Developing a Growth Mindset: How Karate Helps You Envision Your Goals

Recently, Ripple Effect’s “Read with a Black Belt” series featured “Growth Mindset Ninja,” part of the incredible (and growing) collection of Ninja Life Hacks children’s books by author Mary Nhin.

I highly recommend this book (and the entire series, actually) for any karate parent working to instill strong values in their karate kids. But the Growth Mindset book really spoke to me in a karate context, specifically, the concept of the “power of YET.”

A quick summary: Growth Mindset Ninja hadn’t always been keen to try new things, because he failed at so many challenges. But then a (ninja) friend helped him understand that while he couldn’t do certain things right away, with practice he’d be able to do them in the future. Hence, “I can’t do this” turns into “I can’t do this… yet.”

When I first saw Master Macy perform a reverse sidekick, and then tried it myself, I flubbed. It was a disaster, or at least very ugly. The “I can’t do this” script was running pretty hard in my head. But the instructors weren’t showing off with their reverse sidekicks. They were teaching the gold and green belts how to do them. I learned the principles, the steps, the chambers and pivots. In the course of this instruction I felt the power (though I didn’t have a name for it) of “YET.”

It taught me to set a goal: I’ll be able to hit the pad with a reverse sidekick, to time it, to negotiate the distance. Before long (ok, it was months) I was able to deliver a reverse sidekick (on occasion) during a sparring match. I’d reached my “yet,” and overcome that peak. I was on the other side of it, and ready for a new goal.

Having a growth mindset, a sense that you can accomplish new and greater feats in karate and math and business and humor and whatever your goals may be, is part of the Black Belt mentality. It’s part of belonging to a Black Belt school and coming to classes and helping your fellow students learn. Thanks for setting your sights on new goals, even while you’re yet to reach them.

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