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Thomas Clifford’s Martial Arts

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People - A Martial Artist’s Perspective

Posted: January 14, 2019

"It is not what you look at that matters, what matters is what you see."

-Henry David Thoreau

Dear Friend,

I trust this blog finds you well.

Perhaps you have read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.

If not, I encourage you to read it.

If you have read this masterpiece, I recommend that you read it again.

You will be glad you did.

In my opinion, it is the best Martial Arts text book ever written.

Dr. Covey is not a Martial Artist.

I am sure that he did not write the book with the intention of it being a Martial Arts text book.

Never the less, the universal principles that Dr. Covey presents in his book fit perfectly with our philosophy.

Our Belt system corresponds directly with The 7 Habits.

Here is a summary of all 7 Habits as they relate to the Martial Arts.

Habit 1 - Be Proactive, is the habit of personal responsibility.

It essentially describes the idea that we can always choose.

By exercising courage in the moment of choice, we can respond effectively, rather than react ineffectively, to events in our lives.

When you earned your White Belt, you chose to become a student.

You proactively approached your training. It was not brought to you.

You went to it.

You proactively became a "learner", rather than waiting to be "taught."

You could proactively smile and feel good, or you could wait until someone or something makes you smile in reaction.

You could be friendly on purpose, or you could wait until someone else initiates friendship, and then react to it.

You can naively attempt to be in a state of neutrality, waiting for a stimulus to respond to.

You could choose your primary state of consciousness, and have a greater influence on every circumstance of your life.

You can proactively choose a set of principles to live by, or you can drift through life without a sail.

Choosing a code of conduct is a great example of being proactive.

Are you proactive?

You understand the concept of "Be Proactive."

You are not going to show up to the Color Belt Test and react to your classmates energy.

You will proactively set a very high energy, explosive pace.

Are you going to see what mood you are in when you wake up tomorrow and approach your day accordingly?

No.

You will proactively decide your emotional "zone" and make your day a productive one!

Think about the most effective, productive, and accomplished people who you know.

Are they primarily reactive or proactive?

Give it some thought.

Habit 2 - Begin With The End In Mind, is a powerful concept.

The basic premise is to imagine that you are at the end of your life, looking back at it.

You will immediately realize that the life you are looking back at, is the life you are living right now.

You have the power to change it, if you want to.

Habit 2 gives you a chance to decide what you want to accomplish and who you want to be.

If you really embrace the exercise, it will give you an incredibly clear picture of where you are, and where you are going.

More to the point, it will give you a greater awareness of who you are, and who you are going to be.

You can also apply the principle of Begin With The End In Mind for shorter term goal setting.

You will profoundly increase your success when it comes to achieving your objectives, if you know what they are.

Unfortunately, many of us are reluctant to declare a specific goal because of the possibility of failure.

Ironically, avoiding goal declaration actually guarantees failure.

Earning your Black Belt is not an accident.

It only happens on purpose.

It is the result of a decision that you make when you are at the Yellow Belt level.

You consider it at White Belt, but you decide to earn your Black Belt when you become a Yellow Belt.

You do not wait until you earn your Brown Belt, to set Black Belt as your goal.

The more clear you are about the direction of our life, the more likely you are to live it out.

Do have the courage required to think about who you will be in the future?

If you are finding it difficult or painful, I have a suggestion.

You do not have to look at your past or the present.

Put that aside for now.

Imagine what you want in the future.

Think about how you want the people closest to you, to remember you.

Then you will know exactly how you must live your life from here on out.

It is simple, but not easy.

Let me know what you think.

I always appreciate hearing about your life, on and off the mat.

Habit 3, which Dr. Covey calls Put First Things First, corresponds with TCMA's Green Belt.

He suggests that you should prioritize your entire life.

It requires a degree of maturity when deciding the relative importance of the things in our lives.

Take it seriously.

Your true priorities dominate your life.

Choose wisely.

Our priorities naturally change throughout time.

It is disconcerting that we are frequently unaware of what we value, until we lose it.

Isn't that true?

We choose our values.

Our behaviors should logically follow our chosen values.

Often they do not.

What we say is not always what we do.

What we do is what we really value.

Carefully inspect your last 72 hours.

Have you used your time in accordance with what you believe are your priorities?

Go back a little further, let's say a full week.

How does the last 168 hours of your life stack up to your declared values and priorities?

