As we all know, nothing in life, including success in your martial art, is guaranteed. However, with the right mindset and the right habits, you can stack the odds in your favor.

I have found that five habits are essential for long-term success. Although I've seen some people fail despite adhering to a few of these behaviors, I have never known anyone to succeed without them.


Keep Your Center

It's been said that the mightiest person is the one who has control over his or her emotions. That's essentially what it means to keep your center. I named my school the Satori Academy of Martial Arts. Our definition of satori is "in the moment, at your best." This refers to a present-minded state of consciousness in which you have mental clarity, physical energy and emotional tranquility. In Western sports, this is referred to as "being in the zone." Imagine how much you could accomplish if you lived the majority of your life in this state! How enjoyable would life be?

It may not be realistic to think you can spend your whole life at your best, but you certainly can increase the amount of time you spend there. A good way to start is to focus on the six pillars of health each day.

• Pillar No. 1: Exercise. Try to do something physical every day, preferably involving strength, flexibility and endurance.

• Pillar No. 2: Rest. Do your best to get adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can have an extremely negative effect on your health.

• Pillar No. 3: Nutrition. Take time to learn which foods your body thrives on and which you should avoid.

• Pillar No. 4: Stress management. Everyone experiences stress, but the ability to manage it effectively is the key to good health.

• Pillar No. 5: Risk avoidance. This refers to actions like wearing your seatbelt, washing your hands and minimizing your exposure to dangerous activities.

• Pillar No. 6: Recharging. Recharging refers to the importance of scheduling enjoyable downtime in your life, which helps keep everything in balance.

Once your health is in order, maintaining emotional composure becomes much easier. The next step is being mindful of your emotions. Becoming aware of the fact that you're experiencing a negative emotion, rather than just reacting to it, means you're getting better at maintaining your center.

Value Your Relationships Above All Else

It's always preferable to have friends rather than enemies. Having friends and friendly acquaintances not only makes life more enjoyable but also opens more doors wherever you go. A key ingredient to expanding your circle of friends is to go out of your way to bring value to all your relationships. Instead of asking yourself what a relationship can do for you, ask what you can do for that relationship.

Another crucial ingredient in strengthening your relationships is to make other people feel important when you're with them. People appreciate being appreciated and value being valued.

Know Where You're Going

It's hard to know if you're doing well if you don't know where you want to go. That's why creating a clear vision for yourself and your future is important. Make sure your vision has a purpose because when that purpose is clear, it's much easier to maintain motivation. Don't concern yourself too much with the details at this point; just dream big. Create a vision and visit it often.

Read Part 2 here.

Dave Kovar was Black Belt's 2019 Instructor of the Year. To contact him, send an email to dave.kovar@kovars.com.

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