The Power of Choice
First off, its been a while and it is good to be back. Here comes the fall! Lets dive right into it… When you think about the phrase “control what you can control,” the true message is to spend your time and energy influencing the things internally and externally that can help enhance your experience and performance. When we choose to focus on things that can’t be changed, we aren’t utilizing our power and locus of control. This is a stubborn and rigid mindset that gets us nowhere.
Having some semblance of control is empowering, and the power of choice is liberating. When we choose not to evoke this power of choice we are acting in a passive manner and oftentimes acting in a passive manner prevents us from growing and getting us to where we want to go. By emphasizing and prioritizing your choices, you are reminding yourself of your strength and capabilities all while being mission focused.
1. Choosing a plan of attack on the mound to pitch to this hitter vs. trying to “find the pitch” that you just might not have that day
2. Choosing a pitch to hit or portion of the zone vs. waiting for the perfect middle-middle cut fastball before you swing
Here are some of my daily choices:
Choose to exercise
Choose to spend time outdoors
Choose to spend time focusing on your breath work
Choose to journal
Choose to meditate
Choose to live mindfully
Choose to show up and give it your best even if you aren’t feeling 100%
Choose your attitude
Choose your support team and choose to show them your appreciation and love
Choose to decompress at the end of the day
Choose to get adequate sleep and rest time
Challenge for your performer:
1. What 3-5 choices are you going to make today?
2. How does neglecting each of your choices impact you and/or your ability to performer?
The Bigger Picture
Honestly your kids struggles could be worse. This statement isn’t intended to dismiss or invalidate your athletes emotions, but it’s to provide perspective.
If your athlete weren’t struggling mentally in their sport, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to persevere and change/enhance their mindset.
They get to play a game, they get to be on a team, they get to endure loses with a support system experiencing the same pain, and they get to become more resilient. Someone else has it worse is something I rarely say, so let’s view it this way:
Helping Your Athlete Focus on the Task
- Not starting while hot on momentum?
- Not getting the playing time you want?
- Not feeling recognized for your performances?
- Disagree with the training regimen/plan?
These are all example of focusing on things out of one’s control and struggling to accept that. These are also all thought processes that can be identified as distractions. The amount of time, energy, and effort grappling with these thoughts is really what makes them most distracting more so than the thought itself. In performance it is natural for attention to drift, but its all about noticing, and returning to the task at hand.
Think about someone playing the outfield. Would you expect them to stay totally focused for a 3–4-hour game without their mind drifting even just one time? Of course not, that’s unrealistic. If they are focused each pitch of the game that’s all that matters, when there are pauses in the action it doesn’t matter where their mind goes. Just like the outfielder, when your athlete is getting caught up in a distracting thought such as 1-4 above (or something similar) all it takes is a moment to notice and come back.
Here is 1 strategy and practice to train your mind to be present.
Naming and thinking meditation:
Have your athlete Sit in silence for 5 minutes, being present with their breath. Have them Identify and select a focal point during their breaths (inhale, pause, exhale, pause). This focal point that they select is what they will return to when distracted.
If they notice distracting thoughts while sitting their task is to call it out and say out loud “thinking.” After they call it out, they then return to breathing and their focal point.
This exercise is designed to help athletes distance themselves from the thinking/striving mind and to respond to it effectively as needed. Rather than getting caught up in distractions athletes can learn to notice it and move forward.
Helping your athlete work through Failure
Good results don’t change the fact that loosing or bad results still hurt. No matter how many times we win or no matter how well your athlete does, bad results and losses will always be more hurtful and difficult emotionally. Because of this we become susceptible to avoiding failure and losses.
We call this…
So how do we deal with loss aversion?
It comes down to how we interpret and define failure and losses. We need to reframe and restructure our mindset around it. Instead of failure / being a failure we can reframe it as an opportunity to learn and explore. It becomes a moment in time that we can reflect upon.
Encourage your athlete to go through this exercise below when “negative” emotions arise after a performance.
Attack it head on with these 4 questions:
What are those emotions communicating to you?
What are those emotions illuminating?
What are those emotions motivating you to do about it?
Did you do everything you could within your control to do your absolute best, if not what can you change/adapt/work on?
Instead of avoiding the emotions that come with losing, redefine losing for athlete and encourage them to be curious. This negativity might very well be a moment of clarity.
We need to be able to see wins and “good” performances in a similar way. Giving value and polarity to emotions and wins/loses interferes with our ability to continuously learn and improve. Win or lose – direct your athletes towards learning and consistent growth.
I look forward to working with your athlete so that we can help him/her lean into failure and growth.
The System & Toolbox
This past Wednesday I spoke in front of a group of students (and future entrepreneurs) about having a side-hustle. I was noticing some of those pre-performance nerves before speaking, and as a performance coach and counselor, I questioned those nerves. I wondered why I still get nervous when I teach and work with others in manage their own nerves. “If I coach people through this, shouldn’t I be able to do this!?” I teach others to manage physiological and psychological reactions to situations and environments, this was an opportunity for me to practice what I preach and preach what I practice. It dawned on me that I was getting caught up in uncertainty, resisting the natural human experience of discomfort, and was distracted (I call this getting hooked or pulled away).
So that’s what I did: I named it (hooked), I normalized the fact that I too am human (emotions and worried thoughts), I took a deep breath (bringing myself back to the room), and then I engaged with my audience. I spoke about my side hustle and the work that I do with Go4Gold consulting, and more specifically, I spoke about my process and the stages of readiness in developing the business to what it is today. While discussing the stages of readiness (bouncing around pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance), I discovered that the consistent obstacle preventing me from making that initial leap towards action was self-doubt (the same thing that was coming up prior to my presentation).
For a while I doubted my competence, I doubted my value, I doubted people paying for my services, and I was comparing myself to others in the field. I compared my day 1 to other people’s day 10, 100, 1000, and beyond. I got so preoccupied with things outside of myself that I struggled to dial into what I could do to prepare for action. I was judging myself and holding myself back. The only way I could act was to connect back to the present moment where I had more pull and control. From this, I was driven to become more introspective and understanding of myself. Meditation, breathing exercises, mantras, self-talk, reframing and restructuring, perspective taking, values development, and more. These skills became my system. With time and focused attention, I developed a management toolbox to break through mental blocks all while discovering what is most important to me. Overall, I became more self-aware, flexible, and compassionate. With this growth and maturation, I knew I was ready to dive in and dig into the business world. I got started.
The same process I used to start my business is what I drew upon to get settled and get started Wednesday evening in front of the students. I relied on my system and trusted my tools. The work I do is always evolving and always a work in progress… a process if you will.
I look forward to working with you so that we can develop your process, and your system to manage and take meaningful sustainable action
Do something hard
The only way to get better at grappling with adversity is more adversity. When we face challenges unprepared we are susceptible to panic and breaking down. Why wait for the break down or adversity to see if we can handle it? Train it. Deliberately practice handling challenges so that when we face challenges in competition we’ve “been there done that.” Although we may not be able to simulate the exact stressor or situation, we can work to be better at responding to challenging stimuli.
