It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task, which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome. - William James
“I can’t believe he submitted me again…with the same move!!!
“He is much smaller than me, how can he be so much better???”
“Am I ever going to get my next belt?”
“I suck! I should never step my foot in this place again!”
“How did he tap me out when I was in midair???”
Any of these sound familiar? These are just a few of the many frustrating thoughts and feelings I have experienced on the way to black belt. As a black belt, Jiu Jitsu is still frustrating – there is always someone who is better, and there is always more to learn. There is an endless supply of complicated moves that we are supposed to know and be able to execute under pressure. Meanwhile, feedback on our “failures” is quick and immediate. TAP, TAP, TAP!!!
When our desire to do well meets with undesired results – “That white belt just got the Mount and choked the shit out of me!” – we are likely to get upset and feel frustrated.
When we experience an excessive amount of frustration – we are likely to give up. But some frustration is healthy, and even vital to our long-term development.
Over the years I have tried (and often failed) to make frustration work for me and not against me. Here are some suggestions:
Frustration is an Important and Inevitable Part of the Jiu Jitsu Journey. It is important to recognize that feelings of frustration motivate us to grow. If we experience too little frustration, we wont be motivated to improve – then where would we be? Frustration is a physiological necessity for us to reach the higher realms of our individual Jiu Jitsu potential.
Frustration is a Sign of Growth. Frustration not only spurs growth, it is also the byproduct of improvement. Improving our skills requires us to try new things, be uncomfortable, fail, learn, expand and become more than we were before. Frustration and discomfort are signs that we are exploring new territories and acquiring new skill sets. Frustration is a sure sign that we are growing and increasing our abilities.
Confronting Frustration Increases Confidence. Frustration is a motivating factor. It can motivate us to quit, or inspire us to improve. Giving in to frustration will leave us even more dissatisfied in the long run. That is because working through frustration increases our confidence, while giving up in the face of frustration lowers our self-esteem. Frustration provides us with an opportunity to gain the confidence that results from feeling deeply and not falling apart. Feeling frustrated but staying on target for your goal will let you get in touch with the feeling, deep down, that you can and will figure it out.
Ways to Overcome Frustration. Remembering that frustration is necessary and beneficial can help change our perspective on frustration from an enemy to an ally. Here are some other suggestions for overcoming frustration:
Recommit to Having Fun. Take the pressure off by reminding yourself that Jiu Jitsu is a fun activity. It is a form of play. It is much more than a contest of who won or lost – it is also a creative outlet, a way to get into great shape, a social activity, and much more – all of which can have a very positive impact on our lives. Take the pressure off. You don’t have to be the best – just having fun is a legitimate reason for doing something.
Want It Bad Enough. You are responsible for your own inspiration. Having a strong desire to learn and grow will provide us with the fuel to deal with the inevitable frustration that is associated with learning Jiu Jitsu.
Lower the Bar. It sounds strange, but lowering the bar can replace frustration with satisfaction. Don’t beat yourself up for not training 6 days a week. Commend yourself for making it 2 days a week. If you have a family and a career – that is commendable. If you are home playing video games – less so. Strive to be your best – but learn to accept your limits are real.
Focus More on the Journey than The Destination. Focusing on the journey itself can be enough for the pressure and frustration to subside. Pushing ourselves and striving to be our best can be a good thing, but there is a point at which it can turn on us – and become overwhelming.
The Road is Hard Enough – Adopt a Positive Mindset. Applaud your progress. The road to Black Belt (and beyond) is hard enough. If we continually beat ourselves up along the way it becomes impossible. We can easily become our own worst critic. We all make mistakes – there is no need to magnify them. Focus on what you did well and the areas in which you are improving.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. The natural tendency to compare our selves to others can quickly lead to frustration. Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to where you used to be. Are you better than you were last month? Last year? Better than you were as a white belt? If the answer is yes, then keep going! You will soon realize that you really have come a long way. Time to celebrate, not mope.
Conclusion. Is Jiu Jitsu frustrating you?
You are not alone. It seems that frustration is a natural and normal part of the Jiu Jitsu learning process.
Frustration is an intense emotion – but on the other side we can often find growth and progress.
Like Zen Masters who deliberately lead their pupils to points of maximum doubt and frustration, and even beat them – knowing that such moments will often precede enlightenment. Likewise, Jiu Jitsu requires us to persist in the face of negative emotions, in order to reach a higher level of skill.
Embrace frustration – learn to let it motivate you, and not handicap you. Openly face and accept that it will not be easy – and that is part of what makes it so worthwhile.
Keep training, you wont regret it!