Preparing for the unknown is tricky. As human beings it is comforting, and dare I say easier to know what is ahead. But is it really? What if I told you that there is more struggle sometimes hanging in and around the comfort zone? What about wonder and imagination, where do they fit inside the brain, within the human experience and outside the comfort zone?
There is so much value in the unexpected which we miss out on if we don’t embrace our own potential during times of adversity. It is not the difficult situation itself that we need to focus on, but in how we respond to it when real personal development begins. The choices we make along the way dictates the outcome. The preparation we put into being ready is most valuable when we stay ready, for anything, always. Let’s explore more….
What do I know about preparing for the unknown? I was a competitive boxer and remained undefeated for 4 years. It was my job and always in my best interest to ready myself for anything my opponent had to offer at any time. In the #sport of boxing we thrive on the element of surprise and revel in the ability to make effective adjustments along the way.
Some people would argue that a real #champion is one who can learn from a loss in the ring and come back stronger to redeem themselves in the form of victory. Although I have certainly learned from plenty of losses in my life, this was not my personal experience inside the ring. How did I do it? I attribute my success in the ring mostly but not limited to these 5 principles which I focused on during training camp; preparation, repetition, rituals, teamwork & visualization. We will look at each of these in greater depth in the following paragraphs.
If you follow #boxing, then you might have heard the opinion that the most conditioned athlete has the greatest chance of winning the match in the later rounds. Pure talent, speedy skills and brute strength does not guarantee victory.
If the match ends quickly because one fighter overwhelms the other, the result is most likely either a KO or referee stops the contest or the opposite corner throws in the towel (FYI the act of throwing in the towel is not an official decision, I am using the term loosely here). In this case one might argue that the winner’s skills were not tested enough. Perhaps it wasn’t a good match-up or it was an easy match-up made on purpose for specific and strategic reasons. As fighters we grow and improve in the ring after the bell rings. Our opponents and sparring partners are our teachers and we can only realize our true strength when the stakes are high and the pressure is on.
So if we approach life like a boxer, we plan on the metaphorical KO but always prepare to last the distance of a full fight in fine form. Train hard, fight easy is the motto.
Now looking back on my fight #career I can identify what it was that kept me in check, on point and on a winning streak:
Study my opponent. Look at her patterns or tendencies. Check out her weaknesses vs my strengths and vice versa
Food. Literally prepare food. Preferably healthy food. Every single day. Healthy food is fuel. Fuel nourishes the body and feeds the mind.
Schedule. Make training a priority. Put it in my calendar if I had to but I rarely had to. Training is part of the fun. Find the fun in the training.
Gym bag. This is where I would store and transport my arsenal. My toolbox. Treat it with respect and always keep it clean, organized and ready to go with proper gear, equipment, music, backup gear, extra socks etc….
Practice makes progress. It is in the repetition of moves, thoughts and concepts where I could anchor my confidence and a greater sense of accomplishment.
When I first started training in boxing to compete in my early 20’s, I was horrible at jumping rope. Really bad. I was almost embarrassed considering everybody else in the club was so seemingly seamless!! Geez, I really wished in that moment that back in grade school I had hung out more with the double-dutchers at recess instead of chasing the boys around either kicking, throwing, catching or dribbling some sort of ball. But I had to learn in the boxing club. If I wanted to lace up the gloves and eventually take it into the ring, I had to learn feet first. To this day, one of my favourite things to teach my clients is jumping rope. I like to coach them through that point of frustration which I remember so well. I show them what repetition literally looks like (in the mirror or by watching someone else skip rope) and what it sounds like. The sound of the rope clicking against the floor. Over and over. Longer and longer. Repetition is key. Repetition is soothing. Repetition = confidence.
Record and celebrate progress. If I could skip for one minute straight and only stop 2 times as opposed to the 3 last time, then I knew I was improving. And as I tell my students still, once you can complete 1 minute without stopping then you can do 15.
· Matching my socks to some part of my outfit makes me feel good and happy. Colour to colour or pattern with pattern and I never mix logos. I stick with #Nike all the way: I know the cuts and love the shoes so I keep it simple that way. I find comfort in matching some parts of my outfit. It makes me feel complete, organized, fresh, balanced and extremely powerful. I don’t question this about myself. I simply know it works for me, so I just go with it. Sometimes I wonder if there are O.C.D. tendencies in my approach to dressing for the day. It doesn’t bother me that I’m fixated on my socks, although it has prevented me from being on time on many occasions. Over time I have learned to incorporate extra time for sock picking because being on time is important to me. The key here is to know what rituals work for you and how and when to implement them.
Who is in your corner? Who is on your side? Choose wisely
Know the difference between people who are genuinely happy for you (usually they are pretty confident and content people themselves ) and people who just say they are happy for you but show you otherwise. Pay attention.
Know the difference between being confident and acting cocky. Don’t be fooled by cocky.
The people you surround yourself with will have immediate influence on you, whether you know it or not.
Learn personal boundaries and recognize unhealthy relationships early on.
Haters and naysayers play an important role too, but you don’t need to invite them over for dinner.
5) Visualization - What do you want and what does it look like? If you can’t see it in your mind first then you will never ever believe it enough to achieve it.
Every night for a couple of weeks leading up to a fight I would visualize what I wanted to happen come showtime. Every single move. I would watch every detail in my mind, as if on a movie screen. Jabs, slips, ducks, combinations, patterns and possibilities. And repeat. I would visualization winning, my arms being raised in victory and listen for my name being called out confirming the decision.
Punching combos in bed; before slumber, during sleep and upon wakening. Repetitively and obsessively. 1,2, slip, 2, 1,2 side step, 6…..I even punched in my sleep sometimes. Ask my boyfriend who shared a bed with me at the time.
When I would watch it in my mind I trusted my body to remember and respond accordingly. It is magic. Believe in magic, it will take you places.
As you can see, these 5 principles can often overlap in practice. For example, repetition reinforces being prepared. Visualization feeds into repetition. Rituals might involve or depend on the people on your team. When overlap happens, it strengthens your purpose and builds a deeper sense of your core work in progress.
When you read over these 5 principles again, make it relatable to you and your needs right now. You may not be a boxer preparing for your next fight, but it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared like a boxer, ready for whatever your opponent has to offer. Whoever and whatever your opponent is. When we train for the unknown we take our power back from uncertainty. We take back control in knowing that whatever presents itself in life, we are ready, sharp and in shape. Now that to me, is comforting.
Oh and 1 more thing: winning is not everything. It is what it means for you. But as a boxer, winning was not only a choice I had but a decision I made.
Train hard, fight easy. Seconds out.
For more on how to think like a boxer and live as a champ visit my previous #blogpost: