It’s OK To Be Intentional

It was around February of 2012 and I had realized I had been in a funk for quite some time. I had been unemployed since the previous April and it was really taking its toll on my mental health. I decided I needed to do something to sharpen my mental and physical faculties, so I joined an MMA gym and eventually focused primarily on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I trained on and off for about 4 years and because “life happens”, I never made it very far in my BJJ journey. Despite my inconsistency, I learned a great deal about myself. Frankly, there is no room for BS. If you’re willing to make the exploration, martial arts really allow you to bore deep within yourself to reveal surprising hidden truths.

When sparring in BJJ, things tend to happen slowly. A submission, or sweep, or change of position doesn’t usually just happen instantaneously. It evolves. It progresses inch by inch. A subtle shift in weight. An adjustment of a hold. Usually your partner/opponent knows exactly what you’re trying to do, they just can’t stop it. I struggled with this a great deal when I first started training. Since I was so new, I was almost embarrassed to try something for fear that it wouldn’t work and I’d look silly. I didn’t want my partner to know what I was trying to do and hoped a submission would just fall into my lap. I wanted it to seem effortless. I would even sometimes disregard my coach’s advice during a roll because then everyone would REALLY know what I was trying to do. If I tried to do what he was told me and failed, I was afraid I would look stupid, but if I tried to do what he told me and I succeeded, well then I only succeeded because he told me what to do! I was embarrassed to succeed even! Good grief, I was so in my head! It took me a good while before I finally understood what was going on. I was afraid of being intentional. I was afraid of having my struggles and failures out there for the whole class to see. I didn’t want everyone to see me try something and I certainly didn’t want my partner to know what I was trying to do. What if I couldn’t do it? Would everyone think “Oh look, Richard is trying to set up a triangle choke! He is doing it all wrong! What a doofus!”. Of course they wouldn’t think that but that’s what I was scared of.

Unsurprisingly, I made very little progress at first. It took a long time before I was comfortable being transparently intentional with my actions. Because you know what? We were all in the same boat. Everyone in the class was just trying to learn and get better and they were all much more focused on themselves and their own journey to worry about me.

How does this relate to clothes? I realized I had the same problem when it came to my style early on in my sartorial journey. I always liked wearing sport coats and fedoras and bow ties, but I actually never really liked drawing attention to myself. I always kind of wished I could just wear all that stuff in a vacuum and not be noticed. What finally became clear was that I was afraid of being intentional again. I was afraid of people seeing that I was deliberately making an attempt to dress well. What would people think? What would people say?! Sometimes we want to make a bold choice but we fear the looks or the comments. 99% of the time they never come anyway but we are convinced we can read others’ minds. “They’re laughing at me” we think. “I was foolish to try this. To stick my neck out”. In reality, other people care very little about what you do or how you look.

I have learned that it’s ok for people to see you be intentional with your choices or actions. This is a great lesson for your children. Don’t be afraid to try or fail in front of others. That goes for clothes, sports, careers, or relationships.

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