Sometimes we put the urgent ahead of the important.

It is a revealing exercise to examine carefully how the "urgent" came to be.

It is usually a direct consequence of neglecting the "important."

I recommend that you write down the most important things in your life.

Literally come up with your top 10 list.

It is a fantastically beneficial exercise.

If you want to start with a simpler version, try prioritizing your TCMA curriculum.

You probably did this as a Green Belt (or you will).

By the time a student earns their Green Belt, they begin to value many aspects of training that seemed meaningless a few months earlier.

I am certain that you came to a point where you decided to rethink and reevaluate your goals and reasons for training.

Give it some more thought, and some more action by writing it down!

Discover where your Martial Arts training fits in with your most important priorities.

I think you are going to be delighted to find out that your training permeates the important things in your life in positive and productive ways.

I imagine that you quickly discovering how applicable Dr. Covey's ideas are, and how beautifully they fit into our Martial Arts philosophy.

The principles in this book are universal, and resonate deeply with most people. It is difficult to find flaws in his reasoning.

I am confident that you will enjoy his work if you study it.

The 4th Habit - Think Win-Win, is a terrific concept.

It essentially suggests that should we seek opportunities for mutual gain.

This does not negate the value of competition.

At the Blue Belt level, partner drills are more frequent.

You find out fast that serious training requires cooperation from your classmates.

We should seek Win-Win outcomes in situations that do not require the Win-Lose approach.

For example, you certainly want to go for Win-Lose in competitive sports, but not with your own team, during a game.

Your team needs you to think Win-Win.

A great example of where Win-Lose does not work well is in a friendship.

Win- Win is a far better paradigm.

Lose-Win is also a faulty model of interaction.

Finally Lose-Lose is the worst of all.

In a cooperative reality, Win-Win is the only useful approach.

The other models all lead to Lose-Lose.

It may be semantics, but I personally prefer the word earn rather than win.

"Win" suggests an outcome controlled by chance.

"Earn" implies a result that comes through choice.

Many of us are deeply scripted and programmed to see every interaction as a win or lose conflict.

The truth is that if we are in a situation that requires cooperation, Win-Lose thinking will sabotage our success.

Have you ever tried going for Win-Lose when Win-Win would have been more effective? Of course you have.

We all have. Many people are trapped in this mind-set.

I recommend that you examine which approach that you are using in your life.

Are you truly cooperating and seeking mutual benefit for yourself and others when it is appropriate?

Or do you constantly see everything as a contest where if someone else wins you automatically lose?

The toughest and most successful people who I know are constantly increasing their capacity to apply Win-Win to as many areas of their lives as possible.

When you genuinely apply Win-Win to your life, Win-Lose is easy.

Do not delude yourself into thinking that Win-Win is easy.

Win-Win is extremely challenging and extraordinarily rewarding.

Look carefully at the life of a successful competitive athlete.

Ninety percent or more of their time and energy is spent on cooperative Win-Win endeavors.

Their Focus on Win-Lose competition is only the tip of the ice berg.

Now take a look at sports fans.

They talk a very robust, competitive, Win-Lose game, and then they go play it in areas of their lives that require Win-Win.

What is the result?

Mediocrity at the very least, and catastrophe at the very worst.

Take a closer look at your approach to your relationships and your interaction with your friends, family, classmates and colleagues.

What are you going for?

Investigate your motives, you may be surprised.

Dr. Covey's 5th Habit Of Highly Effective People is Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood.

It is perhaps the most elusive and difficult of the 7 Habits.

Most of us tend to want to be understood more than we want to understand others.

You might be thinking to yourself, that is not true!

He doesn't know what he is talking about.

I always try to...

Well, guess what? You are doing it right now.

You have not read the entire blog, and you are already drawing conclusions.

If you have confidence in your ideas and beliefs, you are able to hear the thoughts and views of others.

If you are afraid that you may be influenced by the thinking of someone else, you will probably try to overwhelm them with your opinions.

I am not suggesting that you remain silent, listening to the complete manifesto of everyone you meet.

The principle here is to practice the lost art of listening in human interaction.

Interestingly, we are able to sit for hours, watching and listening to radio, T.V., and movies.

We do this is virtual silence, respectfully (or hypnotically) absorbing the "thinking" of who ever is speaking.

