"Begin with the end in mind," says Stephen Covey. I don’t recall much else from Covey’s book, but that quote sticks out in my mind. His idea is to have a firm vision of your goal in mind, and the actions you take should all move you closer to that goal. This is a principle I apply when I practice both Movnat and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ).


Here's what happens: we learn the technique. We practice all the steps, cross all our "t's" and dot all our "i's". We try to do the move accurately, seek instruction and feedback to make sure it is right. This is all good stuff. But there's this mysterious thing which creeps insidiously into practice from time to time. It's a disconnect. The technique begins to separate from its purpose. They drift apart.


Analyze the Disconnect

In BJJ, this is most obvious when I teach people how to strangle each other. Ideally, strangle holds in BJJ work to compress the carotid arteries of the neck, reducing blood flow and resulting in unconsciousness or a tap out. There are hundreds of ways to make this happen. When I teach these techniques, the student focuses on the parts, what does what and where. When sparring begins, the opponent resists you and is not as predictable, and problems pop up. The choke is harder to get, too much energy is being used, and the opponent simply is not tapping.


Often, the culprit is the disconnect I mentioned. The student focuses on applying the technique but forgets the point. Putting the arms and legs all in the right spot won’t do much without applying pressure to the right spot (those carotid arteries). The foot is on the pedal and the car is moving, but you forgot where you are going.


Have a Purpose

In the MovNat workshops I have attended, a central concept was context. Are you doing pull ups just to do pull ups? Or is a pull up a component of a climbing technique, to ascend something? If you are pulling up to ascend something, the mindset and intent are different than if you are doing pull ups for the purpose of building capacity for more reps, or higher weight, or for cosmetic reasons. The end goal directs the process; begin with the end in mind.


No matter the skill, when you work backwards from the purpose, the details and nuances of the technique are easier to remember because they are in context. They aren't random elements of a movement, but functional components of what you are trying to accomplish. Imagine a scenario where these skills you are practicing make sense. If I am practicing a crawling technique, in my mind I am crawling carefully through a tunnel or under an old front porch, mindful of sharp objects, animals, and so on. This informs my crawl. If I am doing a combo, say a crawl/carry/throw, then I will relate it to a situation where I have needed those skills. Perhaps crawling under that porch, carrying a bag of heavy trash out from under it and throwing the bag onto the back of a truck.


Keep the Goal in Mind

Always strive to keep the skill and the goal firmly in mind so it doesn't become a dead exercise, but rather a way to train for a specific skill. When you keep the end goal in mind, it helps keep you honest. Are the details and movements you are doing really functional for the activity you are training for? In BJJ, if the goal is to strangle my partner, are there elements of my technique which can be done more efficiently, or are they superfluous and not contributing to the goal of compressing those arteries? If I am training to climb a tree, are there things I am doing in my solo drills which are not contributing to that (or any other) goal? This becomes a lens you can use to examine, refine and improve your training process.


All of this may seem too obvious. But I can't count the times I've lost sight of this simple concept myself, or observed it with my training partners and students. Sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to overlook. My advice is to periodically do a goal check. Ask yourself two questions: What is my end goal with this action? And is my technique done with this goal in mind?


More on making and reaching goals:

Why Better Than Average Isn't Good Enough for Me

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