Eric R. Maisel Ph.D.

Rethinking Mental Health

Your Great Warrior Practice

How to become self-confident and fierce through daily practice.

Posted Sep 30, 2020

Eric Maisel
The Power of Daily Practice
Source: Eric Maisel

This post is part 30 of a series on the psychological and practical benefits of daily practice. In this series, I’ll explore the elements of daily practice, varieties of daily practice, challenges to daily practice, and strategies for meeting those challenges. Please join me in learning more about this important subject. Complete information can be found in The Power of Daily Practice.

Our 7-year-old grandson takes karate lessons. It’s good for him. All day long he has to sit (and home these days) and be a good little second grader. He has a billion kilowatts of energy and it’s a complete miracle that he can pull off that feat. But he desperately needs to kick and punch and shout for at least a little while each day. That doesn’t disperse all his energy and you will find him flying around the house at a million miles an hour, knocking into things, including his little sisters. But those karate lessons help.

It helps on the energetic level but it also helps build his warrior self. It is a kirist belief that each of us needs a warrior self. We are in absurd rebellion against injustice, unfairness, meanness, and all of that. We are also in absurd rebellion against the very facts of existence, which tell us that we are puny and that it is ridiculous of us to presume that we matter, ridiculous of us to presume that our efforts matter, and ridiculous of us to bother shouldering some responsibility for holding up the world. We need a warrior self for all that absurd rebelling.

What might a daily warrior practice look like? Well, of course, it might be a martial arts practice like karate, judo, or kickboxing. It might be a practice like yoga, meditation, or tai chi that enhances our mind/body control. It might be a special version of a personality upgrade practice, one in which we work to heal those psychological injuries that have made us a weaker version of ourselves. It might be a certain sort of creativity practice where we use our vivid imagination to visualize our super-hero self in action. Your daily warrior practice is yours to dream up.

Leslie needed such a practice. Abused as a child, she had entered into one abusive relationship after another as an adult. Now she depended on painkillers and could clearly see the outline of heroin in her future. She daydreamed about heroin. The only thing stopping her were her twins, aged five, and her keen awareness of how guilty she would feel if she stepped over the line. But even the twins seemed only to be delaying the inevitable. We chatted about options.

“I can’t do 12-step meetings,” she said, shaking her head.


“I’ve tried them. I hate them.”


“Or therapy. All that talk.”


“If it wasn’t for the twins, I’d just stay high all the time.”


“I’m basically a junkie, you know, although I’m not all the way there yet.”

I nodded.

“Who would really rather kill herself than do anything else,” she said.

We both sighed.

“You know that movie Million Dollar Baby?” she said after a long pause. “I liked it.”

“Yes. I did too.” I didn’t know where she was going but I took a stab. “Maybe you’d like to box?”

She sat up. “Box? Me?”

“I just wondered.”

“Joe wouldn’t let me,” she said after a while. “Not a chance.”

I nodded. “But what if you just watched a video and boxed in front of a mirror? How would he know?”

She thought about that. “It would sort of be like dancing,” she said.

“Sort of. Warrior dancing.”

She laughed. “Warrior dancing!”

I could see her picturing that in her mind’s eye. Finally, she shook her head.

“He might find the gloves,” she said, worried.

“I wonder, would you even need gloves?”

She thought about that. “Yes. I don’t think it would feel real without the gloves. It would be … too much like dancing.”

We sat with that vision of her boxing in her laced-up gloves.

“I don’t think I can pull that off,” she said finally. “I could never buy those gloves,” she said. “Impossible.”

I nodded. “Is there any version you could pull off?” I asked after a bit. “Some reduced version, maybe without the gloves?”

She thought about that. “I could almost see doing a warrior dance, something tribal. Something that the men might do, not the women. I wouldn’t mind researching that. ‘Warrior dances for women.’ I could maybe do that. When Joe’s at work.”

I never learned if Leslie found her warrior dance, as she canceled each subsequent chat that we had scheduled. But I did hear from another client, Adam, about a very quirky aspect of the coaching training he was taking.

“We have to do a triathlon!” he informed me.

“A triathlon! No? To become a life coach?”

He nodded. “Well, a pared-down version. But still very rigorous. I’m in training every day.”

I shook my head. “That’s gloriously odd.”

“I know! But there’s a whole vision and philosophy of life behind it, going back thousands of years to Stoics and gladiators and I don’t know who else. We’re all buying into it! A hundred couch potatoes training every day.”

“And?” I wondered.

“And it’s great! I think I’ve always needed this but I needed a context or a reason or something, some impetus to be a warrior. With this framing, it’s been almost easy. Well, no, it’s not easy at all. But you know what I mean!”

No daily practice is a complete answer to the challenges of living. But the right daily practice can help. And a daily warrior practice can help in multiple ways. It can keep you fit. It can keep you calm. It can build a body/mind connection between your intentions and your behaviors as you practice control. It can elevate your mood. It can change your identity as you build a stronger version of yourself. It can increase your self-worth. Can a little kicking, punching, and shouting do all that? Done daily, it really can.

I am the author of books including The Power of Daily Practice. Learn more at