January. For most people, it marks a fresh start. New opportunities. New possibilities. A chance to reset and move forward. At KOMA, though, January looks and feels a little different. Our black belt curriculum follows semesters that are offset on the calendar year. January actually marks the halfway point for the fall semester and as such we just had our mid-term assessments. Just like in school, we get a grade on our performance. In a lot of ways it’s a chance to reset, to refocus on our goal of the next level, and to assess how we have prepared so far. Doing well? Great! Keep going doing what you’re doing. Not happy with where you are? Time to take a hard look at what you’re doing, or not doing, and make a plan to get back on track toward that goal. Keep reading to learn four ways you can set yourself up for success.
This helps with accountability. It keeps you on track toward your goal. Having a buddy can be especially important on those days you either forget or don’t feel like it. Your buddy can be the one to remind you or motivate you to do your habit. You can also do the same for your buddy. Getting in your workout for the day, even when the weather is bad, is so much easier when you look forward to seeing a friend. Having friends in class keeps our students coming back week after week. Students look forward to having fun with their studio friends. It’s not unusual to have students only see each other at KOMA but we also have groups of students from the same neighborhood, school, or family. Having a buddy sharing your experience can also encourage a bit of friendly competition, making the habit that much more exciting. Having fun changes the habit from feeling like a chore to a positive experience you are happy to do.
Little rewards along the way help keep you motivated to keep going. For a child, this can be as simple as a sticker on the tracking chart or calendar. For yourself it could be any little thing that brings meaning to the habit, even a sticker. It can be overwhelming to look ahead to a big end goal and how far you need to go before you get there. When your goal is really big and requires time and effort, it helps to break the goal down into smaller steps with smaller rewards to keep you on track. Bigger rewards are in order when you reach milestones of success such as completing 30 days, 60 days, 90 day, 6 months, or even a year. At KOMA, the color belt students get stripes added to their belt for each smaller goal they achieve. Black belt students look forward to marking goals off their progress cards, which are displayed on the studio walls for everyone to see. Students then receive a new belt when they pass the testing for the next level and shows everyone how far they’ve come.
Telling other people your plan increases the chance someone is going to ask you how you’re doing. Most of us are self conscious enough that we want the other person’s praise, so we’ll do the thing to avoid having to say we didn’t do it. Negative reinforcement doesn’t last, though, when creating any type of change. Most people will eventually rebel and refuse to make any more progress. Intrinsic motivation, or that internal drive to succeed, is longer lasting. Intrinsic motivation creates positive lasting change because you actually want to accomplish your goal. Positive habit practice is built into the KOMA curriculum. The color of your belt, the number of stripes all display where you are in your goal to earn your black belt and beyond. Color belt students who commit to becoming a black belt and join our Black Belt Club have their name on a special black belt which is displayed in the studio for all to see their progress toward that goal. Committing to a goal and telling other people makes the goal real. It also encourages other people to cheer you on toward your goal.
Use a tracking system to visually see your progress. The human brain is an interesting thing. It wants to see order and progression, which is why visual tracking of your habit works so well. When your brain sees empty spaces or gaps in the line, it wants to fill them in and that will help you stay on track. The easiest tracking system is the one that works the best for you. It could be your daily paper calendar or a printable chart. It could be an electronic reminder or even a specialized app that gamifies the whole process. Do what works for you and know that it may take several different versions to find the system that supports your success. We offer two versions of habit tracking charts. A 21 Day and a 70 Day. Place reminders in highly visible spots to remind you throughout the day of your goal and to keep you motivated to succeed.
Your habits can set you up for success. When creating a new habit, be sure to help yourself succeed by using the tips above. It will be easier to achieve your goal when you include other people in your plan, track your progress, break a bigger goal down into smaller steps, and celebrate your wins along the way. As black belt students review the scores from the mid-term assessments, they will know where they are along the path to their next test. They will be encouraged to look over how they prepared for this assessment, decide what has been working and what has not been working, and then make a plan to get to the next milestone of testing in May.
After five years of crying and complaining, my eight year old daughter is officially a junior black belt.
January. For most people, it marks a fresh start. New opportunities. New possibilities. It is a chance to reset and move forward.