Prepare for Days That Kick You in the Face

One night after class, I had a conversation with a student who rarely misses. I mentioned to him about having to cut back on his training in the future if he gets married and has kids. His reply was, “I won’t get married if she won’t let me train three or four times a week.”

While this sentiment displays his determination and passion for our arts, it does not deal with the reality that bad things, and even good things, can take us away from what we love to do. Too often, when these setbacks occur, we are heartbroken and cannot overcome it. Are you equipped to cope with life when it kicks you in the face?

There is a way to prepare for such events.

In Stoicism, there is a practice known as premeditatio malorum, or the premeditation of evils. This exercise involves negative visualization. You think about the worst possible outcomes for your day, your week, or any time in the future. By dwelling even in the least bit on the bad things that could happen, you inoculate yourself from the sting should those things occur.

As the story goes, a Buddhist teacher was once known for saying, “This cup is already broken.” He loved the cup, but knew that one day it would shatter, whether by his hand dropping it or it tumbling from the table to the floor. By accepting its fate, he was free to drink without the anxiety of losing the cup.

In my training, I often think of what I will do when I need surgery again (two knee operations and shoulder reconstruction since I began training). I even think about the day I can no longer grip efficiently due to arthritic fingers. What if an illness robs me of my abilities for good? These are just a few scenarios in my life.

Some may think it morbid or depressing to dwell on these things. I find this type of internal talk liberating. It also encourages me to train while I can, to live my life with reckless abandon, because tomorrow is not promised and if it is, it will not be like today.

*Within a week of writing this post, I fractured my tibia on my right leg while taking down a larger opponent. I sat and laughed through the pain thinking about this post. Perhaps I spoke it into existence. At least I was mentally prepared.

Photo by Luz Fuertes on Unsplash


A version of this article was originally posted on my personal blog,

You can find me on Instagram @thephilosophicalfighter or email me:

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to share.

14 thoughts on “Prepare for Days That Kick You in the Face

  1. What a great blog post. I really enjoyed reading it and resonated with me.. fortunately, not the leg break bit! I hope you keep writing through your recovery, you’re very good at it. Good luck with the recovery 🙌🏼

    1. No worries. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to injuries. I enjoy kicking my own butt as much as anyone else’s. Stoic practices such as negative visualization have worked for me. I hope they can help others as well. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. What an interesting idea. Loved the “cup is already broken” story. I’ve often thought about what could possibly happen when I’m trying something but I’ve never thought of it as a practice. Thank you for a thought-provoking post and sending you best wishes for your leg!

    1. I still have a pains from scar tissue, but the leg is mostly back to normal now. Thanks for the wishes.

      1. Glad to hear is mostly back to normal. Your comment reminds me of a quote from philosopher Elbert Hubbard, “God will not look over you for medals, degrees and diplomas but for scars.”

      2. Interesting quote. If God is concerned with me, he will find me with plenty of scars, several degrees and an assortment of medals, each of which tells its own story.

  3. I did not know about the “premeditatio malorum”. I think I have been practicing it for years without knowing it, thank you for the enlightening post, and get well soon with your leg!

    1. No worries. Other than scar tissue and the occasional ache, my knee is okay now. Thanks for the wishes.

    1. While I mainly subscribe to Stoic philosophy, I recognize the similarities to Eastern philosophies such as Taoism and Buddhism. I haven’t heard of the method of investing in loss, but I will have to check it out. Thanks for sharing that with me.

  4. Great post! I didn’t know this practice has a name but I often approach things this way and then sometimes get criticized by my wife for being “negative“. That’s OK though I’m going to keep doing it🙂 Glad to hear your leg is better.

    1. My wife gets on to me too for being negative or pessimistic at times, but she is generally thankful when I am prepared, mentally and physically, for whatever events occur. She then leans on my emotional disconnect to get through her own emotions.

Leave a Reply