Budo: How to Develop Mental Toughness to Overcome Adversity

I’ve always been fascinated with the power of the human spirit. While I don’t watch a lot of movies, I do have to say my favorites are inspirational ones which highlight the will of overcoming adversity despite great challenges. Each one of these movies share experiences of overcoming the odds. One of my favorites is Will Smith’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” which highlighted the life of single father Chris Gardner’s struggle to overcame poverty while working as an unpaid intern at a brokerage firm. Looking back at my childhood experience I’ve witnessed firsthand seeing my parents struggle to make ends meet. When times were bleak they always found a way to pull through. It was not easy nor was it a pleasant experience. However, it taught me some valuable life lessons and helped build my resilience; very few things rattle me today. What most people see as big problems I see as a part of life. In fact, I often treat the problem as a game, something to be solved.

Adversity confronts us in many ways; a sick parent or child, a job loss, bankruptcy, or a failed relationship. While stressful, not everyone is affected the same way. We all perceive adversity in different ways; some handle it better than others.

So why do some continue to march forward despite repeated failures and extreme challenges? In martial arts we referred to this as the budo spirit, it is a way of the warrior; to build yourself spiritually, morally, and ethically to persevere even when you have reached the end of your mental and physical capacities. This training of the mind is important because mental toughness is needed to survive in combative situations. One cannot afford to be weak otherwise it may cost you your life.

This spirit gives a martial artist the strength to act despite challenging circumstances. It’s not about achieving the belt rank that matters the most but about-facing challenges head on with determination, discipline and resilience. It empowers them to keep moving forward when others want to give up or quit.

  • Building this budo spirit is the driving force for success in the real world. It is very much like grit, the greatest predictor of success according to Angela Duckworth’s research which shows…
  • West point cadets who scored the highest on the grit test were 60% more likely to make it through basic training then those who scored low.
  • People who were the same but have different levels of education, grit not intelligence was the defining factor in determining success.
  • Spelling bee competitors outperformed others not because of intelligence but through disciplined consistent practice.

However, budo goes many layers beyond grit. It’s a way of life. It teaches you to be responsible for everything in your life, to face the challenges, persevere and develop an iron will that will not be broken despite extreme hardships. It is what a warrior relies on to push through when no other options are available to them. It teaches you to fight to the very end.

In my experience, many lose in tournaments not because they are not capable of winning but they get wound up in believing that failure will define them as a person. They fail to realize that it is a just an event in their life. Failing is not forever. You learn so much from failing. One needs to understand that doing so does not make you horrible or bad. There will be many times when things don’t work out as planned. Everything you do seems to go wrong. Yes, it is mentally draining, and for some can be depressing. It can be easy to give up when you get down on yourself. This is when great champions reach into their reserve when the mediocre want to raise the white flag. It is so much easier to give up then to move forward. It’s not easy; it is the reason why very few people make it to the top.

Here are some situations when you may call on your budo spirit:

  • when sales are slow at your business and bill collectors are hounding you for payment.
  • when you’ve practiced hard but continued to lose games.
  • when you are arguing with your significant other and divorce is an easy way out.
  • when you want to build a successful business but tv, social media, and friends are distracting you.

Overcome these roadblocks; stay mentally focused by following budo principles. In time, your spirit will grow stronger. It will become a way of life leading the way to building unshakable confidence along your journey.

Best of luck and success to you!

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