Having been involved in the martial arts since December of 1982, I have seen friends and colleagues being their own worst enemy and they often do it in the following ways:

(1) Caring too much what others think;
(2) Comparing themselves to others;
(3) Jealousy;
(4) Blaming others for their problems;
(5) Having unrealistic expectations of themselves; and
(6) Doubting themselves;
(7) Dwelling in the past.

There are probably a number of things that I left off the list. Suffice it to say that many people end up holding themselves back through various mechanisms such as those listed above. Let’s go through them one by one.

(1) Caring too much about what others think: “What would my friends think if I took this career path?” Really? They are not you and you are not them. Follow your dreams and take the life path that you think is appropriate for you.

(2) Comparing themselves to others: this is a killer, especially in martial arts. This is quite common and yet quite destructive. “My kata isn’t as good as that guy over there.” The only thing that you need to focus on is your own progress, not someone else’s progress. The comparison game will kill you. I once had a student who told me that he was quitting. I asked why. He said “Well, I’m not as good as the others.” I had to talk him out of it and convinced him that the only thing that he had to worry about was his own progress.

(3) Jealousy: this often comes from something that you don’t have. “I don’t have a badass car like the neighbor next door.” So what? Be happy and grateful for what you have. Cherish what you have in life. Let go of jealousy.

(4) Blaming others for their problems: this is a pet peeve of mine. Lou Holtz, the legendary football coach at Notre Dame, once said that, after losing a game, his first instinct was to look at what his football team did to lose the game rather than blame external factors. Almost always, when something goes wrong, it comes back to you. It’s usually something that can be fixed. When you blame others for your problems, you are avoiding the issues.

(5) Having unrealistic expectations of themselves: This is common. Those who have unrealistic expectations of themselves often disappoint themselves over and over. Some get trapped into being overly harsh on themselves and deem themselves to be failures. When it comes to martial arts, come on, it’s just training. On the training floor, there are no winners or losers. We are training to learn how to defend ourselves.

(6) Doubting themselves: Why not be confident in yourself? If you’re not confident, at least fake it until you make it. Doubts can be corrosive. “I don’t know if I can get through this black belt test.” I remember a friend doubting himself so much that he hardly trained at all. Guess what the outcome was?

(7) Dwelling in the Past: This can be harmful in two ways. I have seen some who have revelled in their glory days of the past and remain stuck there. As Lou Holtz once said “if what you did yesterday seems big, you haven’t done anything today.” Unfortunately, there are those who aren’t doing anything TODAY. Then there are those who dwell on some perceived wrong done to them in the past and are incapable of doing anything TODAY. What’s holding these people back? You know the answer.

Hey, just go with the flow! It’s a hell of a lot easier than banging your head on the wall in frustration. 😉

Have you noticed friends, family or colleagues doing the above?


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