Conversely, we get around the people closest to us, and we have a hard time letting them complete a sentence of fully express their thoughts.

Or we pretend to listen until it is our turn to speak.

Dr. Covey calls it the dialogue of the deaf.

Have you ever noticed how closely and empathetically you listen to someone after a crisis or a tragedy?

Do you realize that poor communication was often the cause of the crisis or tragedy to begin with?

How is that for irony?

Think about the nature of the Sempai/Kohai relationship in the Dojo.

It encourages the Junior practitioner to study the Senior practitioner.

We encourage the Junior to understand what the Senior students are able to do.

We also recommend that the Seniors study the Juniors.

Consider the Uki/Tori dynamic.

The Uki receives the technique from the Tori.

Then the roles are reversed.

It is not a battle of who "goes first."

In fact, mutual understanding is far more important than the sequence.

By the time a student earns their Red Belt, this principle begins to take shape.

Someone usually has to "go" first.

When in doubt, try doing the listening first.

I have a feeling that you will not be met with any resistance.

Try practicing Habit 5 for the next 72 hours.

You will be fascinated with the exercise.

The 6th Habit is called Synergize. We have many examples of this concept in the Martial Arts.

Physical coordination is one of them.

Cooperation is another.

Synergy is a necessary characteristic of correct technique.

Dr. Covey describes the principle of Synergy as 1 plus 1 equaling 3 or more.

The equation may defy basic arithmetic, but you can find evidence of it everywhere.

At Brown Belt we all gain a greater understanding of synergy.

We also develop a deep appreciation for it.

Plywood is a good illustration.

Each thin sheet of wood is only capable of holding a little bit of weight.

But when 5 layers are put together, with the grains alternately stacked, it is incredibly strong.

Much more than 5 times stronger than the sum of the individual sheets.

Take a chopstick and break it in half.

Try it with 2 or 3 put together.

No problem.

Then bundle 15 or 20 together.

Good luck.

The strength is amplified beyond the total number of chopsticks.

Your muscle groups work the same way.

In the Dojo, we experience synergy constantly.

While it is difficult to quantify the overall energy in a class, it is very easy to feel.

When you are in class with 11 or 12 people, the "fire" is simply harder to build.

When you train with 20 or more, the mat is electrifying. You have experienced it.

Synergy is a kind of harmony. It is a profoundly powerful force.

When your body is functioning at an optimal level, it is working synergistically.

Your eyes work together to achieve a result that is greater than double of what either one can accomplish.

What are some examples of synergy that you notice? Reeses Peanut Butter Cups don't count!

Look for examples in your personal and professional life.

If you look carefully, you will find examples everywhere.

The measure of a healthy relationship is the synergy that it generates.

Give serious thought to the effects of synergy in your life.

Your awareness of it will increase your appreciation for it.

The 7th of Dr. Covey's Habits is called Sharpen the Saw.

It is what he calls, the habit of renewal.

We refer to it as Kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means continuous improvement.

Habit 7 is what being a Black Belt is all about it.

It encompasses Habits 1 through 6, and encourages us to renew and refine them.

The thought behind Habit 7 is that things will break down if we do not constantly build them up.

Most of us had incredibly flexible bodies when we were children. Remember that?

If we did nothing to maintain and improve our flexibility, we gradually lost it.

The same goes for our strength and endurance.

Habit 7 is the way to get it all back.

Think of any skill or competency. You must endeavor to improve it, or it will diminish.

Martial Arts training is an incredibly effective way to build a stronger body, sharper mind, and non-quitting spirit.

If you spend any time in the Dojo, you will discover this for yourself.

Mentally, your memory, focus, and imagination are constantly challenged and cultivated.

Physically, you are able to build strength, increase flexibility, and improve your endurance.

These opportunities are available during every single class.

Non-quitting spirit is not developed when you feel like training.

It is developed when you "don't feel like it", but you do it anyway.

You want to give up, but you subordinate your mood to your values.

Each time you step on the mat, you can broaden your skills and deepen your understanding.

In order to reap the rewards of Habit 7, we must apply it to every dimension of our lives.

Feed the parts of your life that you want to grow, starve the things you want to eliminate.

Martial Arts practice is an action-packed adventure.

It is a process, not a product.

It is a journey, not a destination.

I look forward to seeing you in class.

Respectfully,

Kyoshi Thomas Clifford


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