"Let no act be done without purpose." -Marcus Aurelius

This week’s blogs are grounded in lessons derived from reading that have applied directly to my practice of Jiu Jitsu. In our first post, Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird gave us a mental framework with which to approach something as vast as Jiu Jitsu. Now we turn to Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to learn from his second habit: “Begin with the End in Mind.”

Knowing The Game We Play

We operate within a value hierarchy. Simply put, if everything had equal value, we wouldn’t do anything, because there would be no value in obtaining a different orientation to life than the one we currently possess. Our set of values provides us with an internal measuring stick with which to gauge experience. With this heading, we now have a quantifiable relationship to our experience: there are tools, that which brings us closer to our aim; obstacles, that which impedes our movement toward that aim; and our largest category, that which is irrelevant.

Begin with the End in Mind

Within this chapter, Covey teaches that everything is created twice: first something is created in the mind, and then secondly it is manifested in the real world. He then makes an important distinction:

“It’s a principle that all things are created twice, but not all first creations are by conscious decision.”

It is this conscious decision which is simultaneously our greatest freedom and responsibility.

This post is not about getting better at guard passing or learning a better way to foam roll your IT band. This is much more important. This is about why you do Jiu Jitsu in the first place, and we each must answer for ourselves.

If we do not consciously understand our value hierarchy, and thus know what we aspire toward, it is extremely unlikely that we will fulfill our potential.

So I ask you, the reader, what do you value? What meaning have you created that makes the suffering of Jiu Jitsu worthwhile? What drives you to push through fatigue, soreness, and mental weakness as you ascend the ladder of skill development? What heading have you chosen that allows you to aim nose first into stormy seas?

I ask because Jiu Jitsu is and always will be difficult.

The Rub

The only way to grow is to struggle. No matter how much skill you cultivate, you will always find ways to optimize your training sessions: handicapping yourself to create the level of resistance required to grow, regardless of your partner’s ability. As a sincere student your experience is no different whether you are a white or black belt: we must always venture into the unknown for a better understanding of this art.

This will never be easy, so you need to make sure it’s worth it.

Each of us stands to gain immeasurably from our time spent in this art, but in order to do so, we must understand what it is we seek to gain in the first place.

What do you strive toward? Whether your goal is to lose weight, learn how to defend yourself, or compete, when you make this a conscious decision based on purposefully-chosen values, you become far more capable of achieving your intended aim.

We see the world in the context of tools and obstacles, but a tool is only useful when you know what your project is.

Begin with the end in mind. It’s the only way to reach it.

Want to read more about Jiu Jitsu? Check out Chris’s new book, On Jiu Jitsu. Want to try Jiu Jitsu for yourself in the Florence/Burlington, NJ area? Sign up for our Introductory Special now!