“Embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing” – Kahlil Gilbran
As this year comes to a close (can you believe we’re almost in 2010?), I feel it’s important to look back and reflect on what we all accomplished this year. You see, part of growing as a martial artist is patting yourself on the back for the things you achieved, the goals you hit and all the milestones you crossed…but not just the big ones!
Celebrate Your Small Victories
I know much of the time we focus on lofty goals here: making black belt, becoming a certified instructor, learning all nine forms of the Songahm star…and so on. And that’s good. But did you know it’s equally important to focus on the small things you’ve achieved? It’s true because to sustain yourself over the long haul, you need to motivate yourself along the way. So celebrate all your milestones. Also, small goals add up to big goals. To use a football metaphor, “when you focus on first downs, the touchdowns take care of themselves”. Make sense? This all means you don’t have to focus only on the earth-shattering goals and targets. Look back at all the little accomplishments you achieved this year, too. They may not seem like much to other people – but they’re huge to YOU. Let me tell you a quick (and true) story to illustrate what I’m talking about:
John’s Story and His Personal Triumph
About two years ago, John enrolled at Karate for Kids academy in another state. When he started classes, he was like most students: excited, ready to get going and pumped to achieve some big things. And John had most of the attributes other students have when they begin martial arts: ambition, desire to learn, willingness to work hard and he was in decent (but not great) shape. But John also lacked something others didn’t: sight. You see, John is blind. While that would stop most other people – it didn’t stop John. Of course, he had doubts: “How do I target effectively?” and “How can I avoid bumping into others on the floor” and “Won’t it be hard to keep my balance when I’m doing a kicks?” But while John had those thoughts – he plowed ahead anyway. He embraced his “limitation”. He chose to look at martial arts as a mountain to be climbed, a test of his character, a personal journey and a way to break through to become a better person. And most important of all, he never made excuses.
To make a long story short, John is now a brown belt and loving every minute of Taekwondo. No, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for him (it’s not for anybody – we all have to confront our own personal demons when we move up through the ranks.). But every day John is getting closer to his goal of black belt and has learned some valuable self-defense techniques along the way. Given his situation, I’m sure you’d agree: they’re critical.
What is the secret of John’s success? How does he accomplish so much when so many other people with fewer challenges give up and quit? The answer is simple: he focuses on the NOW. He focuses on the day-to-day actions and celebrates his small victories. Sometimes we’re so eager to achieve the big goals that we forget to focus on the here and now. With the world swirling around us, sometimes it’s hard to focus on the present moment. But John does this every day. He trains his attention on the side kick he’s doing. The high block he’s raising. The form he’s learning. The small stuff. And every time he gets something right, he pats himself on the back. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you celebrate the small victories along the path to greatness. And by the way, you did know anybody – regardless of physical ability – can do Karate for Kids, didn’t you?
Achieving a Personal Victory
John’s inspiring story is an excellent example of a personal victory. Again, a personal victory doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing life-changing event. Instead, it’s often a very private moment that nobody else notices – or cares about – but YOU.
Here’s another example. A boy named Connor started Karate for Kids a few months ago at age six. He had a very tough time in the beginning: He broke down when taking direction; he was extremely sensitive to feedback and criticism; and he routinely cried in class. But fast-forward six months and he’s a different kid. His new-found confidence is on display in every class. When he finds himself getting exasperated, he takes a deep breath and his instructors help him composes himself. You can see the pride on his face when he walks off the floor and isn’t choking back tears. While other kids might not think it’s a big deal to make it through a class without crying, to Connor, it’s everything. It’s HIS personal victory.
Stories like this abound. Here are some other examples of personal victories:
- Kicking a bad habit (like quitting smoking or putting down the XBOX controller)
- Overcoming a fear (like the fear of sparring or tournaments)
- Pushing yourself past your limits
- Doing something uncomfortable that you know is good for you (like public speaking)
- Hitting a goal (like completing a big assignment on time)
- Creating a business turnaround (such as getting a business out of the red)
- Creating a life turnaround (like losing weight and increasing your fitness level)
- Getting out of debt and taking control of your financial life
- Raising a grade and doing better in school (for example that grade in math you boosted from a “C” to a “B”).
So as you reflect on what you’ve accomplished this year, make sure you celebrate the small victories and what’s important to YOU.
And let me tell you: I’m proud of each and every one of you. You’re hitting goals most people never even attempt and you’re molding yourselves into true leaders.
Keep striving to achieve your own personal victory every day!
— Senior Master Babin