Jiu-Jitsu or Mental Health? Part 4: Focus on the Things You Have

5 min read
A blog series analysing the parallels between Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health

Jiu-Jitsu or Mental Health? Part 4: Focus on the Things You Have

A blog series analysing the parallels between Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health

Location: London, England

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Photo by: Anett Meszaros

You don’t have to look very hard to find the “surface level” benefits Jiu-Jitsu can have on your mental health. It can improve your fitness, increase your confidence, help you build a friendship group, test your brain, release endorphins and serotonin, and probably lots of other things that are really hard to spell. But while these are all irrefutable facts, it’s nothing we haven’t heard a million times before about almost every form of exercise.

Beyond the surface, though, lay some intriguing parallels that feel almost as if they were created by design. Jiu-Jitsu and Mental Health are so interchangeable you could be talking about either when saying philosophical phrases, such as: It’s a lifelong journey. There’s always someone better. Focus on what you can control. Tapping doesn’t mean giving up. (Don’t worry, I can explain that).

 In this series, I will break some of these subjects down and delve into the fascinating similarities between Jiu-Jitsu and mental health.

Part 4: Focus on the things you have

“I’ll be happy when…”

This is one of the most powerful phrases in my career development, but also one of the most destructive to my happiness and personal fulfilment. 

Champions are never satisfied; they can step into the arena, give the performance of a lifetime, have critics, fans, and media singing their praises, but the true champion often only sees what they might have done better. It’s how the greats continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible, even when they set the benchmark themselves. 

As mere mortals, we look to these supernatural beings as inspiration, paragons of sacrifice and achievement, while we struggle to keep our shoelaces tied on a 3K run. However, behind all the glory and interviews and endorsements often sits a gaping chasm that can never be filled. 

When looking back from the down-curve of their career, many of the world’s former greatest have  spoken at length about their isolation, obsessiveness, and unhappiness. Some wonder where it all went, unable to fathom why they didn’t embrace the moment more when they were in it. “I’ll be happy when I’m world number 1 again,” they say as they drag their battered limbs into the arena and the unforgiving cage door clicks shut behind them.

How does this apply to you? When will you be happy?

You might be thinking to yourself, I’ll be happy when… I get that promotion; I make my first million, or my injuries have healed up, and I’m back to 100%. But the thing is, you won’t be. 

You’ll never be fully satisfied. Why? Because with that mindset, you’re focusing on the things you don’t have, and by definition, achieving your goal won’t change that. 

Stuart relaxing by the pool…. Photo by: Stuart

When you get the promotion, okay, you might be happy for a minute, but then you’ll discover your new boss doesn’t know what they’re doing. When you make your first million, you’ll decide you need at least one more; I mean, what if you lose the first? And let’s say your body does heal up; that doesn’t mean every other area of your life is firing on all cylinders; there will always be something else threatening to take your attention.

In the ‘90s, Mark Renton told us to choose life; well, now, we must choose happiness. What are you grateful for right now? Perhaps you’re waiting for your blue belt, and you’ve seen three people get promoted ahead of you that you could pop the head off on your worst day. 

“I’ll be happy when I get my blue belt!” you say to anybody who actually cares. Really? You’ll be happy when you’re the smallest fish in the tank again? No, you won’t. You’ll set the next goal. You’ll be happy when you’re helping teach a class or when you’ve tapped out a purple belt in front of the Sambo team. 

The truth is: You’ll never be happy unless you’re grateful right now. Instead of focusing on when you’re promoted, how about seeing the positives in your current situation. 

I’m grateful that I’m spending longer at this grade; the last thing I want is to get promoted and still get smoked by half the white belts. When you go to another gym, do you want people thinking: wow, how is that dude still a white belt? Or Jeez, how is that dude a blue belt?

Stuart with his blue belt…. Photo by: Stuart

There are benefits to focusing on what you don’t have; it can help drive you toward success. But what is success without the fulfilment that comes with achieving it? You must allow yourself to be grateful for the things you currently have and for how far you’ve come. 

Perhaps you set the bar low at first. “I’m grateful that I’m breathing.” “I’m grateful that I got up early for the gym today.” Then you can move on to be grateful for the amazing people in your life, your health, or the fact that you have access to clean water and a Jiu-Jitsu gym in the first place. 

It’s not about deluding yourself. It’s about spending longer each day focusing on the things you have. Then, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be happy long before the day you even realise it.



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