I grew up hearing that I was shy. I heard this so often that it became part of my identity. I believed it, and that identity shaped everything I did, and every decision I made. All because of what was going on inside my head.

(It turned out to be bullsh*t, but I believed it so strongly that that didn’t matter. My belief made it real.)

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Years later, I came across this same problem as I struggled to become a runner. For years I was reluctant to label myself a runner. What I did out there on the pavement? That was jogging. I wasn’t good at it; I didn’t feel efficient or proficient. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable or confident. And I was reluctant to label myself “runner” because of it. I wasn’t a runner! Look at me! I wasn’t good enough for that.

But then I came across this great book: “The Complete Book of Running for Women” by Claire Kowalchik. In it she talked about the importance of calling yourself a runner, no matter what level you are at. Whether you’re a beginner (like a white belt in martial arts), or advanced, using that “runner” label can make a huge difference to your confidence, and thereby to your performance.

She says on page 30 of the book, “When you believe you are a runner, you naturally assume the responsibility of fulfilling that role.”

Now replace the word “runner” with “martial artist.”

“When you believe you are a [martial artist], you naturally assume the responsibility of fulfilling that role.”

Think about this. What label do you give yourself? That label, and that role that you are then assuming: this is playing out in your training and in your life.

Try this instead:

You are a martial artist.

You are a warrior.

You are a fighter.

That last one—fighter—works for me. When I label myself as such, the following happens:

  • When I call myself a fighter, I feel more confident.
  • When I feel more confident, I feel more motivated to train.
  • When I feel more motivated to train, I train more often, harder, and smarter.
  • When I train more often, harder, and smarter, I get better at karate!
  • And when I get better at karate, I feel even more confident, and the cycle begins again… and I keep getting better.

The goal is continuous improvement. The goal is to keep getting better. And it all starts with what’s going on inside your head.

Change the label, and you change everything.

Recommended Resources

Here are some great books to help you improve your habits, focus, and mental game:

(Disclaimer: Some of the links on my website are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you I will earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase.)

You’re reading Change the Label to Improve at Karate by Sabrina Bliem, originally posted on The Karate Shrimp. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow The Karate Shrimp on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!