Imagine, if you will, a boxing ring. Every day, our fighter gets in this ring. Different physical opponent each time yet it is still the same overall entity he fights.
Our fighter knows his opponent’s moves. He’s been beaten down by them enough times to have the fight so well choreographed that there’s no way he should ever lose.
But lose he does. Every day.
As Bane said to Bruce, “You fight like a younger man, holding nothing back. It’s admirable, but mistaken.” Our fighter throws everything he has at his opponent every time he steps into that ring. One has to admire both his stubborn nature and endurance. He just keeps getting back in the ring.
After years of losing, our fighter finally decides that something is wrong. He begins to review the mental tapes of every fight. He starts to laugh. At first, he wants to kick himself. But after watching all the mental images flashing in his head, he realizes his ass has been kicked enough already.
It dawns on our fighter that he’d stepped into that ring every day expecting his opponent to change tactics out of some moral center that he felt they should observe and adhere to. He laughs again, realizing the solipsistic nature of the notion. What misguided arrogance, to assume such. Most of the punches weren’t below the belt—they were just aimed better than his. But he wanted them to fight his way. As a result, he threw the same punches every day—his opponent merely needed duck and retaliate.
One day, he’d had enough of himself. Had enough of losing every battle, simply because he wasn’t paying attention. Turned out the Stoics were correct again: a man’s mindset is the most important thing in his entire world. He is a mind controlling a body. Nothing is truly his, aside from that mind. If he is relying on external circumstances to in any way afford him peace or ‘happiness’, he’s failing already. Over and again, he had reacted to his opponents in an emotional state—internalized anger. Each time his opponent merely ducked and retaliated, his anger grew. And, despite knowing in his own mind every move his opponent would make, he would, time and again, be surprised at those moves. His narcissistic tendencies had prevented him from realizing that the rules don’t change in the ring because he thinks they should.
Marcus Aurelius once said, “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life”
When I get on stage with a band, I’m prepared. I know the songs, I know my parts, know when not to play. I’m rarely surprised on stage. I’ve seen just about everything and I know myself as a musician well enough to know how to respond properly to just about anything.
Late it has come to my attention that, in one area of my life in particular, I’ve been wearing myself out for at least a decade, perhaps more. We’ll call it a ‘relationship’ and leave it at that. This relationship I’ve walked into every single time unprepared and for years I’ve been frustrated to no end by not just losing daily battles again and again but by my own inability to grasp at the truth of the matter enough to address it.
Thankfully, life provides 24 hour periods of learning which are constantly renewed. I think it was Epictetus who noted that life isn’t too short, we just waste most of it. Paraphrased. Wasting something doesn’t always consist of languishing it away. It also means losing time and energy to things we knew better. Even a stubborn fellow is given enough time to eventually wipe the blood off his nose, hold up his hand and say, “Wait, wait. Hold on a minute. Gimme a second here.”
Maybe you’re like me, and there’s an area in your life where you find yourself losing, time and again. You find yourself wasting time and energy thinking about this problem, almost to the point of obsession, with zero results.
What are you expecting from this area of life? What are you expecting from yourself? As it continues to beat you daily, are you reviewing the mental tapes? Maybe you’re an extrovert who isn’t given to all that much introspection. Do it anyway. Perhaps you’re losing because you’re actually beating yourself before you ever step into the mental ring with this problem.
I was lazy as well, it turned out. I wasn’t waking up each morning with intent nor purpose. I was merely waking up. Doing the grind. For the last two days, I’ve made it my mission to wake up with both intent and purpose and immediately address my own mindset. Am I prepared for life? Because, if I’m not, it’s going to beat me down in the arena and damnit, I’m getting too old for that crap. My mindset is the most important thing I have. It’s a beneficial selfishness. If I’m beat down by life, how can I ever hope to help a fellow human? I can’t even help myself.