BJJ Tips: More on Goal Setting in BJJ / Grappling II

Wow. What an amazing response the last post on goal setting received on Facebook and via email. I opened my inbox and had 30 emails waiting. I didn’t get that when I got married! Thanks peeps.

Firstly, let me define goal setting so we are all on the same wavelength: The goal setting I’m against (in business, sports, relationships…well, life!) involves establishing specific, measurable and time-targeted objectives (as is suggested in Wikipedia).

An acronym often associated with goal setting is SMART, standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant/Realistic & Time-framed.

I used goal setting for many years. It worked. That was the problem. Allow me to explain.

I set a goal, usually a SMART one, and then built a gradual plan that lead towards the realisation of that goal. I overcame hardships and kept my eyes on the prize and got it in the end. Unfortunately, that was all I got. I missed out on a million beautiful experiences. I literally got what I asked for and an inescapable sense of hollow victory that was always casting a shadow like a dark cloud over my parade.

I couldn't figure it out at the time. I did some research into it and found that it was a common phenomenon, (1 and 2) so I convinced myself that it came with the territory. I convinced myself that it was simply time for new, bigger goals. Nicer, shinier trophies and the cycle continued but alas achieving a bigger goal brought with it a bigger let-down. A bigger, darker shadow. When was I to be happy? When was I to feel contended?

That is when it hit me: Now.

I can either be happy now or never. The verb "to be" can only describe the now. That was the first clue. The first card that fell, and the whole house followed soon after.

I was refusing to live in the now and hence committing the following mistakes:
  1. Making decisions based not on facts of the now but rather part my emotional knee jerk reactions to my perception of the now and part some imaginary future state of mind I had convinced myself coincided with the planned goals.
  2. Kept my eyes on the prize and totally missed a gazillion opportunities to be happy.
  3. Most importantly I started identifying with either the goal, the mission, the obstacles, past memories, feelings and reactions and even sometimes with other people.

Can you have a game plan? Yes.
Do you need one? No.

Q. Without some kind of game plan for getting out from under the mount you're just lying on your back covering your head and feeling sorry for yourself until you get armbarred.

A. When an untrained person is mounted, they will do something to get out from under the mount. The person on top will react to that. That will change the dynamics and geometry of the two bodies.

Will the person on the bottom get armbarred and otherwise subbed a few times? Yes. But there will come a time when the penny will drop and they will learn not to stick that arm out.

Will the person on top get reversed? Yes. But there will come a time when the penny will drop and they will learn how to distribute their weight.

How soon will the penny drop? As soon as they each live in the moment. No later and no sooner* and the lesson will be theirs forever.

Think about it. Mount bottom is not that horrible, in the grand scheme of things. How many people have died or got permanently injured from being under someone’s mount for 2-5 minutes in training? Most likely zero. What’s the worse that could happen? You will get frustrated and bothered. But what if you decided to suspend judgement? What if you decided to experience the position rather than label it as horrible/pleasant/frustrating/elating/sweaty/tight…etc.? You start living it. You start feeling it.

Krishnamurti said once: "If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation." Apply that to everything, starting with the mount-bottom.

Setting a SMART goal by default means you are going to invest in it. Commit to it. Hence, you WILL put the blinkers on and you WILL get caught up in it.

Q. What’s wrong with seeking a “better” position/job/life…etc.?
A. That’s not SMART goal setting. Actually, most coaches will tell you that’s not goal setting at all. “Better” is a judgement. Something is good/better/best is only so in comparison to something that is deemed bad/worse/worst which comes directly out of not living the now. That’s another story that I won’t go into here.

Q. What’s wrong with having a focus in training?
A. Absolutely nothing. I’m a huge proponent of focus. You can’t live the now without having a focus. Focus and Goal are not the same though. Focus is a healthy tool and I find that putting my focus on living in (not for) the moment puts me in a happier and healthier state of mind. An excellent example of that is when passing the guard.

Passing the guard is getting past the legs and they aren’t usually static. By taking that to heart, I’m always moving forward with pressure and soon passing.

Q. Isn’t this reactive? Doesn’t a proactive approach give you more of an advantage?
A. It’s alive. It’s a film, not a picture. The way I see it, “reactive” and “proactive” are photograph-like descriptions of a fluid reality and they depend on when the shutter closed. Going back to the guard passing, I’m always keeping in posture and putting pressure. I don’t need a goal or a plan to tell me to press the action. Half the time when people are doing nothing in someone’s guard, it’s because they are trying to think of what to do and that’s the opposite of living the moment.

Here is another example. You feel hungry. You can make a goal and plan: to go to the Supermarket to get something to cook/eat. This is of course because you have judged the feeling as negative and you must get rid of it. But things change. Feelings and sensations, such as hunger, are in constant movement. Understand the urges by living the now and feeling them. You will soon notice that your hunger will either go away or you won't oversee the 5 healthy snacks you walked by.

Once again though, thanks for reading.

*(unless someone from the outside tells them to!)

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