Psychology & Success

My Thoughts About & Contribution to the #LikeAGirl Campaign

When I first saw the Always “Like a Girl” campaign a few months ago (see ad below), I was impressed. They really captured an idea that’s been very important to me in my life. I remember the often used insult among the boys, saying that so-and-so ran, threw, kicked, swung, etc, “like a girl.” From my experience, no one said it to girls as an insult, it was mainly said to other boys (though I realize this also happens). But the fact that it was said as an insult suggested that girls aren’t physically capable and that being “feminine” meant not being good at sports. So as girls started to go through puberty and started wanting the attention of the boys, many started to act in a way that they were socialized into believing was feminine, shunning sports and presenting themselves in a way that was more dainty and helpless. It wasn’t all girls, but many were clearly conflicted.


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5 Recommended Books for Martial Arts Instructors (or Any Teacher)

4 Recommended Books for Martial Arts InstructorsIn a recent blog comment, I was asked to put together a recommended reading list for martial arts instructors. This list is far from extensive, but it covers a number of books I’ve read in the past year that have helped me better understand the psychology of the teaching process, which I applied to teaching martial arts. These aren’t directed specifically at martial arts instructors, but teachers in general. They are more about understanding the learning process and applying it to teaching strategies, not lists of exercises, drills and games. They have been incredibly useful to me to help me get inside my students minds, and to help them on a more personal level with their development.¬†Without further ado, here’s the list. (more…)

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Why Success Is Scary (Even More So than Failure)

Why Success Is Scary (Even More So than Failure)It is often said that people fail to pursue their dreams because they fear failure. They fear that if they try and don’t succeed, they’ll confirm their worse fears; that they never had it in them to begin with. As such, people only make meagre efforts, if any at all, citing various reasons for their lack of trying, not enough time, too many other commitments, etc. They never really give themselves the option of success. With that, they can always look back and believe that they had it in them, but it just wasn’t meant to be. They can hang on to the shadow of a dream. (more…)

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“Fake It Till You Make It” in the Martial Arts & Self-Defense

Fake It Till You Make It in Martial Arts and Self-DefenseOftentimes when students first start training in a martial art, they feel unsure of themselves and lack confidence in the application of their techniques, even when they start developing some skill in them. This can manifest as startled expressions, diminutive postures and questioning looks toward instructors or more senior students. This is entirely understandable, but it has a negative impact on the application of techniques and can also hurt their general awareness of their surroundings.

I was recently working with a student like this who is getting ready to go for their yellow belt. The student has gained enough skill to do most of their techniques without having to consciously remember them, but is timid in their application in the way I described above. I gave this student one of the most important lessons in terms of attitude when first starting out: “Fake it till you make it.” (more…)

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Discipline is the New “Motivation”

I was recently discussing my strength training regimen, which I have been maintaining for about a year, with someone who was interested in how I approached it. She commented that I must really enjoy it to keep it going so consistently.

I arched an eyebrow. “Actually, I really dislike the act of strength training. Lifting weights and doing exercise purely for exercise’s sake is tedious for me.”

“Then what motivates you to keep training,” she asked.

I thought for a moment, then replied, “Absolutely nothing.”


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How to Offer Effective Praise or Criticism

How to Offer Effective Praise or CriticismWith the new semester of Ready-Set-Kiai for (3-4 year-olds)¬†and Jiu-jitsu Tykes for (5-7 year-olds) classes in full swing, lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading on effective teaching methods for children. While the books I’ve been reading are oriented to children’s teaching, for the most part, the suggestions offered are good advice for teaching any age student. In particular, I read about how to offering praise and criticism that motivates them to learn and helps them improve. (*The book I learned this info is featured at the bottom of this post. Be sure to check it out.) (more…)

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7 Things I’d Tell Every Teenager If They’d Listen

7 Things I Would Tell Every Teenager If They Would ListenBeing a teenager is different than it was for me 20 years ago. This always becomes apparent to me when I talk with teenagers who are my relatives, who train with me at our dojo, or even my 15-year-old Little Sister (I’m a Big Sister volunteer mentor.) Technology has advanced leaps and bounds. The way we work, entertain ourselves, communicate and live is completely different. But one thing remains the same when it comes to being a teen; it means you’re old enough to think coherently and independently, but not necessarily experienced enough to recognize your personal biases and how it shapes the way you think, act and make choices. Getting out of your teen years doesn’t mean you get past this, but as you live through more years you get more opportunities to see the patterns of your choices in action and therefore more chances to see how your biases influence you. As such, I’ve compiled a list of things I would tell modern teenagers, if they genuinely wanted my advice based on my experience and personal perspective.


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Martial Arts Skill Development: Settling for Less or Striving for More?

Martial Arts Development: Settling for Less or Striving for More?Over a lifetime, we learn a lot of different skills, some are practical, like typing, cooking, and car maintenance, ones that we expect to use on an ongoing basis throughout our lives. Others are ones that we simply enjoy with minimal “practical” value beyond the way they make us feel, like visual arts, performance arts, or various sports like golf or tennis.

Whatever the skill, we only have so much time to dedicate to our various pursuits. As such, we sometimes settle for what we consider an “acceptable” level of skill to get by. When we reach this point, we either consider ourselves to be good enough at the skill that we’ll be able to call upon it when needed. Many people do this for skills such as bike riding or swimming. Or we’re happy enough to continue enjoying the activity at that level without feeling the need to stretch ourselves to keep improving our ability. This is often the case with inter-sports like softball or sports that people only occasionally enjoy like golf or skiing. We don’t necessarily want to increase our level of ability to perform at more competitive levels. We just want to be good enough to be able to do them enjoyably in a certain context. (more…)

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Being Process-Oriented vs. Goal-Oriented in the Martial Arts

Process oriented vs Goal Oriented in the Martial ArtsIn modern Western society, we’re taught from a young age to set goals for ourselves and to work toward them until they’re achieved. You see this in our schools, in which there is more value placed on the marks students earned than on what they have actually learned and retained. We focus on this in sports in which the results of games or matches are what receive praise or denigration. The problem with this goal-oriented focus is that it doesn’t necessarily give you better results, and it makes the entire experience less engaging and fun. This can be especially true in one’s training in the martial arts.


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The “AHA!” Moment: Moving Past Mental Blocks

The AHA! Moment Moving Past Mental BlocksSooner or later, everyone who takes up a martial art over a long period of time will come up against some sort of mental block. They’ll come across some technique that they understand logically, and there is no physical impediment to doing it, but for some reason or another can’t seem to make their body do the technique in question. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially if the technique is seemingly simple and the majority of people have no trouble at all doing it. This feeling is exacerbated the longer the block exists, so it’s important not to sweep them under the carpet and avoid them. (more…)

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