We are designed and hardwired for security and comfort. Whenever something is difficult the mind wants to back down, and the body experiences physiological changes that send us signals to pull away from the challenge. Without the proper training we fall short. And we don’t need to go overboard with it either. Try adding in one thing into your week that pushes you; take a cold shower, run an extra mile, meditate for an extra 5 minutes, participate in that meeting, etc. Just do something that moves you just so slightly out of your comfort zone.
Challenge: Do something mildly uncomfortable this week and get into the mindset of stretching your limits. Remember, too much challenge and we panic, not enough challenge and we get bored and complacent. 1 thing, that’s all it takes.
Benefits vs. Drawbacks
I was recently recommended for PT by Urgent Care due to an injury to my patella. I have prolonged PT for the last two weeks. I’m being stubborn thinking that ice and Advil will solve the problem. It’s helped, but the pain is not improving. Excuses are easy to come by “I don’t have a lot of time, I don’t want to” etc. I’ve been making these excuses because it’s a challenge. I’ve been thinking about what I have to lose… Free time.
I value my free time, and quite frankly I need my weekends so that I can be my best for myself, clients, family and friends. My mindset shifted the evening of 3/3/22 when Kayla asked me how my knee was. I told her not great, not getting better. To that she told me I need to call PT.
Kayla is someone who tells me how it is and that’s what I really need from a life partner. She’s probably the only one who can be that person for me in all honesty. I responded to Kayla by asking when am I supposed to do that while working the equivalent to 2.5/3 jobs?
Here’s our dialogue from that point on:
Kayla: Jon, they have weekend openings.
Me: I don’t want to do something hard on the weekends *half-jokingly*
Kayla: Chuckles *understandingly and at the same time mockingly*
At this moment I realized I was focusing on the drawbacks and not the benefits. By focusing on what’s to gain by sacrificing an hour a week for PT I was driven to jump in and take action.
- Pain relief
- Increased mobility
- Work outs such as lower body cardio
- Value of personal wellness
- Values of adaptability and openness
- Self-care ✔️
- Something meaningful and worthwhile isn’t always going to be easy. Hard ≠ bad
- Challenges may be opportunities hidden underneath unpleasant emotions
- Emotions are just emotions until you give them meaning and energy
- What you perceive is what you receive
- It’s easier to tap into compassionate understanding and gratitude when focusing on what you have/ what’s to gain instead of what you don’t have/ what’s lost
- Identify the people who you can count on to help hold you accountable
- Journal on how your perspective and mindset shifts in performance by focusing on the benefits rather than the drawbacks
- Do any of these six lessons learned resonate with you? If so explore that and write down how and why.
In planning for this week’s blog, and really since posting the most recent blog, I have felt unsure of what to write. At moments I felt like I needed to know the topic and I felt myself applying pressure to myself in trying to force myself to write something valuable and spectacular. This morning it hit me… I don’t have to know… That’s it!
Think about it, we always hear the phrase “if you’re the smartest person in the room you are in the wrong room.” If we break down this quote, we are encouraged to be unsure about things – it means we have things to learn, that there is room to grow, and that sometimes we won’t have all the answers. Being unsure may sound scary, but its rather empowering if we embrace seeking clarity with the proper attitude.
Coaches, when a player asks you a question and you don’t know the answer that’s a moment of connectedness. You both are on the same page in that you both don’t know the answer to the question. Choose curiosity. A coaches ability to be humble and human enough to tell a player that they don’t know (but that they will seek out the solution) is an opportunity and example of displaying care and commitment to the player and team. It’s a relationship builder. This wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t the initial stage of not knowing.
Players you not knowing the answer to something means you can improve. Ask for help. BE CURIOUS. We can’t know everything. If anything is impossible in this world, to me, it is being all knowing of all things. Clarity comes from knowing, so oftentimes we can become judgmental and/or stressed when there is an abundance of uncertainty, however, when we tackle the not knowing with openness, a beginners mind, and a desire to learn (curiosity) we can find clarity and answer questions in a graceful manner.
Challenge: When you don’t know something, be honest and true to yourself. Hold yourself accountable and say “I am unsure about this.” Why fake it when you can choose to improve and find clarity. Go seek that out with curiosity.
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. – Walt Disney
Gratitude = Game
Thanksgiving was this past Thursday and some of you may have had the experience of being put on the spot when it was your turn at the table to share something you are thankful for. Were you prepared? Did it take some time to think of something to say? Did the person before you “steal” the thing you were going to say!?
If this was you, no judgement – we’ve all been there before. But this why I write this. The true feeling of being grateful comes only with repeated gratitude practice over time. You aren’t born grateful, it takes training.
Gratitude is more than a fleeting statement we make one day out of the year. Gratitude is truly about appreciating the opportunities and privileges we have (to varying degrees depending on the person of course.) It creates the perspective of noticing what we have rather than constantly focusing on what we don’t have and/or what we “need.” When we develop the tool of gratitude it can be useful in the realm of performance.
Here are a few gratitude statements in performance:
- Being grateful for feeling stress because it means you are engaging in something important.
- Being grateful for your slump as it provides a tremendous opportunity to work through adversity and come out of it
- Being grateful that coach is holding you accountable as it promotes professionalism and ownership
Notice in these examples that there is a why behind each expression of gratitude. Knowing why you are thankful is just as important, if not even more important than the expression itself. In all three of these examples it would be easy to empathize with the difficulty and challenge, however, its likely most helpful to focus on the opportunity side.
My challenge for you:
Level 1: Start expressing 1-3 things you are grateful for (AND WHY) everyday
Level 2: Incorporate gratitude into your performance routine. Whether it be pre-game, in-game, or post-game, expressing gratitude helps you move beyond pain and get back to feeling fulfilled and content in the moment.
Managing Anxious Thoughts
When managing anxious thoughts there are many ways to try and cope, and for the most part the best way is very much so individualized and dependent upon the situation. As a baseball or softball player, as well as any other high performer, because you are human, you too will experience anxious thinking.
Maybe it sounds like this:
“I need to get a hit”
“I should swing harder”
“Don’t mess this up, don’t strike out”
Regardless of what exactly these thoughts are, I want to dive into the complex relationship between normalizing these anxious thoughts and learning when and how to put them in the right place.
One of the examples I will pose is an example of cognitive distancing. You can see the explanation of distancing in this psychology today article from 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201506/9-ways-calm-your-anxious-mind. Distancing is essentially exactly what it sounds like – creating space between you and the thought(s).
So lets say you have the thought of “I need to get a hit” and it gets louder and louder and you start to feel tightness in your chest and your heart starts racing. Here are a few ways to distance from the thought.
Strategy A of distancing: Give the mind a name- “Sam is anxious.”
Strategy B of distancing: By taking the personalization out of it you might instead state “that’s an anxious thought” or “ I notice the anxious thought.”
There are many more ways to distance from anxious thoughts, however, I chose these two examples to clearly illustrate the key components in distancing, acknowledging the anxiousness without having it consume/overwhelm the individual.
