During the Holidays, I read an insightful article breaking down New Years Resolutions.

“Resolutions based on “Will Power” FAIL 80% of the time; Resolutions based on changing the Systems you work in SUCCEED 80% of the time.

Remember, it’s well-intentioned SYSTEMS that make us fat and lazy. You never walk anywhere because it’s too easy to drive your car. Your car, and all the roads you drive on, are a system.

You watch too much TV because you’ve got a TV in your kitchen. That’s a system too.

Loan your car to a neighbor 3 days a week so you have to walk instead of drive. Move your TV to the basement. Change the system.

STOP saying to yourself “I’m going to try harder” and instead, this weekend just spend one solid hour seeing the systems that reinforce your bad behaviors. And then change them. ”

– Perry Marshall

#TBT - Ulysses ties himself up beforehand so he won't he jump overboard to the Sirens.

#TBT – Ulysses ties himself up beforehand so he won’t he jump overboard to the Sirens.


What does this have to do with Competitors?

When someone says they want to be a BJJ World Champion, MMA fighter, etc. one of my priorities is to make sure his mindset and lifestyle become extremely stable.  They have to create systems around their life that not only allow but motivate them to continue training.

Think about the most common reasons competitors stop training…

  • New Significant Other
  • Running Out of Money
  • Injury
  • Personal Gym Drama

Any one of the above situations causes a person to reevaluate long term goals while dealing with emotionally-charged, sometimes short-term, circumstances. Not the best situation to make good decisions from. People also tend to become avoidant and fearful when situations become ambiguous (think the crowds hoarding 10 gallons of milk and 5 bags of salt every time the weatherman reports an incoming snowstorm).  The end result – they disengage from the activity at hand.  Unfortunately for me and other coaches, we need the athletes to stay engaged and be showing up for practice.


A Tale of Two Competitors

In 2013, we had two Jiu-Jitsu competitors suffer the exact same injury. Here we classify a “serious” competitor as an individual who trains five to six times per week, with additional strength and conditioning on the side. Both of these individuals have (had?) the talent and work ethic to win the World Championships. They are both experienced travel competitors. I bring this up because I want you to understand that by every measure, they are ‘tough’ people.

Athlete #1 vanished from the gym after the surgery (“it’s too hard being sidelined and seeing everyone else training hard”). During the time, he also ended up getting a new girlfriend. Even though the surgeon cleared him for practice more than a year ago, he is struggling to maintain a regular training schedule.


After suffering the injury, he was left with an additional 20 hours of free time per week. He filled that free time with new friends, new activities, new routines etc. In effect, he built himself an “anti-training life system”. Even with injury healed, therapy finished, and doctor’s approval obtained, he has to tear himself apart from his new life. No wonder its hard for him to come back to the Grind.

In contrast, Athlete #2 came to me after the diagnosis and requested he be put ‘officially’ on the class schedule, teaching beginners for FREE because he wanted to be obligated. Crazy right?


Unlike Athlete #1, this person did not experience colossal lifestyle change from stage to stage; whether he was healing and teaching, doing physically therapy, or permitted to drill lightly, he was still spending those hours at the academy. His mind remained on Jiu-Jitsu and he maintained close ties with the rest of the team.  As an added bonus, his knowledge and understanding of Jiu-Jitsu concepts expanded through his teaching. Now he is back on the grind and preparing for the 2014-2015 season! In the grand scheme of his Jiu-Jitsu career, I believe the injury will actually help him.

If you are a goal-oriented person, remember it is not just about the desire to achieve and willpower is not enough. You have to set your life up to reduce obstacles and challenges as well as motivate and push you.  Realize that disengagement is the silent killer of goal attainment… the metaphorical death by a thousand cuts.

So what can you do to systematize your life to get the results you want?  Do you need to bring your significant other into the gym?  Do you need to spend an hour on the weekends cooking your meals so you don’t feel tempted to eat fast food later in the week?  Do you need to keep your training equipment in your car so you don’t have to stop home after work and be tempted to take the night off?  Take the time this week to figure it out!

This dog is perhaps the only creature on earth who's willpower is enough to overcome any temptation or moments of weakness!

This dog is perhaps the only creature on earth who’s willpower is enough to overcome any temptation or moments of weakness!