Just Step On The Mat

So, it’s Wednursday. Or Fruesday, or Whateverday, and you’re super excited about this new thing you’ve found. You’ve been thinking and sleeping on it for days. You’ve researched the crap out of it – The Google is assisting your quest – and you are now highly motivated to get started.

It begins.

You practice as much as possible, every chance you get, to get really good, really fast. You’re shifting meetings, coffee dates, dodgeball, just to slot in a few more practice sessions so you can get to ride the express bus to look-at-me-awesome-skill-town.

Things are going well and it’s all fun and games for those first few weeks or months . . . but then the honeymoon phase wears off.

Excitement fades, and you realize that getting good at skillz is a lot of work. Suddenly you’re getting busy with other stuff or making excuses for putting off a practice session. You start skipping a couple sessions here and there, then end up feeling bad about skipping them. Practice starts feeling like a chore and the passion that you had for what seemed so amazing at the start of your journey kinda disappears.

Don’t feel bad, it happens to everyone. Hell, I’ve gone through this process so many times over the years I can’t even make jokes about it. Let’s just say my aerial yoga career never really took off.

We’ve all heard of the 10,000 hours of practice rule (which is up for debate) and know that we’ve got to put in quality practice time to get quality results. Sports, language, procrastinating, complaining, whatever. Do anything consistently over time and eventually you’ll end up getting pretty good at it. But how do we stay consistent during those times when we don’t feel like practicing?

When I was younger I was all about judo; I trained every single day and competed on weekends. On top of that I did strength and conditioning nearly every day before practice. Looking back, I know that I was doing way too much, but I was young, single, and I had the time. Even in those peak conditions there were days when I didn’t feel like getting thrown around or doing extra training.

There was a time when I was dragging my ass and not feeling the judo mojo, so I brought it up with my coach. He told me, “just step on the mat.”

No matter how you’re feeling you just need to show up, step on the mat, and get started. You might be less than excited to train that day but by at least stepping on the mat you’re taking action. In taking that one step to start there’s a high probability that you’ll finish your practice session and enjoy yourself too. The funny thing is, on days when I don’t feel like practicing I usually end up putting in an amazing session. This nugget of wisdom has been helping me kick myself in the butt for years.

This goes way beyond exercise and martial art practice. Think about a task you’ve started but have been procrastinating with. For me it’s writing these blog posts. 🙂

I could wait until the perfect time when I feel motivated to write, but honestly, how often does that happen consistently? Not much in my world.

So instead of waiting for the perfect hour, I set a time, sit my ass down, and just start writing. My creative juices might not be flowing at first, but once I get going my motivation and energy rises and before I know it, I’ve written an entire article.

The same goes for anything really. The most important thing is to take action and step on the mat, whatever that mat may be for you.

In Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck, he calls this the “Do Something” Principle.

“If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.”

Rather than waiting for motivation to happen he suggests that Action leads to Inspiration which leads to Motivation.

I like that and I really think he is on point. It’s a fantastic book, I highly recommend it.

Before I go, I gotta mention the whole “athlete” thing. When I was young and clean-shaven, I was able to train for multiple sessions every day.  Nowadays I can’t and that’s perfectly fine, hence the beard. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings here, but if you are not a professional athlete – i.e. you are not getting paid to do it – then your thing really is just a hobby.

If athlete is what you’re aiming for, great. But unless you are an actual athlete, it doesn’t make sense to try and train like a professional athlete. They have multiple people helping them with their training, nutrition, and recovery. So trying to cram in as many sessions as possible to attain a professional level of skill is probably going to end up with you burning out and overdoing it.

Look at your lifestyle and figure out a schedule for practicing in a way that allows you to stay consistent.

Find the right number of practice sessions that will fit into your lifestyle. Stay consistent by showing up and stepping on the mat.

My goal now isn’t to become a world champion. Instead, I really want to focus on enjoying the process and practicing what I want to do until I finally check out of life. That means less sessions but with more zest and zeal on a consistent basis. Yeah, there are days when I don’t feel like practicing but I show up, step on the mat and just start. I end up doing more than I thought I would so I’m making progress, and there’s no pressure to put in a perfect practice session every time. After all, for me it’s all about the pure enjoyment of my hobby.

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