Distancing is a great strategy and an awesome tactic for in the moment competition, however, I don’t necessarily think we can overestimate the power of simply being resilient human beings.
What if we did just say: “you know what I am anxious and that’s great.” I prescribe these types of statements quite often because it is about being human and accepting things as they are without resistance and or judgement. Call it as it is.
You’re stressed? Right on, you care about your performance… Now give it your best effort that’s all you can control.
You are worried about making the play or barreling up the ball? Great, allow that to guide your focus and attention on this pitch.
As mentioned, distancing is a nice strategy to use, but so is simply accepting how things are and normalizing it for ourselves.
My challenge for you this weekend and coming week is to practice balancing how you are feeling and thinking without always needing to to do something about it. Identify when distancing is helpful and identify other times where you can just call it as it is.
Poker & Process
“Can we be committed to the process of what we do without being emotionally attached to the results of what we do.” -Inky Johnson
Yes another reference to process. I will take any opportunity to provide real world examples to highlight important concepts. So let’s get into it.
This past week I was playing a friendly game of poker with the folks in my neighborhood and I was the first eliminated from the table, however, I would do it all the same.. ESPECIALLY on my last hand.
For anyone familiar with Texas Hold Em each player is dealt 2 cards face down as their hand and the challenge is to form the best possible hand with the 5 cards that get played on the table by the dealer. Bets are placed after the flop (the first 3 cards played) and then again after the turn/4th card, and again at the end of the hand following the river (the 5th card).
Before the flop I had a nice hand of JACK-QUEEN of hearts “suited.”
So here comes the flop: 8, Jack, Queen. I had the best possible hand. I was the first to make a wager. I played it slow and chose not to bet “CHECK”. Someone else put in a third of their chips. The next player called the bet and so did I. All other players folded.
Next came the turn… It was a 2. Again, I was the first to make a wager. This time I made a small bet. Understanding that I still had the best possible hand I wanted to keep people interested and not scare them away. This is known as a value bet.
As a friend of mine once learned and has shared with me on multiple occasions; “the best possible bet on the turn is to wager the amount that leads to the highest odds of achieving your desired outcome.” Thanks, Joe!
The next player raised, the 3rd remaining player called the raise. Perfect, exactly what I wanted. My turn… “I am all in.” The player who raised who was clearly bluffing folded his hand. The next player had Ace high and a 10. I had him beat, but he was feeling lucky and had a lot of chips in his possession. He called and I was in the driver’s seat.
Here comes the river… The dealer flips up a 9 and I lose. He connected a straight of 8 9 10 J Q (five cards in a row), which does defeat a 2-pair of J-Q. He got one of four total 9-cards in the deck of 52 that could win him the hand. He got lucky despite unlikely odds. I played the hand right and didn’t get the outcome I was seeking. I lost all my chips.
So Inky, I hear you. Losing and coming in last place sucked. I was disappointed and annoyed but one thing I didn’t do was doubt myself or question my ability as a poker player. I didn’t question my play and I will not give up on poker. I also won’t allow myself to waste my time and energy questioning why my counterpart made that decision to call when he had a very low chance of winning. Whatever his process is, so be it. I focus on what I can control and will continue to do so.
I love poker, I love the mindset it takes to come back after gut wrenching defeat. I will acknowledge the loss and the emotions and keep showing up – playing my game with clear intent and enjoying the ride.
My challenge to you: Reflect on a time where you let the emotions of the situation dictate your next move.
Journal on how you will do it different in a more helpful way the next time.
We often talk about acceptance, but before we can accept things as they are, especially difficult things, we need to first talk about attitude. Without the right attitude we can become constricted and need things to fit into our preconceived notions and expectations. When these occurrences don’t align with our expectations we are susceptible to hyper focusing on the results and/or emotional reactivity. We get in our own way.
With an open mindset and allowing things to present themselves naturally we put ourselves in a better position to accept the outcomes and potential stressors as the present themselves. In mindfulness practices, (particularly mindfulness based stress reduction) it’s called a beginners mind. Dropping out of needing things to be perfect and simply being open to growth and learning as things come. When we adopt a beginners mind everything becomes a teacher. Your dog, your disagreements, your arguments, your reactions to the weather… Literally everything becomes an opportunity to learn so long as you stay open and expand outward rather than comparing everything to your internal desires and demands.
Accepting things as they are is easier when we go about our days and performances from the frame of mind of opportunity. That starts with our attitude, curiosity, and our eagerness to learn.
My challenge for you: Drop the expectations and adopt the beginners mind in all things you do.
Putting Yourself First
We recently discussed the Tortoise and the Hare racing. Well, sometimes we need to choose not to race and rest instead.
The internal Dichotomy of effort that is illustrated in the fable emphasizes the importance of being introspective, mindful, and deliberate with how much mental fuel were burning.
Consider this infamous metaphor (you have probably heard it).
When on a plane, the flight attendants often go over protocol and procedures prior to lift off. During this time they share the oxygen mask rule – “If the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area, please place the mask over your own face before assisting others.” You can’t help others if you are running on empty. My message for you is simple…
- Prioritize the things that fuel you.
- Sometimes if we go on for too long without fueling ourselves we get exhausted or burn out.
IF THIS IS THE CASE…. Hit the reset, take a break, and start putting yourself first.
- Sometimes we drop the ball on our routines and habits… Recently I dropped the ball on my sitting mediation practice. Without my practice I have noticed more tension, more striving for control, less patience, and less active listening. So what did I do? I have prioritized starting that back up! I picked the ball up.
IF YOU have lost rhythm with one of your important tasks, observe how it impacts you, document it, and get back to it. Pick it back up with grace.
My challenge for you this week is simple. Spend more time on you and take care of yourself.
Right vs. What Works
“It doesn’t matter who is right as long as WE get it right” – This is often stated within teams, programs, companies, and organizations in order to get the ego out of the way and come to the best possible solution. When it comes to the mind and the mental game, however, sometimes getting it right gets in the way of being present and being able to best compete in the moment.
Thinking logically and rationally is a benefit and powerful skill that we have as human beings. Thinking rationally helps us when making decisions within our social and romantic relationships, in communicating with colleagues or family members, and more. Thinking logically allows us to better reason through decisions, set goals, connect with our values, notice thinking traps and more. What you may have noticed is that I mentioned nothing about getting it right or wrong.
Watch any sort of debate show such as first take on ESPN and you will notice screaming matches, back and forth arguments, heightened arousal and energy, tension, and NO answer to questions such as “Who is better this person or this person”. There is no right or wrong to these questions posed by the moderator, but those debating go back and forth for sometimes hours trying to convince the other person they are right. In performance sometimes being right is just as big of a waste of time and energy.
The mind is capable of great powers in creating relationships and answers and it stems back to how we learn and conditioned to learn.
