I draw inspiration from boxing. It’s how I keep fit physically and mentally. The part I find interesting is that I do it mainly for mental fitness. The physical fitness, exercise, co-ordination and camaraderie of the boxing gym is secondary to the mental fitness. Training the mind to focus, relax, and keep going in spite of pain and exhaustion is what keeps me coming back.
I’ve been surprised to discover that boxers are a philosophical bunch. I’ve found this to be common to all who practice a martial art. Every martial art has an underlying philosophy. You can take what you learn in the ring and apply it directly to your life. One of the first and most enduring philosophies in boxing is: Keep your guard up. This is the first thing every boxer learns, even before they throw their first punch. It is also invaluable in business and in life. This is what ‘keeping your guard up’ means to me:
Keep your hands in front of your face. This is to stop you getting punched in the mouth. It protects your head and most vital and sensitive organs. Keeping your guard up does not simply mean approaching life in a defensive manner. Defence is only part of any sporting or military (martial) strategy. In order to succeed to need to play offensively too. Having a good defence enables you to do so. Consider the following:
- Have a defence, but don’t just defend. When you have your hands up, you are not focused on protecting your face. Your hands are already doing that. You are looking for opportunities to strike. Then you unleash a barrage of punches in an explosive effort.
- Keeping your guard up means having a solid foundation. When your guard is up, you feel protected. You can relax and focus on looking for opportunities to strike.
- Ultimately boxing is about punching, not being punched. Once you have mastered keeping your guard up, you can focus on your striking. This will ultimately win the day for you. In the ring and in life.
- If you need a reminder, you will get one. Let your hands slip for a split second and your opponent, trainer or sparring partner will punch you. It will hurt. Life will do the same.
How Life can be a battle. Sometimes the opponent is out there. Sometimes inside your head, in the form of doubt, fear and uncertainty. Keep your guard up and protect yourself from the downside. In business this means taking out insurance, having good contracts in place and getting good professional advice at appropriate times. In life it means being mentally prepared for adversity, while at the same time being on the lookout for opportunities to advance your cause. Protect what you have, continue moving forward.