How the Kung fu spirit can help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions

The title of this blog isn’t necessarily suggesting that you should set a goal to study Chinese martial arts (although it is a fun and practical way to improve your health and fitness); it’s suggesting that you put in the time and effort necessary to achieve the positive transformations you desire in the New Year.

photo by Tomasz Gudzowaty
photo by Tomasz Gudzowaty

The term kung fu (or Gong fu) is a compound of two words: kung/gong (which means “work” or “achievement”) and fu (which means “effort over time”).  Taken together, kung fu refers to any skill achieved through hard work over a long period of time.  Kung fu’s association with Chinese martial arts is largely due to a Western misunderstanding of the term’s use in martial arts films.  To say someone “has good kung fu” is to say that he has put in the time and effort necessary to achieve a high level of skill.  The term can equally apply to martial arts, cooking, playing an instrument, or sports.

So how does kung fu apply to your New Year’s resolutions?

An attitude has been growing in popularity that New Year’s resolutions are a joke, because no one keeps them anyway, and so the popular resolution is not to make one.  It’s sad when we resign to wishing but never reaching, because the reality of our goals seems so far away.  This is where kung fu comes in.  Kung fu focuses on the process, not the result.  It encourages us to keep our eyes on the path and put in some time and effort every day.

As 21st century Westerners, we’ve come to expect immediate results with minimal effort.  This expectation can often discourage us when we realize that the physical and spiritual improvements we desire won’t manifest after a single dose of effort.  However, if we can embrace the attitude of kung fu and expect that our goals for transformation and growth are meant to be achieved in small increments over long periods of time, one day we will look up and realize our goal has been achieved, having forgotten it long ago, when the work needed to accomplish it became a habit.

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