Committed Action

Committed Action


“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.” - Henry David Thoreau

Story

 

Jill and Jane are constantly faced with the challenge of upholding their coaches rules and vision for the program as the captains of their team. Jill and Jane are both major contributors to the team and have been for the past few years. One of the major challenges coach posed to them both prior to the season was to assist him in identifying team values, which include integrity, honesty, hard work and effort, full engagement, and giving back to the community. Jill and Jane have been tasked with helping coach establish these values as the core of the team culture moving into the future.

 

Recently, Jill’s and Jane’s younger teammates were caught breaking team rules by another older player, who told Jill and Jane of the breach. Jill and Jane are scheduled to meet with their coach and the leadership group of the team later in the week and need to determine if they want to inform coach of this breach. Jill and Jane meet with the leadership group prior to meeting with coach to discuss their options.

 

Jill shares her perspective: she’d rather address the issue with the younger teammates on her own, avoid any conflict, and keep moving the team forward. She feels they’ve been playing well and would hate to derail that with something so minor.

 

Jane shares her perspective: as much as she wants to keep winning and keep the positive energy going, she knows that if she doesn’t uphold the values of the team when they would interfere with good things, then the values must not be that important. She shares that she believes the team should endure the consequences of the broken rules together, support one another through the process of coach responding to the breach, and refocus on team values.

 

As they meet with coach, both share their perspective. At the end of the meeting, coach decides how he’s going to address the breach with the team: he demotes Jill from captain.

 

Science

 

Although certainly the more difficult of the two choices from a social standpoint, Jane’s choice to behave in accordance with team values has been linked to many positive outcomes that most people seek in their life: greater fulfillment, decreased distress, and greater quality of life (Trompetter et al., 2013). There’s also a link between acting on values and greater psychological health and physical health and well-being (Cresswell et al., 2015). That all sounds great… how do we get there?

Often times, people sacrifice long-term satisfaction in the name of short-term comfort. But, to have the team you want, or the performance you want, it’s not enough to simply identify your values and hope for the best. You need to put your values into action, even when that means short-term discomfort is likely to show up and be a roadblock.

 

Then there is one step further - there is a reason this action is called committed action. It’s repeated, ongoing commitment to engaging in behavior consistent with your values, even in the face of adversity. What the research suggests is that over time, this type of behavior is much more likely to bring you what you want AND likely to lead to reduced distress in the long-term. The commitment is to enduring short-term adversity for long-term flourishing.

 

Dial Up, Dial Back

We need to learn which committed action to take in which scenario. The reality is that most of the time, identifying which value to act on can be just as challenging as the action itself, and that can lead to inertia. The key is identifying which value to dial into, and how that then translates to action. If you find yourself consistently emphasizing one value over the other, without regard to how that impacts those around you, it may be time to dial that committed action back, examine your other values, and see if dialing it back can be connected to one of those values.

 

Dial it up is a bit more straightforward. If you find yourself consistently choosing short-term comfort and avoidance over forging your character, you need to dial up the committed action. This is a good opportunity to practice some of the other skills we’ve worked on (namely, acceptance, self-compassion, and bring it.)

 

Score Yourself

 

Reflect on the information about committed action above.  

Describe 1-2 situations where you took committed action in your performance.  

When is it easier to act on your values?  

Describe a situation where it is harder to act on your values?

 

Engaged Living Scale

 

Workout

  1. Now that you’ve identified situations where it is harder to act on your values, see if you can identify which of your values are easiest or hardest to act on.
  2. Set 3 small goals connected to your hardest values, and see if you can commit to engaging in action related to those goals.

 

Accountability

Share your goals with a coach or teammate, and tell them when you plan to act on those goals in service of your values. Ask them to check in with you at least every other day regarding your progress, and challenge them to do something similar.

 

Resources

 

Trompetter, H. R., ten Klooster, P. M., Schreurs, K. M. G., Fledderus, M., Westerhof, G. J., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2013). Measuring values and committed action with the Engaged Living Scale (ELS): psychometric evaluation in a nonclinical and chronic pain sample. Psychological Assessment, 25(4), 1235–1246. doi: 10.1037/a0033813.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3a21/4a99db5cb6ddecd57c1b36a68f6434872b8a.pdf

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Just Eff It!

 

Control Emotions

Just Eff It - Letting go of outcomes


“ Perhaps we'll never know how far the path can go, how much a human being can truly achieve, until we realize that the ultimate reward is not a gold medal but the path itself.”
- George Leonard

Story

Diana has experienced ups and downs in her racing career.  Six months ago she set a personal best time in a highly competitive meet.  She was on a high as she battled back from injury that she thought could have forced her retirement.  Now back in full swing, she has been doubling down on her training and recovery efforts. Diana has shared with her coach and teammates her desire to set the world record and make the American team.  Yet, the past six months have been frustrating. She knows she is maximizing her training. She is on top of her nutrition and recovery. Yet, the last three competitions have been disappointing to her.  Her coach even shared with her, “Diana, it's all there. You can crush this time.” But, then, she turns to the next meet, and finds her time to be one of the slowest of the season. She’s heartbroken knowing all that she has put into her training and preparation.  Entering in the last race that will impact her place on the American team, Diana is past frustration. “Eff it,” she thinks. “Just eff it; I don’t care,” she repeats as she heads to warm up. And, then it happens. After her race she is brought to tears as she sees the time on the board.  She not only captured her place on the American team, she broke the world record.

