How you can Learn to Persevere like a Black Belt

Someone recently asked me how I stay motivated. Specifically, the question was, “How do you motivate yourself through the tough times, when you don’t feel motivated?”

I spoke of how I rest and reset, how working with plants helps me to do that. I told about specific times when I kept on going. And when pressed yet again, I finally ended my answer with, “well, I persevere.”

“Cultivate perseverance or a will for striving,” is Dojo Kun number three. It is one of my favorite ones. And especially so when I get into the nitty gritty of the kanji of this part of the Dojo Kun, which was originally written in Japanese.

Perseverance: Nature or Nurture?

Maybe striving comes naturally to me. A few of my predecessors have been called stubborn. And sisu, a word from my Finnish heritage, defies literal translation, but is about perseverance in a stoic and practical manner.

I think it’s more likely that I have learned to persevere through traditional karate training. Because of martial arts, I have been exposed to perseverance in real life on a weekly, often daily, basis. I have seen consistent examples from my martial arts sempai as well as lower ranks. And I have seen them from myself in training as well. We uphold and promote a fighting spirit, and perseverance, as mentioned before in the Dojo Kun.

The Okinawan culture gave us karate. This culture still exists today still promotes karate, only because of the perseverance of its people.

Persevering toward a Goal or Aspiration

Can people who do not have persevering karate mentors and dojo mates (or stubborn Finnish family members) learn to persevere? I think so! Especially if they focus on it, and examine their actions with a mind to it. Here are my tips to help you do this:

  • 8) Talk to people who have succeeded in what you want to achieve, or something similar. Ask questions!
  • 7) Break a bigger aspiration down into smaller segments. That could either be making small steps toward a goal, or taking things one (breath, day, week, etc.) at a time.
  • 6) Post up your goal where you see it every day. (Written, or a picture of it, or even a symbol.)
  • 5) Use positive affirmations. (I can do this. I am successful with ____. [Speaking Spanish, writing code, etc.])
  • 4) Read (or listen to audio books about) true perseverance biographies on real people. (The Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, and so many more have inspirational true stories about how persevering against overwhelming odds.)                                                                                                               
  • 3) Keep an open mind. Be willing to adjust your timeline or your goal.
  • 2) Practice kaizen, the Japanese concept of spending (initially) just one minute a day to learn something new or improve something. You can adjust this to your lifestyle.
  • 1) I find it helpful when I’m persevering toward a specific goal or improvement, to keep a log and mark it down after I have spent time on it for the day. This can work with numbers 7, 6 and 2 above.

Anyone can learn to persevere like a black belt, if they are willing to put in time and effort at least several times a week. Daily actions toward it are even more powerful. This will lead to improved self discipline, which can be applied in a positive way to improve just about any area of life.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Jenifer Tull-Gauger knows what it’s like to be an “old soul” and a painfully quiet kid struggling to fit in. Her journey to 7th degree black belt is a testament of how she found inner strength through traditional karate. Now in leadership for the international U.R.K.A., she heads up a private dojo with her husband.

Jenifer combined her passions for art and writing, with what she’s learned from 23-plus years of teaching karate, to create a children’s character-building picture book series. The Dojo Kun Character Books help children to find their own power in their lives.

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