The yellow truck is brighter than the dark blue truck
The square has more sides than the triangle
The ball is larger than the doll
These relationships, and striving for an answer can sometimes infiltrate our thinking in performance. Think about a pitcher who threw 2 innings and gave up 4 runs in their last outing. The mind can easily jump to relationship formation and protection mode with creating automatic streams of thought that could sound and look like this.
“You are no good, you won’t last more than a couple of innings.”
“You are wasting your time, you won’t pitch well anyway”
Here is another example of a hitter who is 0 for their last 10:
“You are in a slump and it’s just going to continue on”
“You are in a slump so you need a hit”
“You are a bum of a hitter”
“Here comes another 0fer”
The mind is trying to get it right, Its trying to predict the future based on the past. It is trying to make a relationship based on a small sample size. Now, while some people may respond to these examples of distracting thoughts by combating it with logic or reframing (more power to you), I say forget what is right or what the mind says the facts are and just focus on what works for you.
If you find yourself getting into a tug of war with the mind and are fighting the logical relationship battle, let go and drop the rope. Factual thinking, logic, data, and/or evidence doesn’t determine our performance. Letting go of the need to be right or stepping away from the logic and reason allows us to just be and enjoy what’s right in front of us.
Instead of basing your performance on the content of your thoughts, consider readiness. I challenge you to implement whatever it is that allows you to be ready moment to moment, especially when these distractors of “being right” get in the way.
Do you ever consider why you do what you do? And I don’t mean your “why” or your purpose. I mean the decisions you make every day, your habits, and the way you interact with others. I ask this question because I found myself asking myself this the other day.
I found myself wandering around the apartment after a remote day of work and with a period of free time. Without any thought I walked over to the couch and turned on the television and put on the news. In this moment it was almost as if life were happening and I was just along for the ride, it was like being pulled by an invisible string. It was automatic. In response I asked myself two questions:
How did I end up on the couch watching the news? Something I hardly ever do as I prefer video games and reality tv or one of my tv shows.
- Why am I watching the news on the couch right now?
This was something mindless, it wasn’t a mindless reset and/or a deliberate decision such as gaming, or watching a show I actually enjoy.
I turned the tv off and gave myself some space to mull over these 2 questions, specifically I dialed in on #2.
I value the concept of leading with questions rather than answers, so naturally I came up with a third question:
“What will doing what I am doing right now say about my commitment to my value and belief system?”
If I wasn’t getting any sort of R&R from this what could I decide to do instead…. I could have decided to do so many other things….
So what did I decide to do instead?
Well write this of course!
Let’s bring this full circle. Why am I writing this? Because it connects me to my passion for high performance and exploring our levels of awareness. Furthermore, it connects me to live in alignment with my values of personal development and growth. This blog allows me to put myself out there and challenge myself to do difficult things. No matter how many readers, likes, comments, shares etc. I take strides and am getting reps in writing and content creation.
My challenge for you the reader:
- Where can you tighten up your day so that you’re better able to have a routine for your important tasks and hobbies? Adjust this and make it impossible not to do so that you don’t end up mindlessly on the couch doing nothing (unless that’s intentional for you).
- Check in on your hobbies and daily tasks and write down why you enjoy and do these things – what does it do for you?
- From #2 delete anything that doesn’t make life fulfilling and/or move you forward
For the long weekend over memorial day I was on vacation. I was on the cape with Kayla and some friends. It was a blast – being able to let go and relax for 3-4 days was much needed. I love my work and at the same time coming back and transitioning back to my responsibilities wasn’t something I was all too excited about… When it comes to transitions I oftentimes notice myself focusing on what I am leaving behind, and having a hard time seeing what is to gain. Choosing where to focus and the right focus/perspective is a helpful strategy that I try to implement as much as possible.
The transition as anticipated wasn’t easy, in fact it was rather challenging. I have always struggled with transitions, as it is difficult for many of us. The most important thing I did for myself during that time of transition was normalize it. By allowing myself to feel it I allowed myself to be imperfect and choose how I responded. I wasn’t extremely motivated to get back to work and leave vacation behind, but I also knew that resisting the transition itself would just make me sad and tense. By reminding myself that I am human and that life isn’t always about feeling happy and things being easy, I was better able to manage the discomfort and approach each day this past week+ with intention and purpose.
Let’s talk about purpose… Thinking about my “why” in the work that I do comes naturally at this point and it drives me. I work to empower others in life/performance so that they learn to embrace all obstacles and develop ways to cope and persevere. With that said, I also have come to find that I enjoy this work so much because it is a daily reminder for myself that I too deal with the ups and downs that comes with being a human being. Unpleasant emotions, thoughts, and experiences aren’t always fun to deal with, but we can learn to notice them and respond effectively. Sometimes it just comes down to being able to coach ourselves and choose to live a meaningful life. That’s what I chose to do with this situation, and it is no different when it comes to performance.
You won’t always “feel good,” and that is to be expected. Normalize it, work through it, give it your best effort, and embrace it. Most importantly, enjoy the moment.
A thought for all: Life can be hard and uncomfortable, AND at the same time, it is beautiful.
Acceptance and commitment training/therapy is making a big splash within competitive sport and performance psychology. Spearheaded by Stephen Hayes, ACT is becoming one of the go to methods and approaches in the work with high performers.
In discussing Acceptance, I want to make clear that this piece is not to elaborate on the tenants and teachings of ACT, but rather to reframe and clarify what acceptance is and what it is not.
Acceptance is to be fully engaged with one’s experience both externally and internally, and overtly, and experientially (without resistance and or avoidance).
External: sight, touch, taste, smell, hear, tasks (present moment).
Internal: Thoughts, feelings, physiological sensations (distractions/discomfort).
Acceptance does not have anything to do with liking how things are or enjoyment, but simply put, it is just seeing things as they are. There is an underlying mindfulness based foundation to acceptance that gets at non-judgment.
Acceptance is often misunderstood as “it is what it is,” which leads to apathy-lessened care and interest, and thinking that things will always be as they are. Acceptance is not about promoting apathy, or giving up, acceptance guides one towards self-awareness in learning what is productive and what actions/ thoughts/ feelings/ sensations are obstacles in the way of taking productive action. Acceptance of things as they are without judgement helps one choose how to proceed even when things aren’t necessarily easy or going according to plan.
When one learns and practices acceptance skills, it promotes action (committed action). This action brings about possible change, which directly refutes the idea of “it is what it is.” Yes, things are as they are RIGHT NOW, but that doesn’t mean that with committed action things can’t change or even improve. When or how long will it take to see the change or results? Who knows… We can accept that too.
Clearly then, when one takes committed action acceptance skills don’t dissipate. When one takes action one can expect adversity, and how one perceives and receives the adversity and responds with resilience also gets at acceptance.
Acceptance is not the end all be all, it is an ongoing piece of the committed action process.
For clarity and to summarize consider some other ways to think about acceptance: navigate, lean in, embrace, sit with, or manage
Challenge: Consider how you let go of the control you don’t have and manage the associated discomfort and distraction – practice this over and over and over again
In performance we default to results. Whether “good” or “bad” we ride the roller coaster of emotions and become exhausted by this ride. Up and down, twist and turn… It takes a toll on us. In turn we become restless.
