There’s only one you. You are made up of bits and pieces of parents and family. You base decisions on friendships, events, and past experiences. You like things a certain way. You are already the person you are meant to be…or are you?
By changing your attitude, magnifying your talents, exploring your uniqueness, and exchanging a few habits, you can celebrate being you, only better.
So Can I
When I was young, I never gave 100% effort. I thought that being average was okay. I played the guitar but never learned to read music.I didn’t strive to make excellent grades. I never tried out for sports even though I was athletic. I thought sitting on the sidelines was acceptable even though deep inside I knew that I had the ability to do better.
In the back of my mind I always wondered if I was as good as the kids who played instruments so beautifully; the students who were deemed the smartest in class; the athletes who helped to win state championships. It seemed to me that others were better, naturally talented, more fit, smarter.
Finally, when I was in my mid-twenties, I gave effort a fighting chance. I decided I had nothing to lose by trying just a little harder. I was interested in being me, but a better version, someone just as good as everyone else. It was not until I took martial art classes when everything started to fall into place. I moved through the ranks without a lot of difficulty. I was eager to learn and always ready for a new challenge. My instructors noticed my intense focus and helped me channel it into katas and skills and Ju Jitsu.
As I matured, and thanks to my martial arts classes, I was able to change the assumption that I was “not as good as others” into a more positive mantra: “if they can do it, so can I.”
- If she can do an advanced kata, so can I.
- If he can kick that high, so can I.
- If they can win sparring matches, so can I.
Then, I went a step further. I expanded my new mantra into everything I wanted to do.
- If he can get his writing published, so can I.
- If she can be an excellent karate instructor, so can I.
- If she can be a great mother, so can I.
For one of my black belt tests, I was pregnant. I went to every class and did every skill all the way up to the point that I tested. The instructors knew what I could do, so while I was allowed to skip a couple of minor sections of the test, I still passed with flying colors. This came in the midst of raising children and working full-time.
My black belts mean more to me than just martial arts achievements. They are life achievements. I am now the person about whom others exclaim, “if she can do it, so can I.” Modifying my way of thinking changed my whole world and it can change yours. You are as good as the next guy, just as smart and talented. As long as you are motivated and apply the “so can I” mindset, you will see a big and better difference in your life.
Let Go of Regrets
We all have regrets.
Something that happened twenty years ago still haunts you; what you said two weeks ago was a mistake; how you handled a conflict was not appropriate. Understandably, you wish you could turn back the hands of time and make a different decision. Our past choices and our mistakes can hold us back from personal success if we don’t let them go.
We want forgiveness. Discussion, prayer, or thought can bring about tremendous peace when we make a promise to try to do better next time. When we tell a spouse, parent or friend that we are truly sorry, and they understand, we feel forgiven. Being forgiven by others is only one part of the process. The other part is learning to forgive ourselves and moving on.
In a way it is selfish to think that the world revolves around our past mistakes. No one else really cares even if we imagine that they do. Our mistakes will not be written into the history books. We are the only ones who can keep our regrets under control or blow them out of proportion.
The next time you catch yourself saying “I wish I had not made that decision” tell yourself “that decision and mistake is long gone. It’s time to move on.” You may need to remind yourself a few times until this way of thinking is your only way of thinking. What you think of as a regret can sometimes also be called a turning point, an evolution, or a lesson learned. If not for that particular moment perhaps you would not have had some of the good experiences in your life. Think about it.
Starting right now, take that one regret that has been bothering you, accept it, then let it go forever. If talking to yourself doesn’t work, then talk to a trusted friend, family member or a counselor about your concern. Get it off your chest once and for all, and know that it is just a small imperfection in your otherwise great big life. Good guidance can help you put your regrets into perspective. We can’t change what has happened in the past, but we can take a big step forward toward our “better” self.
Using Your Talents
Take cues from others! When another martial artist told me that he thought I was a good writer, I listened to his advice, learned from the sources he provided, and started my own website so I could explore my talents and get better at them.
