Million Dollar Baby, the movie that stole our hearts as we watched the rags to riches, heart wrenching journey of Maggie, the unlikely underdog turned hero of a grungy boxing gym and underrated, past-his-prime boxing coach.
A plethora of profound words to-live-by and life altering dialogue wash over me as I watch in awe of this woman’s determination, drive and unwillingness to hear “No” or “You Can’t”. But the one line that stayed with me, for years to come, that has popped into my mind all along my short path of life was this; “sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back… But step back too far and you ain’t fighting at all.”
Frankie (Maggie’s trainer played by the legendary Clint Eastwood) is talking about her form, her style. But from the moment it rang in my ears, I heard the depth of that statement, it imprinted on my soul and to this day has never left me.
How often is it that we’re so entwined in a situation, in a problem, that all we seem to be doing is treading water. I like to call it the slump, the trough, the stagnation. Now, there is no one that believes more in the trends of life. The upswing and the downswing. The cycle. Sometimes it’s your turn to struggle and claw your way through an era, and sometimes it’s your turn to bask in the glory of the moment. But that line, it has a strange way of lightly tapping me on the shoulder in the middle of my greatest battles, my cyclical thriller in Manila. (Yes, I’ve fought my fair share of Frazier’s, so have you, don’t discredit yourself.)
1. Own your weakness, own your strengths
“Sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back…” for me, this speaks to the art of detaching, for me specifically, this speaks to emotion. So often I cloud myself with emotion, blame it on any which aspect you like, I’m a Gemini, I’m an only child, I’m a woman, call it how you like it, none of the above offends me, and it shouldn’t offend you either. Understand yourself.
Understand the way you tick, the way you work, when you feel that wave of emotion, own it, label it, indulge and experiment with it. Assess what it helps you create, assess the damage it does if you let it be free, harness it and channel it. Be kind to yourself.
As humans we have this indescribable beauty within us that comes from being so imperfect, and having the ability to acknowledge that. So often the clarity we so desire, that we are so thirsty for, comes from detaching ourselves. It comes from decelerating the panic, zooming out.
Taking that one step back to regain our footing, regain our focus and deliver that knock-out punch, that winning number, the move that brings the crowd to their feet in awe and appreciation of you and your efforts.
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one” – Bruce Lee
2. Don’t step back too far
However, there’s always a “but”. There is a balance to be kept, and our beloved Frankie, Clint Eastwood’s character, brings it home with “But step back too far and you ain’t fighting at all.”
It’s a warning and it’s applicable to every aspect of our lives. Step back too far, and you aren’t even in the fight any longer. Remove yourself too far, cut yourself off, bottle yourself up, and you’re no longer competing. You’re no longer in the game. You aint fighting at all.
It speaks to spectatorizing yourself (yup, I made it up, give it a minute it will catch on). It speaks to side lining yourself. Again I say, be kind to yourself, we are such gentle souls, so delicate, we are so soft and so in need of love and guidance. When there is no one around to applaud for you, applaud yourself.
3. Acknowledge even the smallest victory
I once heard of a primary school teacher who was teaching her little ones to read. One day during class she requested that little Johnny get up and spell the word “cat” on the board. Johnny eagerly got up, ran to the board and in shaky, untrained handwriting Johnny wrote K-O-T. Instead of correcting Johnny straight away, the teacher ran up to Johnny and said “well done Johnny, you got the T correct. Now let us try to get the rest of the letters that you’re missing.”
Be gentle, do not jump to what is wrong first. Give yourself credit where credit is due. Don’t work on yourself because you hate what you are, or what you see. Don’t go into that gym despising your body, it’s been so good to you for this long, after everything you’ve put it through.
Be gentle with your mind and thoughts when learning something new, your brain does a million things at once, over and over, every single day, appreciate yourself. But do not step so far back that you no longer fight. So far back that you no longer compete.
“It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you” – Eddie Scrap
4. Show up on the night
Challenge yourself and change yourself, drive yourself to be what you have always wanted to be, how you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t make yourself a spectator of your own life. You are stronger and more resilient than you could possibly fathom. There is complete freedom at the end of the road of endurance, at the edge of the limits we set ourselves. But we should aim to always discover this positively.
Take that step back in today’s boxing ring, assess your situation, physically, mentally, emotionally… focus… distribute your weight evenly, and deliver life that winning shot.But don’t forget the number one rule; Protect yourself at all times.
Thank you for reading my article! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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