We get consumed by the counterproductive thoughts and we cling to the unpleasant emotions. We are desperate for this conflict to be resolved, so we jump at the idea of quick fixes.
The reality is that restlessness is often caused by uncertainty. In performance we never know how we are going to perform or what the stat sheet will look like, so when we get “good” results we’re happy and we’ve checked that box. Now we know how we did, and the emotions are pleasant. But when we don’t get “good” results we become distressed, disappointed, and rattled.
Once again, we become uncertain about how to fix it, and of course how to get the desired results… It’s an anxious loop… Instead of the need to answer this complex cycle, we can shift towards mindful awareness.
Awareness brings about understanding, and increased awareness only occurs with curiosity and an open mind. If we are seeking clarity, we need to be open to trial and error, imperfection, and patience.
By being curious and diligent in our efforts, training, preparation, and performances, we gain insights and clarity into the question of what actions help and which actions don’t. In doing so we also pivot away from the concept of good and bad, and we become more open to the idea that “bad results” may not really be all that bad. When one thing doesn’t help, rest easy in the understanding that something else will. A bad result is just an opportunity to adapt, change, and grow.
Rather than judging outcomes and judging things that didn’t click right away, we can shift our judgements to moments of increased awareness, acceptance, and curiosity. When something doesn’t help us, acknowledge it, and investigate it. Maybe this leads us to try something different, OR maybe it doesn’t. Maybe we did everything right, and it just didn’t go our way this time. In this case, stay patient, stay the course. Curiosity and awareness allow us to accept the moment as it is and make this distinction!
This isn’t math class anymore where trial and error take too long and there is always some equation to apply… There is no equation for this, it’s ever changing and nuanced.
The mind doesn’t like this, it wants performance to be analytical in nature. When the mind goes there, this is a moment where the mind is becoming a distraction. We need to be aware and curious about that too – maybe even critical of it, but never judgmental.
This is all about energy and attitude… Be open and be curious. Control what you can control and accept what you cannot.
HOW > WIN
What’s important now or “W-I-N”, is a simple acronym and reminder to always prioritize the immediate tasks in the present moment. WIN determines, the priorities, the action steps, what is to get done, and when. It’s the task list.
Consider implementing WIN while at school.
WIN can prompt a student to immerse themselves in their studies and course work during each block/class period. It allows the student to segment the day, breaking it up into smaller more tangible chunks.
The focus on WIN allows one to prioritize and leverage their time and energy.
More important that knowing what’s important in the moment (WIN), is understanding HOW to attack the most important thing in the moment, or rather HOW to be during the WIN. The HOW is the underlying intent that bring purpose and meaning to each moment.
WIN states what the process is. HOW is understanding the best way to go about the process.
How to present during a mediation vs just getting it done
- Patience, openness, accepting, compassionate
How to show up as a teammate at 5am lift.
- Kind, energetic, supportive
How to treat your teacher after a long day, or after a tough loss the day before.
- Polite, Curious, Eager to learn
Identify how you want to be during your most challenging task this week AND WRITE THEM DOWN!
When you take an inventory and check in with yourself (which I recommend doing on a daily basis in some capacity) ask yourself what things are fueling you and which things are burning you. What things are you doing in your day-to-day life that bring you fulfillment and meaning, and which things are becoming counterproductive? When you take this inventory the key is to be brutally honest and accountable. Hurtful and helpful is not defined by how difficult or challenging said task/activity might be, but rather exactly what it sounds like; does it help or does it not?
Stop doing the things that waste your time and energy and serve no purpose, and continue doing the things that bring you that joy.
Continuing isn’t as cut and dry, as it requires a flexible approach. Times change and our roles can shift. When this happens sometimes our engagements and habits change as well. Maybe some of these changes in habit are intentional, maybe at times the changes simply happen without thought. Just because you stopped, does not mean you can’t pick it back up. If it is something that would be helpful, start doing it again. If it is something that no longer serves you or it isn’t applicable, then don’t start it – continue not doing it. At the same time, depending on where you are at, it may be helpful to add something new that serves an intentional purpose. More isn’t always better, but it might be if it is the right addition at the right time.
All be it simple, the Start-Stop-Continue concept isn’t black and white. Something can be both helpful and hurtful at the same time. Something can be helpful and hurtful depending on the situation. Something can be helpful at one time of your life and then not helpful in another, and vice-versa. And yes of course, some things can be mutually exclusive; either helpful or not.
A thought to summarize and a challenge:
If is a seed it can also be a weed*
If it is a hook take another look*
If it hurts divert **
If it is new it doesn’t mean its blue***
If it helps it’s always there waiting upon your return***
If it works enjoy the perks**** __________________________________
*Flexible understanding & attitude
A. Schedule a time for today to check in with yourself and investigate your daily habits.
B. List out 1 thing to stop, 1 thing to start, and 1 thing to continue
C. In an effort to find the purpose and function, document why you chose each of these items in your own Stop-Start-Continue
Do You Want to be Great?
I’ve been thinking over this idea and asking myself over and over again – “are you willing to be great.” For me it depends…. Am I willing to be a great person? Yes! Am I willing to be a great baseball coach? Not anymore. A great podcast host? Not anymore. Figure out if you want to pursue excellence and why.
The first step is that we need to define success and greatness individually. For me greatness and success is living in alignment with my values and priorities, and being a good person that does less harm. I have made this a very simple concept for myself. I strive to do good by others as I would want others to do good by me. I want to be a pleasant person to be around – a good brother, friend, provider, partner and so on.
Now the question becomes what am I willing to do and what will I do to get myself to be a good person consistently?
For me it comes down to a few things such as reading, breathing, journaling, meditating, blogging, exercising, and doing some practical research as a provider on occasion. If I take care of myself and work on myself in these areas I am generally a better person. NOT perfect, but good. If you want to be great chase excellence not perfection.
If you aren’t willing to do the things that help you achieve your own view of greatness or success, then you need to redefine them or just admit that you don’t want to be great in that specific area – That’s more than fine! Again, I wanted to be a baseball coach, a great one. I spent time researching the field, connecting with people in the field, investing time and energy in the process of working in the field for a few years. What changed you ask? I don’t know, but I wasn’t willing to do what was required anymore, and I found something else that was more fulfilling and something that was more in tune with who I am (mental health and mental performance). I followed my passions until they changed and I accepted that change and continued forward.
What success is one minute can be different the next. Success wasn’t always the same and the work involved has shifted to mirror my priorities and focus. For example, wanting to be a professional baseball player or coach vs. being a good dog dad entails a different set of tasks and skills. Less cage time and more walk time.
Our world is constantly changing, and we need to be able to adapt to such changes so that we can evolve. Not only do we need to be aware of the changes externally, but we also must be open to seeing the naturally occurring changes within us. Increased awareness is growth.
So you tell me, how do you define success and greatness for yourself ?
Are you willing to be great and do what it takes to get there?