Science

So, did Diana stop caring about competing? Or, did something else happen?

Often times competitors are highly focused on the results.  The win, the knock-out performance, the bottom line. And yet, this outcome based focus ultimately slows down and negatively impacts our ability to optimize our performance.  Remember, the Launch Mindset is a free and clear mindset, letting go of conscious control over our performance. When we focus on the outcomes, this opens the mind up to analyzing behaviors and away from the present moment of performance.

Diana didn’t stop caring about her race.  Her “eff it! I don’t care” response is characteristic of many performers who have battled a challenging path in their pursuit of mastery and have reached the heights of frustration.  Her truncated sentence is more “I don’t care about the outcome.” She let go of her outcome based thinking and just went out to race.  Indeed, it was coming back to her race process that freed her to optimally perform, not focusing on her outcomes.

Hitting your Optimized Zone

Some will ask, “yes, but times do matter!”  Or, yes, but ultimately I am judged based on whether our company’s value increases.  Of course, outcomes matter. Competitors want to win and that’s o.k. It adds passion and motivation to push through the challenges of being elite. Yet, if that is the performer’s focus when going to execute, it will ultimately derail the performance.  Consider dialing it back and reframing it. Diana wanted to win. She wanted to PR. She wanted to be the best. In order to do so, she narrowed her focus to a few cues that allowed herself to let go and perform. In letting go of the tight grip over her time, she freed herself to execute the skills that she knew would bring that time.  So, consider what focus do you need when? When pushing through a tough weight set, maybe it is reminding yourself of your desire to be the best, to set that time? But, when you get into the starting blocks, “Eff it” and go get it!

Score Yourself

  • Reflect on the background of “Eff It” above.
  • Describe 1-2 situations where you can relate to feeling held back by your expectations of reaching a specific outcome.  Any times you found success with “Eff it?”
  • When is it easier to let go of outcome based thinking? When is it more challenging?

Workout

Performance Focal Refocusing

  • Consider a past optimal performance.  What are 1-2 things that you could describe yourself doing that contributed to the successful outcome?  Was it your body language? A specific technical skill? Or something about your tactical decision making? Take a moment and imagine those moments of skill execution.
  • Now consider an upcoming performance.  It could be in training or an upcoming critical moment or competition.  Will the same 1-2 aspects of your performance apply in order for the performance to be deemed successful?  If it will require alternative key behaviors, consider them and imagine engaging in them.
  • Leading up to your next performance, whether in training or on the stage, you have now identified 1-3 things that you can refocus on instead of the outcome.  Of course your mind may remind you of the need for that best time or outcome. When that occurs, initially try reminding yourself, “Yes, I’ve got” and refocus on your 1-3 elements of the performance process.  And, of course, you can use “Eff It!” (fill in the outcome) and recenter on your performance process cues.

Accountability

Choose a teammate or coach that you often are performing with or nearby.  Share with your accountability partner your performance process cues. Consider asking your partner for help in refocusing.  If she/he hears you getting caught up in the score, time, any outcome, ask for a gentle reminder to refocus back on your process. Or, just a gentle reminder to “Eff It!”

Resources

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Self-Compassion

 

Be NICE

Self-Compassion


“If You Can't Love Yourself, Nobody Else Will Love You Either.”
Unknown

Story

Ella has been playing volleyball since fifth grade.  Her father also coached her in her developmental leagues.  As she advanced through her club system and high school, she became known for her toughness and competitiveness.  Now at a junior at a university in a highly competitive conference, Ella has become increasingly frustrated with her performance.  She finds herself extremely frustrated after individual point play and having difficulty moving on to the “next play.” Her coach observes her as shaking her head, looking down, and snapping at her teammates.

Ella’s toughness and competitiveness, in excess, has become a performance weakness, not strength.  Indeed, she needs these skills in the heat of battle and yet in excess, she becomes extremely harsh and judging herself personally.  After a timeout, her coach pulls her aside. He asks her to take a breath. He places his hand on her shoulder and reminds her that she will make a mistake and it's o.k., as the best at the game do.  He reminded her that he believes in her and what she can do on the court.

Ella takes a deep breath and returns to the court.  Before serve, she takes a deep breath and looks into the net.  The next play her ball just misses and goes out. She looks up and makes a shift.  Taking a breath, her “inner coach” reminds her of what her sideline coach shared and she says to herself, “You’ve got this, Ella!  Let’s have fun!” This point, Ella looks into net, and when she receives the set, kills the ball down the line!

