Life is What You Make of it

How to make the most of life’s ups and downs and become a happier, more accomplished person with a few simple adjustments

Location: Moose Jaw

Photo by: Nathan Bernard Photography

In our life, we will encounter many ups and downs that will have a profound effect on our mental health and wellness. Our Jiu-Jitsu journey will either continue through these periods of turbulence or can also diminish if we do not get ourselves in check. Life is ultimately what you make of it and how you react to these situations will determine what your balance looks like. Our ultimate goal is to continue to learn and have fun in our sport/martial art. Not stressing about the small things in your life helps translate to being calm under pressure. We will have to battle internal and external forces as we balance ourselves and the given situation. Life is what you make of it, so you must either accept the changes or find a way to adapt to what is put forward.

1. Don’t stress the small stuff

Life has many stressors and curveballs to throw at you throughout your time on this planet. The trick to enjoying yourself is not to worry about the little things and focus on finding ways to deal with them. In Jiu-Jitsu, you are plagued by small decisions which can induce stress. These include which move you need to react to, getting strangled and keeping calm, or being calm under your opponent’s pressure. On the mat, especially when one first starts, you will have your up and down days. Some days you are the hammer, and some days you’re the nail. You will find that there are days where nothing works for you, you may get demolished during sparring, and you question if you are even getting better. You must realize that the whole room is becoming better. If you hang in there long enough, you can learn valuable lessons such as perseverance, determination, and problem-solving.

You must understand that everyone has struggles; struggle is nature’s survival. Albert Camus once said, “There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” (Goodreads, 2021) You have to realize that you will battle small stressors every day and that if you don’t deal with them, they will snowball into larger problems. You are not alone in your battle of continual stress management. Champions once started where you started with the same annoying issues. Ask yourself, “What separates champions from the rest of the pack? What makes a good leader?” They have the ability to problem-solve and move on from unfortunate situations with ease. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing; worry about yourself, learn from your mistakes, be humble. Famous existentialist Sartre said, “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” (Flavorwire,2014). Once we understand how to overcome struggle, will we be able to take on more responsibilities?

2. Internal vs external

When you are faced with a problem, do you turn to an internal locus of control (Inner self), or do you blame it on an external force (other people)? Some issues that arise are “It was not my fault, I never got a good sleep, my opponent trains way more than me, the ref had it out for me.” We are faced with dilemmas constantly throughout our lives. Jiu-Jitsu is no different. We are presented with a dilemma that will have us utilizing our skills to escape, progress, or survive. Everyone has a different set of stress management strategies or temperaments that allows for dealing with these dilemmas more accurately.

Hard work always pays off, the more you put into having positive coping mechanisms, the better it will be in the long run for problem-solving. It is always a learning experience. It is your job to ask questions and surround yourself with positive people. Having people that lift you up and that are there for you when conflicts will help to improve the quality of your day. Having the ability to cut out negative people will allow you to remain in the right frame of mind. Training Jiu-Jitsu is exhausting, having someone drain your energy mentally is counterintuitive to any sort of progression.

It is imperative that you learn that life isn’t always fair. Some days you will excel, and other days, your training partner will. Understanding that there are both internal and external forces acting on you and that you can not control them allows for you to progress every day. If you have a bad day, you have to understand that tomorrow is a new day. You will have to deal with being injured, sick, and other complications. How you see things differs from person to person. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? The great Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” (Goodreads, 2021) In essence, you are an empty vessel and can fill it with whatever substance you want.

3. Finding Balance

Jiu-Jitsu, much like life, requires balance. A large majority of practitioners are not like their favorite superstar athletes. Most people have families to look after, commitments of being a parent, husband, wife, etc. Most athletes will need to work and maintain a professional life outside of the gym to support themselves. It is a dream to be able to do what you love and get paid for it. Jiu-Jitsu is, unfortunately, a secondary function for most. The key to being able to do what you love is balance. Without it, you will be left with a mess of a situation that ultimately results in hard feelings and forces you to make tough decisions.

Jiu-Jitsu is a powerful art that brings people together. Many times, people share similar training goals, and friendships are made from engaging in combat together. Balancing your family, work and life becomes much more meaningful, and having others with a similar mindset engaged in your journey is phenomenal. Creating an environment where your family can train alongside you makes for a magical time and helps ease some of the burden. Establishing an environment where your kids can train, have fun and learn concepts disguised as games will help to amalgamate balance and family time.

4. Willingness to accept change

Change is inevitable and will always be a part of what makes us human. Nothing stays stagnant, and if it does will most likely deter your progression, which will hurt your ability to remain relevant. In Jiu-Jitsu, it is imperative that you change depending on the situation. You will need to learn to escape many positions and submissions, adapting to what your opponent throws at you. You will have to know when to keep fighting and when to remain calm. Like Balance, you need to accept the changing atmosphere.

These concepts are very similar to dealing with problems in life. If you try and fight a position too long, you will exhaust yourself and become flustered, unable to think properly. A person will break when exhaustion hits. You must have the ability to break down position, understand when to explode, and adapt to an ever-changing opponent. Not everything has to be full force. Finding creative solutions to problems allows for one to expand your knowledge and be allowed to continue developing what you love. Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “We must act out passion before we can feel it.” (Flavorwire, 2014) Learning to adapt on the fly allows for your instinct to kick in.

Life is busy and can sometimes be stressful. We are in a sport where we are constantly under stress and are asked many of the same questions we face in life. We are faced with problems both internal and external that require problem-solving. Much like Jiu-Jitsu, life must have balance. This balance can be achieved through having positive people with similar goals as you. You must keep an open mind and have a willingness to change. Jiu-Jitsu teaches you to push yourself but also solve problems with creative solutions. Life is what you make of it, so you ultimately get a choice of how to move forward.


Albert Einstein Quotes. (2021, June 10). Goodreads. Retrieved June 10, 2021, fromĀ

Existentialism Quotes. (2021, June 10). Goodreads. Retrieved June 10, 2021, fromĀ

Nastasi, A. (2014, June 21). 30 Jean-Paul Sartre Quotes for your next Existential Crisis. Flavorwire.

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