Fixed Mindset? Self-limiting Thoughts? Get in the Dojo! Or at least adopt the precepts.

If you are someone who remains in his or her comfort zone and finds it difficult at times to step out into the unknown, then read this article.

It’s the latest article in Phil Toogood’s ‘school of motivation’.

For someone who was (and still is) incredibly competitive, having performed at reasonably high levels in sport and at work, I look back and can now see that I spent a great deal of time operating in a comfort zone with an arguably fixed mindset. When I felt comfortable, I relaxed and then found the sweet spot of performance that is sometimes referred to as ‘The Zone’, or ‘Flow’. I didn’t know what was happening then, but I certainly do now!

Most of my best performances at work and in sporting arenas were when I felt the comfort of being in a good place mentally; I then let my natural abilities and instincts do the talking. I hadn’t ever heard of fixed or growth mindset traits in those days.

Looking back, I aimed at performing to what I thought were my limits, both in terms of talent and mentality. I didn’t really know my limits and I found myself on occasions pushing into new mental territories to take on specific challenges and achieve various accomplishments.

This latest feature is about understanding YOUR mind and discovering the key to finding the sweet spot of performance, outside your comfort zone, through working on your thoughts, perspective and expectations.

All my life I have I have crossed over philosophies from sport into business and business into sport, but when I entered martial arts things started to become clearer to me, such as the how our thoughts can get in the way of progress. We are constantly getting in the way of ourselves!

I entered the world of karate at the ripe old age of 41. I thought I was past it! Especially with a body that was shot to bits through playing cricket and football from a young age. However, after meeting my instructor, who is now 84 and still teaching, I gave it a shot.

Oh my god! If there is a better example of stepping out of your comfort zone, then please let me know. I can remember my first sessions in the dojo when I always seemed to be facing in the opposite direction to the rest of the class. Coming from a sport and club where I was the ‘big cheese’ I had ventured into something that bordered on physical and mental torture – it was also crippling my ego, of which I later discovered was in fact the perfect outcome.

In the world of karate, you are asked to do things that you have never done before in your life, performing in front of many others. It’s not so bad for a 7-year-old but for a 41-year-old it’s way more demanding. Yes, I was a late starter, but it did trigger my yearning for self-development. Having resolve as one of my core values helped enormously and got me through the first 6 months of training, which are critical for the journey ahead.

I want you all to relate to this as life-learning and self-development are vital, not just in sport or martial arts terms. Pushing yourself outside your operating arenas where you have everything to fear, including the fear of the unknown, is a challenge that can produce remarkable results! Not to mention a regular dose of a cocktail of happy chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin.

In Shotokan karate there are 20 precepts that came from the wisdom of Gichin Funakoshi and I’m taking 4 of them that can be applied in life and the workplace. Readers please note, this is not a promotional article for Shotokan karate (although it’s a magnificent pastime) but the values it stands for and how these can be transposed into our daily lives, adopting them to make a difference.

Precept 1. Karate begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy

This is all about respect. Respecting everything around you. We bow when entering the dojo and when we leave it. We enter with a spirit that’s open to learning with the attitude of continuous improvement. Always learning new techniques and improving on those we have learned before whilst continually affording 100% attention and focus. Always trying to do better the next time around with a positive attitude. Can you imagine this philosophy becoming a culture within a team or business and the resulting consequences? Continuous improvement in business is old hat and is expected by all the regulators. But is it truly in the core and the heartbeat of companies today?

Precept 4. First control yourself before attempting to control others

This for me is about opening up the concept of self-awareness and self-mastery. How can we lead others, understand, guide and empathise when we have no real understanding of ourselves nor emotional control and regulation?

Precept 5. Spirit first, technique second

I use this and coach this a great deal. For me this is key to life, and I have alluded to this in my other articles. Spirit and attitude will get you over the line. These traits will repeatedly keep you alive and kicking, helping to get you to your destination. Desire, determination, motivation, resilience and enthusiasm all go into the mixing bowl of character that will help you reach your goals.

Mindset is key to success in many ways, but I do accept that talent is essential in the formula of elite performance and when you combine the right skillset with the right mindset then optimum performance is accessible.

Precept 8. Do not think that karate training is only in the dojo

This is a superb example of a ‘must do’ approach to personal improvement. As I mentioned in a previous article, a self-development ethos becomes a way of life – a culture. You need to practice positive thoughts and getting yourself in the right frame of mind to perform. It’s the same as if you were attempting something new in the gym or possess a need to lose a few pounds; you must practice with the mind as well as the body. By doing this you will be entering into a growth mindset zone, as self-development equals growth mindset.

I will be focusing on further information in the near future that will help you train your brain to get you into a positive state of mind to take on some new challenges! Watch this space…

In summary, in karate we line-up in class before and after a training session – white belts at one end and black belts at the other end with all the other grades represented by coloured belts in between. When the white belts look to the right, they respectfully see the journey ahead to black belt and beyond. When the black belts look to the left, they equally respectfully see the journey they have been on. What a wonderful example of respectfulness and a growth mindset environment.

It’s not a walk in the park to make changes to our lives in and outside of work. Our brains need to be challenged and stretched – no different to our bodies when we attempt to lose weight or get fitter. Our lives are made up from habits and patterns with our thoughts being the rudder or steering wheel. If we want to change direction, fulfil a dream or just learn something new then new patterns need to be created. That’s the part that requires some hard work and dedication! One thing I can promise you is that all of us can achieve great things by evolving our mindset to a growth landscape.

Phil Toogood

For more information on this subject or other interests relating to personal development contact Cranfield Philips.

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