Goal setting for kids in martial arts
May 24, 2023
The martial arts is full of positive, helpful, and productive lessons kids can learn. But perhaps the most helpful, the most beneficial is goal setting. The thing is though is that a lot of people, even adults, but especially kids, simply don’t really understand the importance of goal setting or how to effectively implement it. And what we mean by this is that they don’t understand how to set goals, or how to sensibly reach them. Kids tend to simply see, and then do, they skip the part where you think before you do. But they eye something they want and then get to it, and while this is certainly laudable in terms of motivation, it’s nevertheless training themselves into a habit of simply thinking…I want this thing and I’ll get it this way, and off they go, and they believe they’ve set a goal and gone after it and that’s that.
And it isn’t. That isn’t goal setting at all, it’s reactionary, that’s all.
Here’s an example. A kid decides that they want to advance from white belt to the next, yellow or whatever. As we said before, that’s laudable and commendable in terms of being motivated. But simply jumping in and practicing what they think will get them there isn’t actually thinking things through. They’re simply reacting to something they want, as opposed to truly setting a goal. Truly setting a goal would be thinking about that belt they want, and then actually giving some deeper thought beyond desire as to what it might actually entail to reach that goal. So they want to become a yellow belt. Great, more power to them. But they need to stop first, and ask a few questions like, what forms or things do I have to learn? What is required to learn those things? How long might this commitment take me? Am I prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to see this through and ultimately is this something I really want? What is it going to look like for me once I have that thing I want? Will things look differently, and in what ways?
We aren’t advocating that a person, or a kid fall into some great and deep contemplative slumber every single time they set their minds to something, we’re simply suggesting that for real goals, big goals, important goals, a young person simply take a little time to consider the situation first, ask a few questions, and so on. And give a measure of thought the depth or seriousness it deserves according to the size or importance of that goal.
And then understand that within that goal there may be many smaller goals that need to be set, and met in order to continue to advance and achieve the greater goal.
And that’s a very important aspect of goal setting that will make a difference later in life.
If a kid is deciding whether they want pizza or a burger for lunch, fine, don’t need any more thought to it than it deserves. But they need to learn, as they will in martial arts, that the bigger the goal, or task at hand, the bigger the problem solving, or critical thinking it deserves.
That’s how the martial arts work. They begin as a student, a white belt, with the ultimate goal of becoming a black belt. This is something that could easily require ten years or more. And obtaining that black belt is naturally divided into many smaller goals, each consisting of a belt, just like climbing a ladder, the larger goal of reaching the top is broken down into smaller goals of simply reaching the next rung or step.
That’s how the martial arts functions and is built, is to teach valuable life lessons in a manner in which kids, and students absorb those lessons, often without even knowing they’re learning them.
Kids may join up with the martial arts simply because it sounds fun and exciting, and it is. But as they progress through their time within it they will inevitably give thought to gaining rank, and advancing to the next belt. And that will necessarily entail fulfilling certain requirements. So a student, a child has to begin to develop the necessary skill set to understand what is required of them to get to that next level.
Now initially, as kids, they’re having fun, and feeling good, and developing things like a positive self image. And that’s great, that’s by design as well. But they will arrive at a point in which they consciously and by themselves begin thinking about obtaining the next belt, and what will be required of them to do so.
And so they’ll be introduced to the new challenge or task of setting goals, and understanding how to plan for those goals, and implement their plan, and see it through by commitment.
And they’ll feel great when they get that belt, and well they should because they worked hard and earned it. But soon they’ll be looking ahead to the next rank after that, and so on until they’re looking all the way up to the black belt.
And then the wider scope of planning ahead and setting goals becomes a part of their skill set as they decide for themselves what kind of goal they want to set for themselves.
Do they want to seriously commit to the greater goal of making a black belt?
Do they want to advance only so far?
Do they want to advance at all, or have they decided on some other motivating factor for continuing or practicing their skills and training?
The thing here is, they’ve arrived at a place where they’re beginning to think about these things, and it is necessarily causing them to engage in their critical thinking skills to determine what they really want, what it will require of them, how to plan and how to implement that plan.
And finally, how to commit themselves to achieve that goal.
Article reposted with permission from Go2Karate.com.