When I began university, I chose to become more active and signed up for Martial Arts after watching an excellent demo. At first, it was a valid excuse to get more exercise into my day. However, as I continued to train more, I noticed the positive effects it was having in other areas of my life, including my work ethic and now the progression of my career. Having spoken to friends who are also involved in sports, the skills they gained were similar. Their experiences improved their day to day lives. These benefits fell into three categories.


When starting a new sport, there’s always an element of excitement as it’s completely new. Because of this, self-motivation is high, and you strive to be the best that you can be. But as you start to make training a regular occurrence in your day to day schedule, it can become a challenge to keep the same level of enthusiasm. I had this feeling when I began my first graduate job and found that the position was less glamorous than advertised. I experienced information overload from day one and began to doubt myself and question whether I was on the right team.

I began to combat that feeling by using the same method I used when faced with a large challenge in sport. I broke the larger goal down into smaller, manageable tasks. Likewise, in your job, taking the same mentality can help with self-motivation. Your goal may seem overwhelming, but by focusing on the individual tasks, you can avoid fatigue and renew your commitment to your role.

The state of discomfort

It could be beating your personal best in running. It could be mastering a new technique. Whatever the sporting challenge, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is required for progress. As a graduate employee, it can be very easy to follow the status quo by doing your day to day tasks and being a “yes man.” Those who successfully progress in their careers are the ones who look for opportunities, prepare to face the unknown and come up with solutions. Pushing through your discomfort is a habit that you can take from the locker room to all aspects of your life.

Dealing with failure

Finally, we must accept that things are bound to go wrong. Whether it’s losing an important match or getting injured before a big event, you will be frustrated when you’re in this position. Your actions going forward can determine whether it’s a minor setback or a complete derailing. A few years ago, I was injured and required to take six months off training. While I know some people who would quit training altogether, I chose to do the necessary physio-therapy so that I could come back stronger than before. In your job, there will be projects where the outcome isn’t what you expected. This can leave you feeling disappointed. Going forward, evaluating what went wrong is the key to progress. Ask yourself what you could have done differently to affect the outcome. Ask an older, more experienced team member for advice. After doing an autopsy on your failure, its time to get back to work; time to come back stronger than before.

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Written by Craig Poku