Through my mentor I’ve come to this conclusion for myself: “good is good, and good is good enough.”
New Year, New me…
Every December 31st we hear about new year’s resolutions. The gyms get swamped, individuals set lofty outcome goals, people start dieting, etc. People wait until the new year because of the day itself: “It’s a new year so it’s a great time to start!” Why do we wait until the new year or a Monday or after the holidays you ask? Well its simple really.
The mind is programed to think relationally and to create logic out of all things – it is a protective muscle and tissue that puts matters into equations and solves problems. The problem is, humans are not problems…
The first problem with new year’s resolutions is that they are goals and not values. Goals are oftentimes destinations, fixed markers without true intrinsic values and purpose. Look at the example of wanting to lose weight. I will lose weight (20lbs) by dieting and exercise starting on 01/01/2022 vs. I will live a life of commitment to my physical health. One is a continuous journey with purpose and connection to something that matters while one is just an arbitrary milestone to reach.
The second problem with new year’s resolutions is that it plays into the mind controlling our actions. In the above example, If you want to lose weight, know why it matters to lose weight and find fulfillment in the day to day actions rather than staring at the scale. Yes you may be 20 lbs lighter, but this will only lead to a fleeting feeling of temporary accomplishment. This type of thinking and action oftentimes leads to the thoughts of “now what.” After all the hard work and sacrifice there is nothing more than just that, a temporary feeling of achievement. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were something more?
There is. The joy and sense of accomplishment is everlasting when you stay consistent with something personally fulfilling and meaningful. When it relates to living your best authentic life there Is less likelihood of delaying action. You will be intrinsically (internally) motivated and won’t require a new year, a new week, or a new day to get started because why delay living a life connected to the valuable areas in your life when you can do it right now.
Striving & Slacking
Do more, do this, do that. I need to do x, I should do Y. Wait just a minute…. Let’s discuss pacing. When we consider our performances and when we consider our sport/performance domain we need to focus on the right effort to be our best. Being present and focused on the right thing at the right time comes from the right level of effort.
Consider two ends of a continuum – on one end we have over-striving, the do more no matter what mentality. On the other side of the continuum we have avoidance, procrastination, and laziness. While there is a time to push beyond barriers and work harder there also comes a time to know your limits and slow down.
Tiger Woods recently discussed this on ESPN when asked about his rehabilitation process following surgeries. In answering this question Tiger stated that it comes down to listening to his body and understanding its limits. In his reply he stated “on the days I feel good I make it clear to those I am working with that I can do more and can push harder, then there are other times that I need to slow down and not do as much. He goes on to discuss how he has developed this understanding and awareness through experience and that it has become a skill. So I pose to you this challenge: Work on observing your effort.
- Sit in silence for 5 minutes with a soft gaze in front of you or with your eyes closed. Focus on nothing other than being there.
- Pick a focal point or what some may call a “home base”. This is something that you can bring yourself back to when you find yourself distracted. It can be a part of your body, a spot on the ground in front of you, your inhale, your exhale etc. (you decide)!
- Putting it together – Notice the nature of your thoughts and call them out…
a. If the mind begins thinking about doing more – call it out by saying “STRIVING” and then return to your home base.
b.If the mind wanders towards avoidance and/or wanting the exercise to end – call it out by saying “SLACKING” and then return to your home base
As you practice this outside of the performance arena and grow your awareness muscle you will become better equipped to apply this same skill of noticing and managing your thoughts in practice and in action.
Your home base is always there! Come back to it and make sure your effort is guiding you and not hurting you.
Last week in my bi-weekly video I briefly touched on the idea of zooming into the moment. In this video I suggested the idea of considering “what’s now” instead of the often overwhelming and uncertainty surrounding “what’s next!?”
Today I follow up on this idea of what’s now vs. what’s next by exploring the idea of helpful and hurtful. Before we get there, we need to look at habits.
Dr. Judson Brewer – Psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and author poses that all habits can be broken down by the Trigger- Behavior-Response loop (TBR).
Trigger – worry/discomfort (emotions)
Behavior – Look at phone
Result – avoiding talking to someone
Dr. Brewer also suggests that the more rewarding the behavior, the more likely we are to repeat the habit. In this example, there is a clear rewarding behavior. The phone grasps our attention with notifications, alerts, and all the apps and features. Our phones have everything we would ever need on them and is constantly vying for our hands to grasp at them.
I mean seriously, who would want to experience sitting with someone we don’t know when we could just pull out our phones and play a game, look at email, or scroll through social media!? For that reason when we look at our phones to get out of uncomfortable situations we will certainly do it again.
Here is another example of a habit loop (also mentioned in Unwinding Anxiety by Dr. Judson Brewer).
My friend shared with me how after work they find themselves eating on the couch. Feeling exhausted after work, they walk into the kitchen grab a big bag of smart food and have at it. Eventually after some time passes they pull their hand out from the bottom of the bag only to come out empty handed. The bag is empty. In this moment upon reflecting, they mentioned that they always snack… Snacking had become a habit.
Trigger – Tired
Behavior – Eat snack
Result – feel relieved
We need calories to survive, so the mind finds food to be extremely rewarding
The Mind: “CALORIES!? YES! MORE! EAT MORE!!!”
Very rewarding… Thus it gets repeated
Knowing how snacking impacts my friend’s appetite, nutrition, fitness, and personal health doesn’t prevent them from snacking, however, something else they went on to say might….
While talking about snacking my friend mentioned: “I don’t even notice how much I am eating, I kind of just space out and don’t taste anything, and after I’m done I feel gross… I don’t enjoy it.” Well, what if they did notice?
- By observing themselves going in and out of the bag they will become more aware of the amount they are consuming.
- By paying attention to each bite and swallow they will find themselves fully experiencing the taste and overall experience.
- By focusing in on the behavior they might get a better sense of when they are full and stop…
The reward of feeling grossly full certainly wouldn’t make them want to do it again…
It all comes down to this awareness during the behavior! As a client of mine said recently, “you want your awareness to become automatic – like taking your hand off of a hot stove.”
I chose to share this example because it challenges the idea of helpful and hurtful that I initially posed at the beginning of this post. Snacking isn’t bad for my friend, it’s just that it becomes problematic when snacking shifts to overeating without the presence of mind. For my friend it all comes down to being able to identify that limit. Without the awareness there is no insight and no change.
It can be a useful skill to be able to identify things as helpful or hurtful, and at the same time It isn’t always the end-all-be-all. By being more in-tune with what’s happening in the now, we can better identify how the habits are working for us. This experience of “being” might be all we need in order to make informed decisions and take deliberate and intentional action.
My challenge for you using another common example:
5-4-3-2-1… Watch next episode.
The next time you are binge watching Netflix, Hulu, or any streaming service, ask yourself this key question: “What am I getting from this?”
Experience the moment and bring awareness to the moment.
Are you choosing to watch the next episode or is it choosing you?
What is this whole experience like for you?
Journal on the experience of bringing presence to the habit and let me know how it went for you. I would love to hear from you!
