Beyond the Mat Lesson Two:
Designing Achievable Goals
I have a feeling that anyone who has attended a college class or two, or read a book or article on self improvement, has heard about SMART goals; that is, goals which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. When I first paged through my black belt testing booklet and saw that the second Beyond the Mat topic was goal setting, I figured it would be old hat. But, much like your basic white belt rear kick or front stance, it turns out that goal setting is one of those foundational concepts you have to constantly practice, otherwise you get complacent and mess it up. Case in point: My lazy front stances are one reason I’ve failed several forms checks in my checklisting the past few weeks.
I tentatively published my conditioning goals on my profile page last week. Tossed up top is the very specific goal set simply as “Game face!“, followed by a 28-minute three mile and various counts of pushups, tricep pushups, sit ups and the like.
“Game face?” Really? What does that even mean?? And how am I supposed to achieve it if it’s nebulous enough that it requires an exclamation point? Of course, there’s an entire story behind that one bullet point. I’m a terrible liar, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I spontaneously developed stage fright my freshman year in high school. So, one of my biggest personal challenges in martial arts is leaving behind performance anxiety, frustration, and annoyance to carry myself with the kind of confidence you expect from a martial artist, especially when demonstrating during class or belt tests.
This is basically what I mean by “Game face!“:
But “Game face!” is not a SMART goal. I’m going to have to rethink that one a little bit. And I’m definitely up for suggestions on how to SMARTen that goal if any of you dear readers has advice for me!
As far the rest of my goals, some are pretty good, others not so much. In order to go from zero to at least two pull-ups this summer, I’m starting by tracking how long I can dead hang from the pull-up bar, and also how many negatives I can do (negatives defined as holding for 5 seconds at the top, then lowering myself down in a controlled manner over another 5 seconds). I don’t know how many negatives will equal one positive, but it’s a trackable way to ensure I’m making progress in upper body strength.
Not so good was my goal for my three mile. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with running as long as I can remember, starting with my elementary school goal of finishing a single mile without stopping or having an asthma attack at our local track meet. I came in second to last, but I finished, gosh darn it! I love running events like the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey — I co-captained a team for several years, in fact. But I have never been very motivated to improve my pace. I’ve always been more interested in completing a distance or participating in an event. So when I clocked my baseline 3-mile as just shy of 29 minutes, I was thrilled, and figured a good goal for this year would be a 28-minute three-mile.
Silly me — I beat that on Saturday with Suzi, running the Freestyle loop, which includes a pretty formidable hill every half mile.
So, I suppose regular reassessments are in order for the duration of this test, since I have yet to accurately define one goal, and apparently have no idea what I’m capable of for the others. In the “Getting Organized” TED Radio Hour, Bruce Feiler suggested taking an hour each week to ask yourself what worked well, what didn’t, and then adjust your goals accordingly for the following week.
I’m back to the drawing board. But I’d like to leave you with one of this week’s highlights: Saturday’s seminar with Dave Camarillo of Guerrilla Jiu-Jitsu. Not only did we learn some kick-ass judo throws, he also had some great suggestions on how to use your game face for both sport and self defense. For sport, he jokingly called it crazy eyes — making your opponent think you’re going to tap them to kingdom come, which will hopefully distract them from whatever sneaky move you’re setting up. For self defense, it’s bringing that self-confidence to your walk that says, “I’m not an easy target.” It was a seriously awesome seminar! I hope he comes back to teach more!