Personal Development

Forget New Year’s Resolutions—Make Lasting Change Instead

It is the time of the year in which friends and acquaintances are posting on social media about their new gym memberships, their new diets, and their plans for finding their passion in the next calendar year. The beginning of the year is a natural time for reflection on our choices and accomplishments in the last year and planning to better ourselves in the next year. Setting goals and evaluating our successes and failures is a healthy practice, and something we need to do to shape ourselves and our lives. New Year’s Resolutions, however, should not be a thing. 

Unhelpful New Year’s Resolutions

Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions because it’s something people around us do. It is a societal expectation to plan to improve ourselves at this time of year, and we are asked to spout out ideas about where we could be bettered. I have made many lists of New Year’s Resolutions, starting in elementary school as class projects. Over the years I have resolved (officially or unofficially) to get in better shape, to lift weights, to lose weight, to cook better meals, to eat more veggies, to find a way to make more friends, to be a better friend, to make more art, to read more books, to be more organized, to have less stuff, to put laundry away after I fold it, to not make piles of junk on the countertops, to dress better, to spend less time online, to be a better partner to my husband, to be more present in the moment with my kids, and I could go on and on… Once you get on a roll listing the areas in which you would like to be “less” or “more” or “better”, it is easy keep going and generate a long list of your perceived failings. 

Let’s be honest—while we all could improve ourselves in countless areas, life is demanding and distracting. If the goal is lasting change that becomes your new reality, having a focused plan of attack is necessary for success. New Year’s Resolutions are not usually created with the level of planning needed to be successful, and are therefore just wishful thinking—like buying a PowerBall Lottery ticket and dreaming about the awesome vacations you could take with extended family and friends. Making long and/or vague lists of what to be better at but then not MAKING THOSE CHANGES HAPPEN is creating a dangerous pattern of failure.

Avoid Creating A Pattern of Failure

Creating a pattern of letting yourself down is easy to do—we are busy and it is too easy to say yes to too many things. For many of us, putting yourself last is the easy choice when we have a lot of responsibilities. We flake on ourselves. We give our time to others at the expense of our own goals. We spend too much time doing things that don’t enrich us or reward our long-term interests. Each time we do this, it reinforces a pattern of behavior that degrades our sense of caring for ourselves.

Say “No” to say “Yes” 

For many of us—this is a big one for me, personally—making the space in my life to say yes to the things I want work on requires me to say “no” to other things that I do not feel invested in.  I have to protect the time I spend on my hobbies from my responsibilities. I study, practice, and teach Brazilian JiuJitsu, and in order to have the time I want to spend working on that hobby, I have to say no to other things. I have to work ahead with my responsibilities to have class evenings free. I schedule social events and doctor’s appointments around class times so I can attend. I prep food for the family for the week on the weekend to free me up and still have decent food to eat. If I didn’t plan to be successful and only made it to class when life didn’t get in the way, I would never be free to go. 

Surround Yourself With Success

Successful people are often successful in many areas of their life. They have figured out the formula that works for them to set and accomplish their goals. Find the people who are successful in the areas in which you want to improve, and join their group! Most interests you could have will have a group you could join to support you and those there who are already successful can teach you what it takes to find your own success. From my own experience in my Brazilian JiuJitsu gym, those who come to class on a regular schedule—regardless of how many times per week they are able to make it—tend to stick around and make progress with hard work and perseverance.  They also tend to be successful in their other endeavors, having learned to manage their time and stick to long term goals.

We become like the people we surround ourselves with, so choose to be with people who support you in your efforts to become who you want to be. If your social circle does not support the person you are becoming, they are not good for you anymore. If your family isn’t supportive, they will always be family, but they can be family you see less frequently until they get on board. Hopefully, you will be developing new relationships as you work your path to successful change, and your new tribe will help push you. 

Make Lasting Change 

Rather than making a New Year’s Resolution or a few of them this year, make a plan of action to be successful. Pick a small change and see it through for a few weeks to create a pattern of success. Then build on that success by adding another small change, and then another. Protect your time by limiting the activities that do not reward you with change toward your goals. Work ahead with your responsibilities to make time for your new activities. Choose supportive and successful people to surround yourself with, to teach and help shape your beginning efforts. These actions will add up, and you will be well on your way to creating an avalanche of successes that is transformative. You will be on a roll and picking up steam to push yourself even harder.

Get Started!

Make calculated, lasting changes. They can start in January, just give them more attention and respect than society’s watered-down New Year’s Resolutions!

Brazilian JiuJitsu, Personal Development

My BJJ Journey

As a middle-aged homeschooling mom of three, on first glance I may not fit society’s expectation of a Brazilian JiuJitsu practitioner or instructor.  This is particularly true if people know that BJJ is a sweaty art and sport in which you wrestle against your opponent for positional dominance and work toward making them submit to joint locks and chokes. However, if these same people were to dive into the world of Brazilian JiuJitsu, they would find lots of people who may not fit their preconceived ideas about who populates the mats at the gyms around them. Our gym is made up of a wide cross-section of society; we span across generations, sexes, education levels, personalities, life stages, body types, races, and religions. There is a place for any interested person who is willing to work hard, be a good teammate, and put themselves out there to try something new. BJJ can fit many people’s abilities and needs, and while we all may have different goals, we rise together and support one another’s journey.