More Than a Fable
We all know that story about the hare and the tortoise; the hare makes fun of the tortoise for being slow. The hare asks “do you ever get anywhere?” In response the tortoise challenges the hare to a race.
On the day of the race, the hare jumps out to lengthy lead, the tortoise undeterred keeps going (slowly but steadily). In the meantime, to add insult to injury, the hare decides to take a nap (taunting the tortoise). During the hare’s slumber the tortoise crosses the finish line and wins the race. Slow and steady — “The race is not always to the swift.”
A friend reminded me that life and performance is an ongoing race, a marathon and not a sprint. This story of the hare and the tortoise is no fable pitting two competitors against each other, it is about the relationship we have with ourselves. The hare and the tortoise is a metaphor for the dichotomy within ourselves.
We all have moments where we feel we aren’t doing enough, we aren’t good enough and we need to do more. In reality we are over-striving in these moments. At other times we find ourselves slacking and doing nothing and being content with it. Maybe in these moments there is something else we could be doing.
What might this look like?
Slacking: Not going to the gym when we originally planned, throwing off our routine without intentional nor deliberate reasoning.
Over-Striving: Doing extra reps unnecessarily “just because” – outside of our workout regimen (more not always better).
From this it becomes clear that It is our responsibility to be more aware of what works and implement the “right effort.”
Let us not forget that the race was officiated by the fox, an outsider, a non-biased and objective perspective-taker to judge the race. It is up to us to become this perspective taker for ourselves – noticing when we are rushing or over striving (like the hare) or slacking or sleeping on the job (also like the hare). Adjusting to go at the right pace for ourselves (like the tortoise) becomes the critical ongoing practice. This story Is not to debate whether the hare or tortoise was right, but for us to become more aware of the best effort for ourselves.
1a. When you notice the mind being overly critical and pushy (over-striving) do something to distance yourself from the internal critic and give it a voice outside of your own head so that you yourself can observe it (coloring, drawing, journaling, meditation practice, etc).
1b. When you notice the mind content with slacking and skipping something important remind yourself of the meaning and purpose behind that activity let that move you even if you don’t “feel like it”, because it matters.
When you think about fishing and why you enjoy it, I assume that you think about the patience behind the art, the calmness, the stillness, and the freedom you feel while doing it.
What if we adopted this attitude and brought it into performance? When we get distracted and things don’t go our way we tend to tense up and resist, this is our default. We overthrow, we react based on our emotions, we white knuckle grip the racket, we clench our fists, grind our teeth, and clench our jaws. In this way we are the fish on the hook fidgeting like crazy just to try to change the way things are. But nothing changes…
What would the fisherman do? You don’t get that result, you reel the lure back in and send it back out- a new cast. No rigidity, no expectation, just fishing in the moment without tension.
In life and performance we all get hooked and distracted. The challenge is to be observant and flexible like the calm fisherman. By noticing and normalizing our human conditions we can respond effectively with what is most beneficial rather than fidgeting like the fish on the hook.
What distracts you? Answer that question and whenever you see it, name it.
Example: Feeling angry
Notice: “that’s anger”
Once you’ve noticed it, simply give yourself the reminder that this is normal.
EXAMPLE 1: “and that’s ok”
EXAMPLE 2: “and this is part of the process”
EXAMPLE 3: “and this is par for the course”
EXAMPLE 4: “and acting out of anger won’t help”
EXAMPLE 5: “and be the fisherman”
By noticing and normalizing we move away from fixing and learn to navigate the ups and downs, trials and tribulations with more grace and equanimity. Be the fisherman.
Letting Go by Holding on
In performance and life we encounter difficult times and situations. Oftentimes we are faced with the challenge of moving on and letting go of the past so that we can all move forward. A way to move forward however might be by holding on.
By holding on I do not mean unhealthy attachment or resisting change. What I mean by holding on is that we must hold onto the sense of fulfillment and joy that was there prior to the unpleasant stimulus. We plan to read our book and all of a sudden the doorbell rings so we of course get up to check the door. This is a trivial moment in the scheme of life, and yet oftentimes if we observe ourselves or go back and assess our reaction to that moment we become annoyed or irritable. Why do we lose our sense of fulfillment, why did we let go of our “happiness”?
In applying this to the space of mental performance let’s consider the individual who clings onto the 0-4 at the plate and carries that with them. This can cause tension, increased stress and pressure, and a counterproductive expectation and focus the next day.
Let’s also think about the player who walks 2 batters in a row and becomes frustrated and angry so they begin to overthrow. In each of these 2 examples, the individuals are holding onto their past performances, however, what they let go of is their joy, their purpose, their understanding of what fuels their performance, and their enthusiasm and zest for the sport. They let go to easily. They didn’t hold on.
Look no further than Adam Kennedy (I could be mistaking him for another middle infielder during the early 2000s.) Every time he struck out he would walk back to the dugout and smile. He was able to grasp the bigger picture. One result that didn’t go his way wasn’t going to interfere with his overall performance, and it wasn’t going to make him resent the game. He knew that his emotions in response to the K were temporary, and instead of giving up and beating himself up, or riding the emotional rollercoaster he channeled the emotion(s) and directed them toward doing something productive. By smiling he held onto the main thing, his love for the game.
Challenge: Reframe letting go to an ongoing connection or connecting back to the main thing (joy, purpose, happiness, fulfillment, etc.). As I have heard once or twice before, “keep the main thing the main thing.”
How often do we hear: “you just need to be happy”?
Although this is well intentioned, the problem is that happiness in this sense is elusive. Feelings come and go, even happiness. Striving for feeling good and pleasure can lead us astray. Too much of anything can become problematic. Think about eating some homemade chocolate chip cookies. 1 may hit the spot, but how about 10? Ever eaten a lot of cookies and felt grossly full after? No? Well I have, and let me tell you… Too much of it is – well… just too much. You don’t feel happy then.
Now, for a minute think about the human experience. Has there ever been pleasant thoughts or emotions without unpleasant thoughts or emotions? Mad without joy, feeling freedom or loose without the existence of frustration or tension? No. Suffering is innate to the human condition and it just comes down to managing it.
Grief, loss, despair, stubbing your toe, losing, getting a cold or sick, and yes… eating too many chocolate chip cookies — these are all a part of our experience. Happiness as a feeling comes and goes, its impermanent.
Happiness is better to be described as fulfillment. When you live genuinely, from a place of deep purpose, and in alignment with your values, that’s when you experience fulfillment… Happiness in this sense is a decision and an action more so than a feeling. I am not saying don’t have any chocolate chip cookies, I am just saying that if you only eat chocolate chip cookies you probably won’t feel too good. There is a difference between chasing “happy” and living with intention, meaning, and purpose.
And yes… living with meaning comes with some adversity and struggle too.
A message for performers: Chasing the feeling of confidence and “feeling good” may actually be a deterrent in the process of you showing up and competing in the moment to the best of your ability.
As Ken Ravizza once said, “Are you that bad of an athlete that you need to feel great to perform well?”
Don’t fix it. Don’t Pretend to Know it All.
