New Years resolutions have been something I have tried to take seriously every year. I sit down with my close friends and my wife, and I create a list of goals for the coming year. I am a bit of an idealist, so all of my goals are usually grandiose and unrealistic. I tend to achieve about half of what I committed to for about three months, and then my discipline falters, and my goals end up falling through the cracks of my schedule. I’m sure this is a common story for a lot of us, especially when it comes to physical health and fitness. I always set out to gain muscle, cut back on sugar, or lose fat and assume that I can do it by sheer will and determination. But I think I often put far too much faith in myself. When I look back at the ways I have failed to achieve my goals, there is always one common denominator. I was doing it alone.
So what makes this year different? What’s to prevent me from allowing my goals to be pushed aside to make room for other things? Well, if my problem is solitary effort, the solution must be community.
When I look back on the times I was consistently physically fit and healthy, I immediately think of my involvement in martial arts. From ages six to sixteen I was heavily involved in a martial art called KoKoDo JuJutsu (not to be confused with Brazilian Ju-Jitsu). I stuck with it for so long, because I genuinely loved it. It wasn’t just an activity that my parents kept me in so that I wouldn’t act out. I became passionate about marital arts. I was going to classes 3-4 times a week. I got pretty good! I was training with adults twice my size and twice my age, and I loved every second of it. Because of my involvement at this dojo (school), I was fit, flexible, and strong.
Why did I stick with it? Why was I able to be so fit and healthy? I can only conclude that it was because I wasn’t doing it alone, and my goal was not to be fit for the sake of fitness. My school had a value of community woven into its DNA. We were a part of a deep history and community that stretched from California to Tennessee to Japan. The use of any techniques we learned in any scenario except self-defense was punished by expulsion. Why did I love it so much? I was apart of something bigger than myself. I was a part of a community of people who were constantly encouraging me, sharpening me, pushing me, and helping me grow. I was a part of a family. Physical fitness was just a side-effect.
Years after I left my school, I struggled to stay in shape and be physically healthy. I joined a gym, I lifted weights, I ran, I ate healthier, but the second I found myself doing any of these things alone, I would falter. I joined a gym and gained 20 lbs of muscle one summer, because I wanted to look good. It kind of worked, but then I lost my motivation and lost it all. It was an empty and solitary endeavor. When I was at the dojo, I was training to develop character, discipline, and respect. I was learning to defend myself and people weaker than me. I was on a journey with people young and old who were all being molded by the martial arts community.
Every year I set out to get in shape, and I go about it by myself, but God designed us to function in community. Whenever we try to do anything alone it ends in failure. What we do for fitness is not nearly as important as why we do it. So this year, I’ve decided to join a school for martial arts. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I want to be on a journey with others. I want to rediscover a part of myself that I genuinely loved! Having 20 extra lbs of muscle was fun, but did I really love myself for it? No. It filled me with pride and engendered fear of losing the strength I had gained. This year, my goal for physical fitness is not self-centered and reclusive. Rather, it is going to be done in the service and defense of others in the midst of community.
Let’s see how it turns out this year. My end goal isn’t fitness; my goal is to be a part of a martial arts community. Hopefully physical fitness will be a welcome side-effect. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Instagram & Twitter: @LaneGP
Lane grew up in Southern California and graduated from Vanguard University in 2013, where he met his wife, Jayna. They are currently living in Portland, Oregon, where they lead worship for their local church. They welcomed their first child, William, in October 2016! Lane also workeds full-time for a Christian, non-profit organization called, First-Image, as the director of their sexual integrity program. He loves the local church and has plans to attend seminary to earn his Master's of Divinity.