May 2008

Three Valuable Questions to Ask Yourself

Recently Leonie and I were in Australia attending the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA) conference where I had the privelage to listen to some great inspirational and informative lectures by other successful martial arts school owners from around the world.

It was during one of these lectures that Fariborz Azhark from Team Karate Centers, Los Angeles presented a set of questions that he teachs his students to ask themselves and to reflect upon when making a decision. Just ask yourself:

Where am I?

What am I doing?

Is it real?

These questions, based on Zen principles, have far reaching benefits that transcend the martial arts training and provide you with a tool to use in all aspects of your life.

They also demonstrate how training in martial arts and developing the mental discipline that they offer can significantly affect and change your life for the better, giving you greater focus and resilience to achieve whatever goal that you have.

It doesn't matter what martial art you practice; Muay Thai kickboxing, karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Philipino Stickfighting or Kung Fu. Style is of no consideration, it merely requires that the school that you train at, and that you personally embrace the personal development attributes that come from healthy self esteem and confidence building. These questions give you a great set of tools to add to your mental discipline toolbox.

"The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one's key to the experience of others."
James Baldwin (1924 - 1987) US "novelist, essayist"

There aren't any embarrassing questions - only embarrassing answers.
Helen Rowland (0 - ____) English-US writer
"New Yorker magazine, 1963"


What Motivates You?


Understanding how we are motivated.

Often when speaking with students at the Academy I am led to ponder as to what truly motivates them, what brings them to the Academy to learn martial arts.

As a new student they are full of enthusiasm having found a pursuit that they really enjoy and that will fulfill some underlying need within them that only they know. They might reveal some of it outwardly but ultimately usually it is only a part of the story, the rest they understandably, retain deep inside. It is these basic, deeply seated, private needs that really drive their enthusiasm.

To gain a better understanding of these driving needs and how they motivate us I often contemplate on the relationship they have to our hierarchy of needs as discussed in an excellent piece of work by the 20th-century psychologist and philosopher, Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). His famed work on the hierarchy of needs can provide us with a real insight as to what drives our passion and enthusiasm. It provides a thesis that may assist us in getting a basic understanding of why we become driven in certain areas of our life and also may provide us with an insight into how to overcome our waning of enthusiasm that so often reduces our motivation to continue in the particular interest that we had.
In my experience the majority of people who come to learn martial arts initially have reasons that relate to maintaining good health and providing safety in respect of the self defence aspects. Safety can also be linked to the health aspects as martial arts, conditioning the mind and body, thus increasing the person’s chances of living a healthy life. Personal survival in which health is a consideration is at the base of our hierarchy of needs underlying all other aspects of our lives. This need must be fulfilled adequately, whether actively or taken for granted, before any higher need. Safety is the next higher level, the knowledge and ability that allows us to interact in the world without a threat to our personal safety. The self defence aspects of martial arts together with the mind and body conditioning that training provides, greatly increases our level of safety.

What I often observe, and as I found in my own pursuit of martial arts, is that once it is realized that the martial arts is providing the learnings that assist in increasing health and safety their emerges a sense of belonging, of being among friends who are engaged in the same interest that you have. This is very important to us as social creatures and this is cited by Maslow as the next emerging basic need, that of being loved or having a sense of belonging. Sports and pastimes provide us with a very essential opportunity to satiate this basic need, and it is important in martial arts that the environment in which we learn and the interaction that we have with our fellow students supports the meeting of this need. Because it is when this and the lower needs of basic survival (health)and safety needs are being met that we can reach the next level of the needs hierarchy and realize the development of confidence and self esteem.
When this stage is reached those of us who continue to train and teach martial arts reap huge benefits, because the confidence and self esteem that is developed spills out and affects all areas of our lives; our work, relationships, business, wealth and general well-being. This level provides the ability to step up and meet any challenge, whether it is on the physical, mental, spiritual or social interaction level, providing tremendous focus, concentration and confidence that ultimately can lead to even higher levels of personal development where growth as a human being can be realized.
This process is by no means as simplistic and linear as alluded to here in this short comment. It is not simply a matter of going from, at first, having a survival need followed by a safety need to fulfilling a sense of belonging and ultimately realizing self-esteem and then onto a fully actualized state that allows us to fully realize our full potential. All these needs are inter-related and appear to interact at the different levels, with the lower needs holding us back from the true realization of the higher needs for it was observed by Maslow that the lower needs dominate the higher needs.
If we tie into this the observation that we tend to avoid and move away from discomfort and pain to a state of comfort and pleasure we can gain a more real and useful understanding of what may be driving our enthusiasm and motivation. If we relate the pain and discomfort to an unsatisfied basic need we just have to ask ourselves what pain or discomfort are we trying to avoid or to put it another way, what basic unsatisfied need or needs have we not met. By gaining an understanding of these needs we will gain a very powerful insight into what truly motivates us.
Till next time
If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life.”
Abraham Maslow

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