Mens sana in corpore sano, the ancient saying goes. It means “a healthy mind in a healthy body”, and time has proven its validity. It is, in turn, valid the other way around as well: to have a healthy body, you need a healthy mind. The mind is often neglected by many aspiring athletes who focus all their efforts on turning their bodies into high-performance fighting machines, ignoring the strain their intense training puts on their mind. It’s not enough to train your muscles, after all, it’s not enough to read all the latest home styling tips for sports fans and surround yourself with sports memorabilia, and it is plain wrong to force yourself to train even if there is a voice in the back of your head that tells you otherwise. In short, your mind and body have to work together for the same goal.
How many times have you seen a youngster see a YouTube video, a movie, a presentation or a match and decide that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or any other martial art or sport) is “cool” and want to take it up? And how many of these youngsters have actually pursued their training with the necessary passion for them to last more than a few months or even a few weeks at the gym? Finding the idea of learning martial arts or any other sport “cool” is not enough – one has to find the passion for training day after day and improving oneself to succeed.
Going to the gym, the dojo, the field because of a cool movie or because one’s parents insisted to do so (it happens quite often in many sports) will hardly result in true success in any sport.
Author Mark Manson once wrote that willpower is like a muscle – it has to be trained to work at peak efficiency. It doesn’t have to be overtrained, though. His example of a new diet was the perfect depiction – it works great for a while but after a week or two, “you’re back to your old late-night, Cheeto-loving ways”.
Willpower – combined with passion – is essential for becoming a successful athlete – after all, training hard is not a very pleasant activity (it involves a lot of effort, sacrifice, and sweat).
Last but not least, learning to fail and accepting failure are also essential parts of becoming a great athlete. After all, nobody can get into a gym for the first time and lift 500 pounds or successfully take down a seasoned and experienced opponent after training just for a few days (the movies telling you so are simply lying). The road to success is paved with failures – it’s important to embrace them, to see them as learning opportunities, and to actually learn from them in order to improve yourself.