Maybe someone has commented about how beautifully you draw. That’s a good cue to show your work to others, draw more, maybe even sell your drawings. Another may notice how well you organize. That’s your cue to share your skills with others. Help organize a charity event, your friend’s wedding, or help someone move. Natural skills and talents are improved when shared with others. Keep humble, but be open to what others find attractive and special about you and integrate their suggestions into your life.
My father, before his illness set in, loved to play the drums and paint. He shared his drum sticks and paint brushes with me. If I had not seen his talents flourish, I may have never pursued my own. He passed creativity on to me. My written word is comparable to his rhythmic tap on the drum or the colorful stroke of his paint brush. By sharing, he inspired me.
Another way to share your talents and inspire others is to volunteer. It offers a whole host of ways to create a more knowledgeable and creative you. You will have a new sense of purpose. You will meet new people, perhaps even learn a job skill. You can sample new career path, try new experiences, or hone the talents you already have.
Twenty-one years ago, my husband and I taught martial arts for free to high risk youth for seven years, twice per week. We became their makeshift family. There were abuse problems and broken hearts and we were the most consistent people in their lives. Because of that experience I am not only a better teacher, but I am a more compassionate person.
Sharing your talents with your family, friends, strangers, or those in need is a great way to become a better you. Get paid or volunteer, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you don’t waste another day without acknowledging and growing your talents.
Give Up/Pick Up
I don’t even need to ask, I already know that you have bad habits. I have some too. Some I have thought about for a long time. If I just didn’t like sweets so much; if I didn’t need caffeine to help keep me awake on my hour drive into work in the morning; if I only drank more water or got more sleep, I would feel better. I know what I need to do, but I just don’t seem to be able to get there. To make a better you start by dropping one bad habit and replacing it with one new, good habit that makes sense.
- Cut down on coffee/Drink more water
- Eliminate desserts/Eat more fruit
- Watch less television/Write a Journal
- Minimize screen time/Take a brisk walk
Adding a new, good habit can make a huge difference. I’ve seen people lose weight by cutting out sweets. I’ve seen people explore their personal thoughts and become beautiful and profound writers by giving up other habits and putting writing first.
If you are not ready to drop a bad habit first, then start by adding a good habit. Physical fitness and martial arts are great habits that help you automatically drop some bad ones. The more you exercise, the less you feel like eating junk food; the less junk food you eat, the better you feel.
Small changes can make a big difference in your life. You will tap in to better health. You may surprise yourself by turning that brisk walk into a 5k run; your journal may get published in a book; your better eating habits may increase your overall health. Drop one bad habit, add a good one. You, only better.
Celebrate Your Uniqueness
Because you are unique, you have talents and gifts that no one else has. While we may have similarities, none of us is the same in all categories of life. Like a fingerprint, we each make our own mark in this world.
No one can steal your talents or make you any less successful just because they have a similar personality or perform a similar task. Your uniqueness will always stand out. There are many other martial artists like me who are middle-aged, love to teach, and write blogs. They even have similar goals. The amazing thing is that even though there are many similarities, each of us can stand out based on our own personal style.
All you need to do is be you. Others can have the exact same interests, but that makes no difference. Your destiny has nothing to do with them. The facts and circumstances of every situation is different for each person. Your personal approach to life is part of your uniqueness, so embrace it, and recognize that no one can ever be a better you, than you.
Bringing It All Together
I’m thankful that I finally realized in my twenties that a lot of effort goes a long way! I would have never earned a black belt if I didn’t change the way I thought about myself. I still have regrets and bad habits, just like you, but I’m in the process of letting go and trying new things at the same time. My goal is to pursue my passions and talents in a way that can help others be better, too.
What are you doing to be the best “you” ever? Stop the cycle of not being sure of yourself and not forgiving yourself. Proclaim “so can I!” in your biggest voice. Grab some drum sticks and a paint brush and make your life what you want it to be. Let go, explore, increase, change.
I know what I see emerging. You….. only better!
Life coaching is available…to help you be you, but even better!
My book “The Martial Arts Woman” will be published this year!