to make healthier eating decisions.

The general idea is that the focus of your mind determines your actions.

Sounds obvious. But I think a lot of times I--and other people--sink our own ships by focusing on the negative instead of the positive.

In BJJ, it would look something like this: You are having trouble with a certain position. Say, bottom side control. So, before grappling you think, "I'm not going to get into bottom side control. I'm not going to get into bottom side control." But, where do you end up? Bottom side control.

What I have been trying to do instead is focus on what I DO want to do, instead of what I don't want to happen. Instead of thinking, "I don't want to get into bottom side control," I think, "I want to pass." Instead of my mind being focused on bottom side control--even if it is focused on avoiding bottom side control it is still focused on bottom side control--my mind instead focuses on a positive action; passing.

I know this sounds like I am just playing semantics, but it has been working for me. If I start worrying about possible negative outcomes, I tend to see those become the reality. On the other hand, if I think about what I want to accomplish, I see a much higher success rate.

For me, this does NOT mean laboring over the details of a specific pass in my mind, like, "I am going to grip here and then shift my weight there." I think of very general things like, "I want to pass" or "I want to sweep" or "I want to escape". Then, I go by instinct, trusting the hours and hours of drilling and previous grappling that I have done and trusting my muscle memory to know how to accomplish those goals.

This helped me a lot at my last tournament. Instead of focusing on possible negative outcomes--like being taken down or submitted--I tried to keep what I wanted to do at the forefront of my mind. It helped me to manage my nerves because I had a plan (a very lose, general plan but still a plan) and it helped me keep my confidence up because I was thinking about my strengths instead of my weaknesses.

I don't know if that makes sense or not. But it is really helping me to grow both on and off the mat.


D said...

Thanks for your blog. It has encouraged me to start one of my own: .

Liam H Wandi said...

Makes perfect sense. I do that with everything and I learned it from Jiu Jitsu. Instead of saving up (which will get used by something I suddenly discover I NEED!) I buy shares with my money. Instead of wondering what to do with my hands in BJJ, I do something with them then evaluate the outcome.

Hmm. Maybe you need to constantly utilise your knees so they stop finding their way to people's faces ;op