I always loved the feeling of starting a new testing cycle when I was coming up through color belt ranks.
Finally— A new form (sometimes). A new goal. New moves. A fresh motivation.
Another belt behind me.
One belt closer to black.
Another testing passed.
One step closer to being... I don't know? Better? More fulfilled?
Sound somewhat familiar?
It's often terribly easy to get caught up in the transactional occurrence of "goals."
You know. You pass yellow belt testing, and naturally, your goal shifts: eyes set on orange. You don't break your boards. Natural goal shift: breaking your boards next time. This cycle can easily continue as you progress through ranks, often becoming almost robotic.
Memorize the new form.
Spar. Conditioning. Board breaks.
Stripe 1. Stripe 2. Stripe 3. Stripe 4.
Hastily memorize the dreadful meaning of your form so that you can forget it as soon as possible.
Bow in. Bow out.
Recite the student oath, thinking: "How far away is testing again? Gosh, two months is a long time."
Drag yourself (or your child) in after a long day.
Just get through class.
Just get through the cycle.
You're so close.
Again, sound familiar?
If you're anything like me (or frankly anyone), you've probably found yourself in this position.
Not to say that it's this way all the time— maybe it's even extremely rare— but it comes.
You're going through the motions. You set a goal. You meet it. Or you don't. You move on. But why? What's the motivation?
Pass a testing. Pass another testing. Win a tournament. Get a stripe. Break a board. Pass another testing.
Sure, these things are all goals you've set and met. And that's great; that's cool. But what are you gaining? The ability to one day casually mention you earned your black belt and feel pride? So you can get your “money's worth?" So you'll finally be a high enough rank to boss other people around?
Your motivations immediately define your goals.
You can meet goals left and right for the rest of your life without any true, deeper understanding of why you're setting them in the first place. We talk a lot about goal setting, but not only to say over and over again that you should set them in the first place-- but to encourage you to recognize and cultivate the motivations behind them.
Most people can set a goal and meet it, but not all have intentions worthy of setting the goal to start with.
What is your goal? Why is it your goal? Why is it important to you? And how is it going to make you better?
I encourage you to look at the goals you're setting for this next rank testing in a different way.
Whether you only have to wait two months or two years, this cycle isn't just another cycle for you to speed through on the way to black— they literally just get longer and longer from there. But rather, create motivation to reach your goals, no matter how big or small, that is beneficial and meaningful to you, your martial arts journey, and your life.
It's not "just another rank," and it isn't just a means to an end. It's another opportunity for you to grow, to become better, and to work towards something bigger: that's the true value of setting goals.