Recently while participating in a little bit of “light” sparring I chipped a tooth. It was the direct result of poor blocking by me, a nice right by my training partner and no mouthguard. (Really they are teeth-guards, but that just sounds silly.) Now, this is not a crazy big chip, in fact, I am the only one who notices it because now it feels rough against my tongue.
Coincidentally, I visited my dentist two weeks after this incident for a cleaning. I did not mention this chip; I just wanted to see what my awesome, sweet, southern dental hygienist would say to me. Naturally, I envisioned the worst, total structural failure of the tooth, drilling, grinding and a massive bill. What really happened was she didn’t even bring it up and when I asked her about it, she laughed at the tiny chip. She is a sweet southern lady and she just smiled at me and said “Oh that little thing, we can grind it down if it bothers you, but that is nothing to be worried about.”
Truth be told over the two weeks between receiving the chip and getting laughed at by my sweet dental hygienist, I spent at least 20% of my brain power constantly considering my teeth, the chip, and what I needed to do moving forward about my teeth and how to protect them in future sparring sessions.
This small incident has inspired several thoughts.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I had braces as a kid; to this day my parents still remind me how expensive my teeth are. When I first started training muay thai, they feared more for my dental bill than anything else. That is probably a little hard on them, but it makes a point: I have always been worried about getting my face messed up, and now I chip a tooth and I am worried, but not enough to call the dentist, and not enough to stop training or sparring. So really I am not that worried, but my mind still circled on this issue until I had the dentist confirm for me it was okay to not be worried.
The point is, this is not a big deal. This tiny, silly incident gets replayed everyday various times in various scenarios, where you or I place too much emphasis on something, that in the grand scheme of things is not very important. For example your parking spot or which shirt you wear or what the exact meaning of the word is, is.
Take a breath, a step back and think about your goal. Why that is your goal and what are the steps you need to get there. If/when your teeth fall out you will know they were not structurally sound and can deal with it then.
I am not saying be negligent in your hygiene or act with brazen disregard for rules, structure or order; however, we can all simplify our lives by simply prioritizing the tasks and choices on which we place concentrated mental effort. For example if you spend hours agonizing over which polo khaki combination to wear to the office, or the proper manicure/pedicure color, or which salad to order for lunch you probably used more mental power than needed for such a menial task that would have better been spent elsewhere. All small decisions with very minimal negative consequences can be either automated or made expeditiously to preserve mental function for more meaningful tasks and decisions, as there is very little negative impact if they are made poorly.
Think BIG Picture
Following the immediate incident, I wasted considerable mental efforts thinking about my teeth. How to protect them? What to eat to help make them stronger? I looked into supplements for teeth and bones, researched mouthguards. Interestingly enough, not once did it cross my mind that I should try a new hobby. I love muay thai. At my core, I am a happier, healthier, more productive individual when I spend 3-4 days a week in a gym punching, kicking and throwing knees and elbows. The risk of additional chipped teeth is of lower priority to me than my mental health and well-being.
There is a fantastic quote by Lao Tzu “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” I feel that this is applicable to every person regarding every aspect of their life. When you go against your nature, for whatever reason, you don’t feel complete. Each person can feel this deep within themselves when something is out of balance. That nagging feeling remains until you confront and resolve the issue face-to-face. Sometimes this might mean making a change, which may be uncomfortable at first.
It IS all about you!
Guess who cares about my tooth? Me. That is it. Why? Because it doesn’t directly affect anyone else: my life, my decisions, my results (good or bad). Of course some decisions do affect others, but that is a subject for another day.
Just because we were focused on technique this day did not mean a heavier punch or kick wouldn’t slip through and I have to accept responsibility for my lack of preparedness. Moving forward I have to decide if I will always wear a mouthguard for those just in case moments or will I accept the risk.
Unfortunately, in today’s world hyper-interconnectivity has challenged many of us to share too much, including blame for negative outcomes. Funny how no one wants or minds sharing results when the outcomes are positive. Remember your life, your call; because it will directly affect YOU!