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If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you

It can be hard, but knowing that you’ve given up is harder.

I’ve never been the sporty type. I still recall with dread that horrible feeling of being forced to race against my fellow classmates during PE at school. The annual cross-country challenge which had us racing through the local woods was always an embarrassment as I stumbled past the finish line, mud-splattered, nettle-stung and trailing near last place.

It was somewhat of a surprise to myself then, when I decided to take up martial arts a few years ago. I had previously done a spot of boxing during university and I quite enjoyed it, despite getting constantly destroyed whenever we had to spar.

I had no desire to become a black belt or some kind of master warrior, I simply fancied a hobby to keep me in shape and pick up a few useful self-defence technique (because living in a city inevitably means encounters that you’d rather avoid!), but after a few months I found myself getting quite involved. The pride of passing your test and earning your first belt, finally learning a tricky move after weeks of failure, and noticing that you’re not as pathetically unfit as you previously where are all things that really kept me interested.

I found myself feeling more confident at work and presenting designs, getting up early at the weekends for a run, not to mention having more energy and generally feeling positive and happier. There is also a strong association between exercise and creativity.

The most important thing to gain, however, is the persistence to keep going and battle on. I can’t tell you how many times, during fitness drills or intense sessions, that I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and go and have a little weep in the corner.

But you can’t.

My martial arts instructor has a saying “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” and I think he’s right. It rings true in many aspects of life. Exercise is hard, relationships are hard, honing a skill is hard, running business is hard, and life in general can be pretty hard!
You don’t learn or develop a great deal when you’re sat pleasantly in your comfort zone, it’s the times when you struggle and flounder yet manage to make it through the other side that really develop your skills and character. It’s the persistence and tenacity, probably even over ability, that gives people the edge.

So, when times get hard, just think how much harder it will be to look back and know that you’ve given up.

photo credit: Yoann Gruson-Daniel via photopin cc

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