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I’ve gotten soft.

I don’t mean physically, although after having two knee surgeries and gaining weight as I recovered from anorexia, that’s partially true (in a good way). I mean my determination, drive, and hunger seem muted.

I miss doggedly pursuing a goal. I miss the hunger of seeing something on the horizon and working until I reach it. I feel like my brain has been on pause for the last two years.

Now that I’m back in taekwondo, I feel like I’m starting to get my old grit back. I look forward to training and am enthusiastic in each lesson. I’m curious again. Martial artists are inherent goal-setters. It’s built into our training and becomes a part of our journey both in and out of the dojang.

I was extremely depressed last year, so many of my goals and interests were blurred to a dull grey. I began to resent and dislike everything and felt no desire to make my life better or more enjoyable.

Now that I’m feeling better I’m looking forward to improving other parts of my life: my author and writer career, my “housewife life” (I work remotely and love taking care of my home), and my day job. I kept hoping for a deus ex machina to magically change or completely demolish these parts of my life. I’m glad it didn’t happen because it would have left me as “me” in my depression, just in a new setting. Instead, I have a healthier mindset and now I can see ways to spruce up and enjoy what I have in the present. Some of it is indeed mindset, especially around how I feel about my home and day job. No major changes necessary, just a shift to more positive thinking and focusing on what I can change.

A few weeks ago I felt that sensation intensely–I missed really working on something, so I made a list of small writing tasks, set a timer, and got to work. It felt awesome and not overwhelming.

I have bipolar disorder, so I have to be careful that my drive doesn’t balloon into hypomania, which might lead to a burst of creativity, but it also inevitably leads to anxiety, irritability, and burnout. So I’m not tracking word counts of writing, and I’m certainly not tracking my weight and exercise anymore. But I do have my handy planner and realistic to-do lists for short and long-term tasks to keep me on track and remind me of things to work on when I get bored or discouraged. Baby steps.

As for martial arts, I’ve reached a major goal of returning to taekwondo following a devastating ACL injury and two surgeries. I want to rejoin regular classes at some point, and within the next two years, test for third dan.

Part of successful goal-setting is accepting that goals can change. I’ve recently wound down efforts to market my first book. I still hope for sales to improve, but I want to focus my energy on writing new books. So I’ve made a few final pitches to podcasters to have me as a guest to talk about mental health and martial arts, and I set up some self-running ad campaigns on Amazon. After that I’m done. I’ll continue to promote it on social media, but I want to use more of my creative energy for making new art.

It’s the same with martial arts. It’s okay for goals to change. I used to love teaching. I’m okay doing that now and in the future, but I don’t want it to be a big part of my black belt identity. I also explored doing board breaking in tournaments, but honestly, I hate tournaments and don’t want to spend the time, money, and brain power on that part of taekwondo. If it’s not fun and a good use of my time, I’m not going to do it. And that’s okay.

If you’re coming out of a mental fog or getting back into martial arts training, start with small goals and tasks. Then aim for bigger goals. Along the way keep asking yourself, “Is this fun and a good use of my time?” Hopefully the answer is yes.

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