Monday, October 06, 2014

The Carrot and the Stick

(thanks for the inspiration MD)
Very interesting discussion last Friday after class.

We were talking about establishing training routines, and about how important it is to keep training regularly no matter what.

His comment was "I want to keep pushing myself harder and harder each time.  I want to end up exhausted."  I wanted to know why.

While I agree that a good, hard workout is one of life's great joys (and a necessary thing), I think there are a few subtle psychological tools that can help make the experience as positive as possible.  These are the same tools that are at the heart of our KALI MAJAPHIT pedagogy.

In Kali Majapahit, we use martial arts as a vehicle for personal development.  We understand and accept that it is our life mission to be happy, and that being happy requires being happy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and that once we allow ourselves to be happy, we can then share this happiness with the many important people in our lives.

Fundamentally, martial arts training is about goal-setting and goal achievement.  This process has both micro-elements and macro-elements. The micro-element takes place during every class.  We set "micro-goals", for example, successfully completing a technique or a drill variation, or achieving an additional rep/set in an exercise portion.  Even better is to set a personal focus goal for each class (keep back/neck straight, don't look at your hands, extend the cross fully, etc.).  This "one point mantra" can improve performance during a single KM class, and by setting and achieving these "micro-goals" we are building an awareness and confidence that we can achieve results and progress through our focused effort.  The micro goal is a critical part of success because our human nature is geared toward short-term gratification - the micro goal feeds this need for immediate positive reinforcement of the good choices we make and of our discipline in implementing those good chocies.

The macro goals are driven by several rhythms, the most obvious being the 3-month training rotating curriculum of the training cycles.  As we achieve our micro-goals class by class, we are progressing toward achieving the bigger goal of skills development, certificate testing and getting new belts. Other macro goals are those we set for strength/weight improvement, flexibility, stress management and overall healthy lifestyle.

Eventually, our self-awareness as a successful achiever will extend to every area of our lives outside the dojo.  We become able to express confidence in our ability to set and achieve goals because we have done so under so many circumstances at the dojo for such a long period of time.  We are thus able to move from "faith-based confidence" (believing we can do something because we wish or imagine we could) to "experience-based confidence" (knowing we can do something because we have done many other things we have chosen to do).

Success and happiness in life have been shown to have direct relationship to our feelings of control.
Feelings of control can be generated and enhanced by setting and achieving goals the way we do in the dojo.
The best path is a combination of short-term and long-term goals (micro and macro) because it allows us to understand our ability to deliver results in a broad spectrum of circumstances and time frames, which leads to a stable feeling of well-being and satisfaction.  It is critically important to recognize and reward our own achievements in order to support a healthy and positive self-image.

By contrast, if we always move the goal further away at each attempt, we fail to give ourselves credit for our achievements and instead subconsciously reinforce that no amount of effort will ever be "good enough".  This is simply not true.  In fact, I believe our focused maximum effort is ALWAYS good enough.

My friend felt that if he allowed himself to feel a sense of achievement, he would lose motivation, suggesting that motivation is driven by the need to achieve.  I disagreed.  This sounds more like fear of failure. Motivation is driven by the understanding that we can achieve.  We lose motivation quickly if we know we can never reach the objective - it keeps moving further and further away.  If we never allow ourselves the satisfaction of experiencing achievement, like a carrot on a stick, we deny ourselves one of the most important tools for establishing and enhancing our self-image and developing confidence.  We owe it to ourselves to empower ourselves to complete the things we start.

I would argue that far better results can be gotten from investing in ourselves an awareness of our inherent ability to control our own outcomes, so that not only do we know what we are going for, we can be confident in our ability to attain it through our focused effort.  This is a far better and more positive motivator.

Like many things in life, results can be achieved through negative or positive means.  Negative means are generally motivated by fear and anger (often as a response to a real/perceived lack of control), which then causes stress and ultimately damage (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) to the individual and those around him/her.  Positive means involve the positive reinforcement life cycle of goal-setting, challenge/effort, achievement, reward and evaluation which lead to healthy growth and an abundance which can be shared with others.

Train hard, YES.
But also, recognize and celebrate your achievements.  Share your victories with the important people in your life.  Remind yourself EVERY DAY that you are a successful person that can achieve exceptional results through your own focused effort.  You can control your destiny.
Your life in the dojo can support this positive transformation.

It is OK to dangle a carrot, but sometimes you need to grab it and eat it.
Then go and get another one.  :-)

See you at class.      

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