“There is no end game!” I found myself telling a boxer.
He’s been using boxing training and metaphors to help strengthen his self awarenesses and increase his personal communication and business skills. He was operating in a very linear system of thought and it’s the first thing I thought. Plateaus to him mean stagnancy and lack of movement actually means backward steps. He was seeing a summit and forgetting that you always have to come back to where you started.
Backward and forward are the only directions that exist in linear thinking. Supposedly forward is good and backward is bad. But, let’s go to the ring to test that theory out. Is it good to be moving forward the whole time if you are getting hit 3-4 times just to land 1? Is it bad to move backward if you are running your opponent into your consistently hard shots? What about lateral movement? How much can lateral movement open up your perception and your options? Is lateral movement the lack of forward motion? To think in a simple linear way means you think there is an end game. Something to achieve and then your done.
What happens after a boxer wins a championship? Do they stop? No, not usually. There is always a defense of the title around the corner. There are non title matches that have to happen in between. You can lose the title and win it again. There is NO END GAME. Linear thinking hems you in…it’s like having horse blinders on. It’s like wearing shackles and thinking you are free.
I’ve been holding myself to even steeper standards of communication and training skills as I’ve been delving into the effort it takes to change my own linear thinking. Steeper standards as I experience what it takes to change the paradigm of punishment and reward. To change the paradigm of some ultimate ending. I hold myself responsible for the outcomes I am getting……..not to say that the boxers aren’t also responsible, it’s just that my responsibility is just that, MY Responsibility. I’ve realized it is my job to give them the opportunity to break through these mental barriers and have access to their physical skills. My job is to show them the process and that there is no end game. To give them a chance to invest in learning and movement in all directions. We can shoot for goals and accomplishments, but to stay true to being Constructively Dissatisfied, we must know there is no end all be all. We must be in love and hate the process. We must succeed and suffer and be prepared to turn around and do it some more. We must see that every step, no matter the direction is imperative to our growth and future performances.
Boxer, poet, and educator Laura Wright Landrum summed up the process of boxing and life in a beautiful post:
the morning after [boxer edition]
A split decision, a close fight. they said a bad call by judges, it was mine for the win. Regardless of a win or loss, I wake up angry, frustrated, disappointed. I’m tired of coming up just short, especially when I feel there’s more inside me. I think about it–I’ve always been able to get by: was always smart enough, athletic enough, driven enough…[fill in blank] enough. The ring, however, does not accept enough. It requires every ounce of you, 3 minutes at a time, day in and day out. Competition really exposes you: it reveals how you see yourself, your trust in your training and corner, your willingness to risk and so much more. And sometimes after competition it’s hard to sit with yourself. The morning after feels like unwelcome residue, like heart break, knowing how many hours we’ve put in, how bad you want it. Though uncomfortable, this is a really important space for me to be in–to listen to myself and feel these emotions. For me, right now, it’s about owning my space, and what I want to have happen; I want to shake loose any remnant of apology that still clings to me and be provocative. bold. bossy. Boxing is calling me out to be a greater and unapologetic me, no longer compromised by docility– I am humbled and I am grateful for a sport and a coach that doesn’t let me squeak by: who won’t let me walk away content because we know there is so much more to do and own in that sacred space between ropes. #forward
Our thinking is revealed physically when you strap on a pair of gloves. When we physically understand and see our processes, we can then continue the process of making decisions to make changes in our practice and performance. Sometimes we walk backward a lot to get some space, sometimes we step to the side so we can advance at a new angle. No matter what, we are in fluid motion with No End Game.
That is the beauty of boxing as it relates to life and how life in turn relates to our boxing.