I’ve recently been watching the National Geographic series “Limitless” starring Chris Hemsworth. During the show, he explores different ways of increasing his chances at longevity, from physical strength to cold endurance to fasting.
I didn’t expect myself to actually be inspired by the show, but I was. I’ve been trying little things like making the last 30 seconds of my shower be in cold water and working out on an empty stomach during weekend open mat, and the process has been an eye-opening experience. Surprisingly, it’s not so much in the physical benefits, but in my feelings about the whole process.
Even in the past year, with all the work I’ve been trying to do in terms of self compassion, I’ve felt a huge pressure to make major improvements in my life. Major not only in the sense of scope, but major in terms of emotional burden and mental energy. Combined with a sense of idealism about what a future me could look like, these efforts would often manifest in large shifts in my lifestyle and finances.
Often times, these efforts would be unsustainable long term, either because they were unrealistic given certain constraints or, typically, because I put so much pressure on myself to attain results that I ended up always feeling miserable.
Slowly, I’m accepting that I’m going to be a slow bloomer, and that I’ve always been one. My preferred way of operating has always been to take in as much information as possible before acting. It has been tempered by both corporate and jiu jitsu experience, but it still holds strong within my personality. And so, by the same token, forcing changes to try to happen too quickly has always been a source of stress. Some things just can’t be rushed.
I no longer crave to be a prodigy in some area, to run ultramarathons, or to become a jiu jitsu world champion. Saying that aloud scares me because I used to see that as complacency, but it also is a relief, because it’s true. The transformations now that I try to look for are slow, small, yet significant.
For example, I’m learning to smile and say hello to my teammates more at the gym, and to try to make an attempt to learn people’s names. This new intention is wrapped up in a larger story of my aspiration to be a leader through connection, instead of the enigmatic character who says little and gets away with it because people think they’re “good.” (And look, in jiu jitsu, this won’t work anyways because there’s always someone better than me.)
But while this story is significant to me, I’m consciously trying not to give it an outsized presence in my life and daily thoughts. This is how most goals in my life have burned to a crisp, through a grotesque evolution into An Obsession. And with most Obsessions, I find myself in the depths of Despair, where I begin to wonder if making myself miserable is actually worth the supposed reward.
Maybe this essay is a long-winded way of saying that as much as I do want to change myself in jiu jitsu, so that I may possibly Win More Prizes, I don’t want to change myself in a way only for that reason. The changes I want to make will hopefully bring me closer to happiness, not further from it.
I’ve been so unhappy with how parts of my jiu jitsu journey has been so far, and the common thread has been that I strayed too far from myself because I was afraid of who that version of myself actually was. Instead of facing my greatest fear, I chose to torture myself through avoidance and let others dictate who I needed to be.
Every time I’ve wanted to quit jiu jitsu was because I felt like I needed to be more than what I was or wanted to be, before I was ready to do it. The choices I’ve made in the direction of authenticity are likely not the same choices one would make for success. But then again, maybe I should redefine success instead of redefining me.
There is a chance that I’m going about this wrong. There is a chance that no matter what path I choose, I will find suffering. Yet if that’s the case, perhaps it is actually a stronger argument to give myself permission to accept who I am in the present, and not to be constantly striving unreasonably to unwise decades of ingrained patterns ASAP.
I used to believe that thoughts like this basically amounted to giving up on myself, my goals and my dreams. But I have also found that every time I give myself permission to just be, I end up accomplishing more than I ever realized. Far from giving up on myself, I’m giving myself a chance. A chance to live life without feeling like everything needs to be changed and transformed with extreme urgency.