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Being the best


Thoughts and research on being the best

Jereme Durkin

Thoughts on perseverance are also found in a poem found in the book Chicken Soup For The Kid's Soul by Jereme Durkin.
"Don’t be a coward, fearful and weak Be the last one to quit, and the first one to speak Don’t hide your face from the light of day Be courageous in life and stay that way No need to run from your trials, troubles, and problems Have confidence in your step as you reflect how to solve them Yet, if you happen to fall, don’t lie there and die. Get up without thought, and hold your head up high Be wise, courageous, bold and brave And life will be worth living from your birth to your grave."

Julia C. White

While striving to be the best, beware of pride. The following is adapted from Animal Walk, Julia C. White, 1996.

"Legend has it that the peacock was born pure white. In the bird kingdom, he felt out-of-place amidst the glorious plumage all around him. Great Spirit gave the peacock a mission: to travel the earth seeking out evil and negativity and to absorb that contrary energy into his own body so that it would not spread. Peacock was told that he would be rewarded. So peacock set out upon his mission.  
As he performed his duties, he began to notice that his feathers began to take on beautiful colors. He spread his tail for a better look and sure enough, he was turning into a magnificent, colorful bird. Delighted, he really went about his work with gusto. The harder peacock worked, the more beautiful he became. Then one day he looked down at his feet and squawked in horror. He had the ugliest feet in the bird kingdom!  
So, when you see the glorious peacock, remember the mission he was given and the work he did to earn those colors. The perfectly formed circles, or "eyes", on each feather are to watch for still more negativity. When you hear that horrific squawk, you will know he just looked down and saw his feet. The feet were Spirit's way of telling peacock not to get prideful and let ego stand in the way of his true work."

Personality traits of the best

A 1978 study by Duthie, Hope, and Barker, Selected personality traits of martial artists as measured by the Adjective Checklist, found many personality traits that differentiate between superior martial artists and average martial artists.

Superior martial artists scored higher on:
  • Defensiveness
  • Self-confidence
  • Achievement
  • Dominance
  • Endurance
  • Affiliation
  • Heterosexuality
  • Exhibitionism
  • Autonomy

They were scored lower on:
  • Willingness to give aid
  • Abasement
  • Counseling readiness
The authors concluded that the differences between superior and average martial artists imply that martial arts training changed personal characteristics rather than the martial artists choosing to change.

Beliefs and performance

The cognitions, or thought processes, in which an athlete engages may be critical to performance. A 1996 study by Williams and Leffingwell, Cognitive strategies in sport and exercise psychology, found several assumptions underlie the use of cognitive-behavioral inventions:
  • Cognition can affect athletic performance.
  • These thought processes can be changed.
  • This change can influence behavioral change, and therefore, improve performance.
They identified several areas of irrational beliefs that may affect an athlete’s performance. In particular, they indicated that perfectionist demands may cause a poor self-concept or feelings of inadequacy, which increase the likelihood of failure. However, they distinguish between perfectionist demands and perfectionist desires indicating that a perfectionist desire, which is achievable and not judgmental, may increase the likelihood of success. Other irrational beliefs include:
  • Considering failure a catastrophe
  • Basing self-worth on achievement
  • Focusing on fairness in competition
  • Generalizing from a single performance to overall competence

Goals and performance

A 1997 study by King and Williams, Goal Orientation and Performance in Martial Arts, looked at goal orientation and performance in novice martial art students by having them complete the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire to rate their satisfaction and performance, and then having their instructors rated their performance in basic skills, effort, persistence, and consistency.

Task orientation is a mastery approach that focuses on hard work, learning goals, improving skills, and gaining understanding. Performance orientation is focused on ego, competition success, gaining recognition, establishing superiority over others, and a belief in natural ability rather than hard work.
Generally, traditional martial arts focus on mastering self-defense and perfecting techniques, which is consistent with a task orientation approach, whereas, sport-oriented martial arts focus on tournament preparation and are consistent with a performance orientation. The researchers found that a task orientation predicted performance and was positively correlated with enjoyment.

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