Character Chats

What Stops Initiative?

What stops initiative?

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I was a special ed teacher for 15 years, and I have two master’s degrees in education and together, we’ve created this character curriculum to best meet the needs of our youngest students who are three and four and our oldest student who is 85.

And this month we’re talking about initiative, and last week we were defining it as seeing what needs to be done and just doing it, just taking that action. We talked about how initiative is the kind of skill that grows as kids grow, and they take more and more initiative on the older they get until all of us adults, there’s a lot of initiative we have to take in our daily lives. And this week we’re talking about what stops our initiative? What gets in the way? What holds us back from really taking that action?

And one of the things that can hold us back is distractions. Ask any six-year-old to clean up their room, and I guarantee you, within a few moments, instead of cleaning their room, they’re going to be playing with whatever toys that they were supposed to be putting away. They are distracted. Distractions come in lots of different forms. So for our younger kids, they’re distracted by the fact that they’re supposed to clean up their room and they want to play with the toys instead. They are supposed to put the books on the bookcase, but then they started thumbing through it and they’re like, this is a really good book. And they sit down and read it. When they’re taking initiative on homework, but they don’t really want to do their homework, the distractions could be anything that takes them away from actually doing that particular work.

Same thing with adults, right? We’ve got email, we’ve got text messages, we’ve got social media, we’ve got other things that we could be doing, and those can be our distractions, depending on the time of year, depends on if holidays wind up being a distraction for us. Depending on the time of year, weather could be a distraction for us. So our initiative is seeing what needs to be done and taking action, but there could be a multitude of distractions that stop us from taking that initiative. Something else is waiting, is waiting. I’m not saying procrastinating. I’m saying waiting, waiting for someone else to do it. Well, why do I need to clean that up? If I just leave it there, somebody else will come along.

Last week I had the example of taking initiative, you’ve got your dog and they overturned their water dish and now there’s water all over the floor. And initiative would be getting paper towels and cleaning it up. But I’ll just leave it. Somebody will come down the stairs, they’ll step in the water, they’ll clean it up, and then I don’t have to. That could be another thing that stops us from taking initiative, is the idea of, well, I don’t have to.

The other thing could be the idea of it’s not my job, it’s somebody else’s. From the standpoint of waiting for somebody to do it for you or, “Well, it’s always Master H’s job to load the dishwasher. Why would I take the initiative and load it instead?” So if we have these ideas of building teams, of creating teamwork within our lives and the people within our lives, then it’s not somebody’s job all the time. We can take initiative to help each other out. So those are two things that wind up getting in the way of showing initiative.

The other thing that could get in the way of showing initiative is waiting, but this time the waiting is in the way of procrastination. Now you’ve waited too long and you only have five minutes to get the job done. Let’s go back to the room cleaning analogy. You’re having people over for a party, you’ve put it off cleaning up, you don’t want to do it. You’ve gotten distracted by all sorts of other things that have taken place and people are supposed to be over in five minutes. Do you have enough time to do a decent job of cleaning it up? No. So now you have something that you must get done in a very small amount of time and you don’t have the time to actually do it correctly or well, or to whatever standard you have for yourself.

So we’ve got a few different things here that can stop us from taking our initiative, that can stop us from that forward progress. We might get a little bit started, but we don’t get it all the way to completion. And when we’re showing initiative, we’re seeing what needs to be done and we’re doing it. We’re doing all of it. We’re not seeing what needs to be done and being like, “Eh, I’ll do half of it.” The initiative is taking care of what needs to get done. So as we continue to talk about initiative this month, we’re going to talk about goals and then we’re going to talk about helping each other out so that we all build our initiative together.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here