We try everything to develop our characters, especially at this time of year when self-improvement is all the rage. Courses, articles, maybe pep-talks from well-meaning but old-fashioned grandparents. Prepare for the marriage talk, people, it’s a-coming.
For information, these are great but what we really need to make changes are actions, not words. The will to change is created through discussion, either with ourselves or with others, but the actual change is born from working towards it with purpose.
Working out how to do this is tough, and doing it is harder, but if you are looking for a sure-fire way to strengthen your character, here’s your cheat sheet. Sports are a great way to hone good character traits, even if you’re not athletic. Even if you spent your whole school life missing pitched balls and tripping over shoelaces, just trying out these activities can set you on the right track.
Want courage? Ski.
Skiing is a scary sport. Maybe not if you became a competent skier as a child, but as an adult hitting the slopes for the first time? It. Is. Terrifying. The speed, the obstacles and the experts whizzing past with only a few inches between us can really throw our anxieties into overdrive. Because we won’t often be that close to breaking a leg or careering off a cliff.
Doing the stuff that scares us brings out the warrior in us. If we are a little familiar with fear then the big life decisions or leaps of faith we take become far less crippling. A fear of falling on the slopes and in life is inevitable and all we can do is try not to let it paralyse us. Understanding our experiences of fear makes us more likely to power through and put what scares us into perspective.
So, if you’re looking for the courage to take the next step in your life, stare down a snowy cliff on a pair of planks and embrace the fear. Suddenly, our life choices aren’t going to seem so scary, and maybe that is the push we need to finally act on them.
Another sport we might be a little afraid of, especially if we have never done a martial art before. But Taekwondo is one of the best sports for teaching ourselves to persevere. Taekwondo is that crazy martial art that looks like levitation is mandatory. There’s a lot of kicking, jumping and a lot of time spent in the air while performing ridiculously complicated manoeuvres. Taekwondo is a sport that sometimes looks as though it asks the impossible of us.
But if there’s one thing that this awesome sport has taught me, it’s that impossible is nothing. Yes, progress can take a long time, and longer for some than others, but little by little we can achieve something we thought we never could.
Big tasks, whether it be reaching for our ultimate ambition or just taking the next step in our careers, seem daunting oftentimes. By taking up a sport that requires small steps to reaching big heights, we can learn to see the possibility in everything we do.
Flexibility? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Another martial art? They’re good for life lessons even if they do look too much like “rough and tumble.” Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a sport that requires as much brain as brawn, although it may not look like it. This sport involves a lot of ground-work that shares a lot of technique with Judo and wrestling. One wrong move or miscalculation and our chances of victory can be snatched from us in seconds.
Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners learn their opponents’ styles quickly and adapt accordingly, which makes for some sharp, on-the-spot thinking. In the real world, this kind of flexibility and adaptation is invaluable. We must always think on our decisions, but not dwell on them so much that we doubt them unreasonably. This skill of making sound decisions quickly enhances our ability to adapt to sudden life changes. Because let’s face it, life has a tendency to dole out the slam-dunks at all the worst times.
Sports aren’t for everyone, but they are the healthiest ways to hone the life skills that we aim to ingrain in ourselves. Reflection can do wonders for preparing ourselves to develop these empowering character traits, but unless we find situations in which to exercise them, these intentions remain mostly hypothetical.
Let’s do what we promise ourselves we will do on the 1st of January every year. Let’s dive out of our comfort zones and throw ourselves into a new sport that will help us become the people we want to be.