It is so often the case that the most profoundly useful lessons appear the simplest, while actually being the hardest the apply. In Yorkshire they have a saying “If things don’t change, they’ll stay as they are.” We all know it. So why does it take so long to sink in? If we want a different outcome, we will need to do something different. I heard a definition of insanity once that described it as doing the same thing repeatedly in the expectation of getting a different result. Someone says, “I’m on a diet just now” and you reply, “Weren’t you on a diet this time last year?” “Yes” they respond, sheepishly “I seem to always be on this diet.” And you want to scream “Why? It’s not working, is it!”
The University of East Anglia has a motto, “Do Different.” If you want something to change you have change something, you have to Do Different. Start something new. Consider how to achieve your goal, or decide where you want to be, then work out the steps to get from where you are to where you want to be, and then take the first step. You can only win your goal by taking action.
When life is raining blows on you, if all you do is try to block them, eventually you will get beaten down. When you ‘crisis manage’ your life, constantly on the back foot, just dealing with one problem after another, when you just defend yourself, blocking one blow as the next one is coming in, all you will ever do is postpone your eventual and inevitable defeat. Sooner or later, one blow will be too hard, or you won’t react in time or you’ll misjudge the angle of attack, and you’ll go down. I remember explaining this to someone who had said that they only wanted to learn to defend themselves as they didn’t ever want to it someone. There was a point when a light appeared to come on in their eyes and they actually began to shake as they nodded with realization saying, “Oh my God, that is the story of my whole life; my childhood, my work and every relationship I’ve ever had.”
Do Different. Move. Step aside. Do something different, if you want a different result. Attack! Take the offensive line. How many times have we heard that the best form of defence is offence. As in Kung Fu, so in life generally.
We all know this is the case. So why don’t we do it? Because, change is scary. Action is scary. Because you have to believe that another result is possible and because continuously loosing at life crushes your spirit and beats the fight right out of you. One night when I’d just finished work at a night club and was leaving the building to head home, I had to deal with a guy just outside the club. He was just slapping his girlfriend around the head; quite hard. She was cowering against a wall, with her arms trying to cover her face. I don’t know how many times he struck her; several in the time it took me to get across the road. After persuading him to leave the area, I asked her why she put up with it, she explained that if she moved out of the way or tried to hit back, she was afraid it would make him angry. If you hadn’t guessed yet, yes, when he got angry, he would slap her. She just didn’t believe she could change things. Only when you believe you can change a situation can you start to consider how.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” If you can take one step, you can take another… and another. It might take time, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll arrive and the time was going to pass anyway. Each step makes success more believable and only when it becomes believable is it ever going to be achievable. It’s the first step that is so often the hardest. If you can learn to make the first step an instinct, an automatic reaction, the rest of the journey becomes believable and therefore possible. Taking positive action can become a lifestyle. Once you can start a course, join a gym, choose to so no, look in the jobs listing, ask that person out on a date; whichever is your hardest first step. Once you can take one first step in one area of life, you can believe, not only in the possibility of a second step, but also in your ability to take a first step in another area of life, that’s what I mean by lifestyle. Once you have made one journey that looked impossible before you began, the next will not be so daunting. It’s not your first marathon that’s the hardest, it’s your first step out of your door to do your first run. After that, the marathon is just another step. Kung Fu literally means “achieving success/excellence though hard/disciplined work.” Disciplined in this context means that you take one step at a time and keep taking them.