My interest in BJJ started 13 years ago in different city during the “lost years” of parenting babies. A friend of mine trained BJJ and asked me to join to partner with her, and I thought it sounded like something I would love. The time was not right for me then; my husband was in a demanding training program, my babies were little, and we were going to be moving away soon. The idea of training slid to the back of my mind, and life moved forward—we moved three more times, had a third child, and the kids grew up a little. I researched the BJJ options in Green Bay once we settled in, but I did not find a school that fit our needs at that time. A few years later, my oldest became interested in wrestling, and preferring BJJ to wrestling for her, I found that a new school had opened since I last checked. This school, Rilion Gracie JiuJitsu Green Bay under Professor Brady Buckman, would be where we found our gym home and began training as a family.

My kids began classes, and I was itching to start. Within a few months, all five of us were on the mats, spread over three class times. It was hard to make the time to get the younger two to the little kids’ class, the older to the big kids’ class, and my husband and I to the adult class a few times a week, but we put it on our weekly schedule and made it happen.

My observation in watching people start after me is that the students who continue training long-term are the ones who make a modest and consistent training schedule. This is what we did at first. We picked two time slots each week for each person and protected that time, making BJJ the default activity then, not interrupting that time unless necessary. My husband, oldest child, and I wanted to train more after starting to get the hang of what learning BJJ was all about, and we changed the schedule by adding time to allow that.  By the end of the first year, we were training on average three sessions per week.

At a year in, JiuJitsu was strongly capturing my attention. I knew enough to get my first glimpse of how vast and deep the field of knowledge was; a realization I have anew every now and then still, and will as long as I train. I knew enough to be able to have some minor successes in wrestling with my training partners, even the bigger men. I wasn’t “winning” against them frequently, in the most literal sense, but I was seeing myself perform some of the moves we learn in the right situations, and I was learning to escape and defend against my bigger partners.

My second year of training consisted of hours more of watching the kids’ classes, pitching in at the gym with minor tasks while waiting for my kids to train, success in a few competitions, and persistent training.  My blue belt promotion came around the end of my second year. As a blue belt, I began assisting with the kids’ classes, and under Brady’s wing I began learning how to teach, how to make safe choices for the students in their training, and I began to better understand how I need to study to learn BJJ more efficiently. I was now doing 5-6 classes per week, thanks to the addition of a few morning classes that my homeschool-mom schedule allowed.

By halfway through blue belt, I had progressed fairly quickly but was coming to an end of being able to just come to class and absorb what we were doing enough to progress at a rate I was happy with. A frustrating plateau in my progress encouraged me to buckle down harder and again learn how to learn BJJ, this time for the level I was wanting to achieve next, which was purple belt. I made notecards, wrote classes out, and diagrammed flow charts. I tried to move more efficiently and smoothly and connect moves in ways new to me, and to be more assertive with attacking. I had to learn to take the floaty information in my ADHD brain and make it connect in a way I could access it both to relay to other students while teaching, and apply it when rolling. I expect many rounds of re-learning how to learn, and trying to bust though plateaus as my JiuJitsu pathway unfolds in the future.

Just before earning my purple belt, our gym’s class schedule shifted, and I took on a greater role in instruction. The morning classes became mine to teach, I took over a few of the kids’ classes, and started a women’s only class. I have found that I love teaching. I enjoy taking my understanding of BJJ and rolling it around in my mind to find how to best relay it to other students. I love being able to share something that I get so much enjoyment from with others, and to help them piece it together. Teaching also helps me improve my own game by examining my knowledge from different angles and troubleshooting for my teammates.

In May of 2018 I was awarded my purple belt from Brady, and I am working hard to continue my learning and development as well as to become the best instructor I can be. I enjoy helping to provide a comfortable place for all students who are interested to come in and try Brazilian JiuJitsu. I am proud that my women’s class has brought in multiple women to try that may not have been comfortable doing so before, and that some have joined the gym and are beginning their own journey.

Brazilian JiuJitsu has enriched my life in many ways. It has given me a bolder voice for myself and more confidence in being assertive. I belong to a community at the gym who I love, trust, and value deeply. I appreciate that my family has a hobby we all share, and I particularly love that my teen daughter is my frequent training partner, giving us a bond like few other things could. I enjoy the mental and physical challenge jiujitsu offers, keeping me organized and fit. As a mother, I have developed an interest in my life that I am investing in for me, and I am showing my kids through my actions how to work hard, be gritty, have long term goals, and to keep working to chip away at them.

I can’t wait to see where else my BJJ journey takes me. It has been one of the most important things I have done for myself in my life.