How do I get rid of X? How do I stop Y? Can you tell me what to do when Z? These are questions consultants are often asked by performers. Well-intentioned questions that point to asking for assistance, however, practitioners want to be warry of simply rushing to answer these questions. To no fault of the competitor, we have been conditioned to believe that it is not normal to struggle. We are given constant messages that it is not normal to be anything other than perfect, and that it isn’t ok to fail. Stigmatization is not the answer.
Mental performance work is all about preparation, management, and learning to give it one’s best in the moment. it is not in the absence of insecurity, doubt, discomfort, worry, anxiety, failures, etc., it’s the process of competing with it.
Think about sitting with thoughts and emotions vs. sitting in the quicksand of thoughts and emotions:
When someone is in quicksand the immediate action (by most) is to squirm and move ferociously. This only makes getting out more difficult…. One who is more able to embrace the quicksand is more likely to escape. The distractors aren’t the problem, the thoughts and emotions aren’t the problem, the struggle to avoid and eliminate. The work happens when we get back to the roots of sport psychology consulting – helping athletes perform in the moment through collaboration and integration, not fixing or solving…
Mental Health is not Mental Performance
Recently I was asked my biggest pet peeve about the work as a sport psychology consultant and mental performance coach. Here is my answer:
Sport psychology work and mental health counseling (therapy) work is not the same. Explaining what the mental game is has become less straightforward to the public even though it is obvious to most doing the work.
Mental Performance coaches help athletes and performers enhance their game or performance through mental skills training – learning better to manage focus, arousal, thinking and more.
Therapists/Social workers/ mental health workers help individuals cope with daily stressors as well as with impairments in functioning in areas such as occupation, interpersonal relationships, and education brought about by their mental health concerns and/or mental illnesses.
Someone with severe mental health concerns or even mental illness can be a high performer, and someone not struggling to the same extent can also struggle with their performance. So while it’s possible that quality mental health may help one perform it is not a definite. In addition, quality mental health is not a requisite for high performance. Both mental health and mental performance services are valuable resources, however, the work for client and provider is vastly different.
As providers we need to know our role and be sure to act ethically and professionally with regards to our own level of competency. If we possess backgrounds in both (as I do), we must be sure not to act in a dual role just because we can.
From the American Psychological Association (APA), Dual relationships (also known as “multiple relationships”), refer to a situation in which multiple roles exist between a therapist and a client.
We need clarity for ourselves, the clients, and the respective fields of sport psychology as well as clinical and counseling psychology. We need to serve the client and meet them where they are. If a performance issue becomes a life issue or mental health issue (or vice-versa), we must be comfortable referring them to someone else, otherwise we risk confusing the client and even ourselves… Is this person the performance coach or the mental health provider… Am I here to serve in the performance realm or as a mental health provider?
Being able to pivot and adapt is a skill, however, I don’t think taking one hat off and putting the other one on during a session/meeting with a client is an appropriate or even a realistic expectation of professionals.
Think about the last 12 months…Working from home, loss of work, uncertainty, masks, vaccines, returning to work, no fans in the crowd, no games for there to be a crowd, the seasons of the year, etc. Learning to navigate and manage the inconsistency and change is the key.
High performers are consistent with their process as things change around them. High Performers know what they benefit from and they know what things are counterproductive for their performance – training, sleep, nutrition, habits, peer influences, and drills for example.
At the same time, high performers are also willing to change what it means to be consistent when they need to. Based on the demands of their environments or situations, performers are willing and excited to adjust their routines and behaviors when they trust and believe it will help them be ready to perform. They are able to pivot without stubbornness or rigidity.
Rigidity is the inability to be malleable, bend, move, and/or adapt.
Rigidity can be heard in our language: need to, have to, should do (expectations).
Rigidity can be seen in our behavior: only eating certain foods or doing specific lifts even when other foods or lifts may be just as beneficial or purposeful (resistant to change).
High performers accept things as they are in the moment without judgement and come back to the moment when they aren’t in it. They are open to developing further awareness and trying new things when there is reason to do so. They are balanced and they display equanimity.
Things will never not change, and things will never be perfect. if we need this in order to be comfortable, we will never be content. Some discomfort is okay – resistance will lead to further distress.
I challenge you to consider where rigidity shows up in your day-day and to consider this thought regarding equanimity and inner stillness.
“When you drop the ball… you just pick it up.”
QAB & The Process (4/1/21)
As a mental performance coach I often talk with clients and teams about progress over perfection and the process over the product. I believe that results are the byproduct of deliberate training, preparation, and reflection. Performance and game day is just the next step in the process. For this reason, while in competition we must trust and believe in this byproduct effect.
The Quality At-Bat (QAB) metric is designed to help baseball/softball players move away from seeking a higher batting average and getting hits and move more towards team oriented goals. These categories are things such as longer at-bats, moving a runner over, hitting the ball hard, driving a runner in, and drawing a walk. The purpose of the QAB is to expand what it means to have a productive offense that scores runs. It goes beyond hits homeruns and other major statistical categories. While the QAB is certainly a more well-rounded statistic, it is still a statistic, and while the QAB takes into consideration more outcomes, it is still outcomes focused. Outcomes are not in our control.
One would think that focusing on the QAB would make sense, right? We want to get that result so why not look at that!? Well, its not that we don’t value the QAB, it’s just that a lot of moments and events occur before the QAB does or does not. so let’s shift our attention and concentrate more on what allows one to have a QAB, the “controllable.”
control? Being in the moment. What does it mean to be in the moment? The right effort, commitment to the plan of action, and focusing on the right thing at the right time.
A) Locking into the approach of seeing a fastball on the inner 3rd of the plate and putting a swing on it if its there. What happens if it is that fb on the inner 3rd and it isn’t hit? B) Adjust. Formulate a new plan, or recommit to the plan. How? C) Notice what’s going on, acknowledge the changes occurring within, lean into the chaos and embrace the uncertainty. Next? D) Settle down. How one gets settled is based on the needs of that individual and what is occurring within the individual. E) Transition to the next. The pitch happening right now. It is this application and process that puts one in the best position to succeed (“QAB” in this case.)
2Q & 2do
Ask yourself these 2 questions and take action
1. What is going on for me right now?
2. What can I do to address this right now?
3. Do it
4. Get ready
Repeatedly asking and answering these 2 questions (pitch-pitch) puts one in a better position to be in the moment. With the information gathered from questions 1&2 the individual can then respond in 3&4 to show up and perform in a better state each pitch.
Byproduct and Process
Being in a good position to perform increases the odds of achieving a QAB for the individual. Having more QABs increases the likelihood of scoring more runs (team.) Scoring more runs gives a team a better chance at winning. Winning more games… playoffs… I could go on.
The QAB is an entire at-bat. There are pitches that occur before the at-bat concludes. If the goal is to be in the moment, 1 pitch at a time, lets be consistent with that mentality. I AM NOT suggesting the QAB doesn’t belong, I am simply stating that it isn’t the end all be all… The process is.