Science

Dr. Kristin Neff outlines three key components of self-compassion.  She notes importance of self-kindness in lieu of self-judgment, recognizing that we all suffer or make mistakes, and taking a balanced approach to negative emotions or experiences rather than personalizing the experience.  After a tough play, have you ever heard someone say (or yell), “I suck!” This is the exact opposite of a Launch Mindset. The Launch Mindset is a non-judgmental competitive mindset. When Ella missed, she initially engaged in self-criticism with tones of judging imperfection.  She judged herself, rather than the performance. After her play, she returned to a Launch Mindset using fundamental elements of self-compassion. She reminded herself that it was o.k. to not be perfect, freeing herself to take risks and trust her skill execution.

Hitting Your Optimized Zone

Just for a minute, imagine yourself playing your game when you were 8 years old.  How did a good coach responded to your errors? Sometimes if the 8 year olds emotions were too intense, the coach would put his or her arm around you and just let you “be” for a second.  After a brief moment of tears or intense frustration, the coach would lead you through greater self-compassion...this is key - “mistakes will happen,” its o.k. to be frustrated,” “I can do this!”  This is not the same as complacency or self-pity. It helps great performers balance toughness and competitiveness so that it continues to empower their performance instead of personalizing and criticizing themselves down a negative spiral.  Consider your inner coach - he/she needs the self-compassion tool set.

Score Yourself

  • Reflect on the background of “Self-Compassion” above.
  • Describe 1-2 situations where you can relate to your inner coach engaging in self-compassion when preparing, executing or debriefing your performance.
  • If you would like to further assess your use of self-compassion as a life performance skill, try Dr. Neff’s assessment at https://self-compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/

Workouts

  1. Performance Readiness Coaching Cues - for this week’s training and competition, outline your Inner Coach’s Cues based on how you speak to your 8 year old self.  Sometimes, you need to put your arm around yourself and take a breath. Sometimes you may challenge your 8 year old self with something like, “I know you can do this...let’s go have fun!”  Or even something a bit more assertive, “Alright, it's time to fight...tell fear that’s enough and get in the back seat! Let’s go!!”
  2. Responding to a teammate/friend - Consider your teammate or friend’s comes to you frustrated with his/her performance.  What do you say? How do you respond to him/her? Consider

Accountability

Choose a teammate or coach that you often are performing with or nearby.  Ask them to observe your performance and offer feedback….what do they see you doing after a missed performance opportunity - what does your body language say?  What do they hear you say? Consider this feedback and what you would prefer your teammate see and hear to optimize your performance.

Resources

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Amygdala Hijack & Emotional Regulation?

 

Control Emotions

Amygdala Hijack & Emotional Regulation?


“Learn to control your emotions or they will learn to control you.”
Edgar Martinez

Story

We could write up a fictional story here yet unfortunately, have several real life examples to choose from… In sport, over the years, elite coaches and athletes  in critical times for their individual and team’s performance. Some lost the game, others almost more. Ohio State legendary coach Woody Hayes’ career was forever tainted by the punch he threw at Clemson player Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl.  Zinedine Zidane notarious head-butt of Marco Materazzi in extra time of the 2006 World Cup final arguably influenced the team’s loss to Italy. And, in 1977, Kermit Washington jaw-breaking punch of Rudy Tomjanovich also brought to the forefront to performers’ minds the impact of losing composure when it mattered most.

Science

You have probably heard of the body’s “fight or flight” response.  The amygdala is the part of the brain controlling this reactive response to a threat.  Each of the above mentioned examples are of elite performers whose emotions “got the best of them.”  When negative emotions surge, other cognitive abilities, including decision making are altered. Characteristics of the amygdala include: 1) a trigger (a real or perceived threat), 2) Instant response (intense and with loss of control), 3) A strong emotion, and 4) A strong regret after the action.

Emotional self control is the ability these automatic responses (hijacks) or destructive responses to real or perceived threats.  Impulse or emotional control allows us to stay physically calm, positive and thoughtful or strategic under performance demands. Whether in coaching, performance or leadership, this ability is a cornerstone.  Emotional self control requires the performer to effectively recognize and manage one’s emotions and reactions to allow for constructive use of the emotional energy, effective thinking and strategic decision making.

Hitting your Optimized Zone

Score Yourself

  • Reflect on the background of “Emotional Regulation” above.
  • Describe 1-2 situations where you can relate to your emotions controlling you and negatively impacting your performance.
  • What did you notice in your physical response? (e.g. fist clenched, tight lips, clenched fist, high blood pressure, etc) What emotions did you experience? What thoughts went through your mind? What action did you take? And, what outcomes resulted?
  • Consider alternative responses.  What would have been alternative to managing the intensity in emotions?  Shifting the physical engagement with the situation? Are there any alternatives in your cognitive interpretation?

Workout

One will not be able to “think through” amygdala hijacks.  The flooding of the emotion will overrun the mind’s ability to think flexibility and with emotional distance.  The first technique that is required in emotional control is using breath control or diaphragmatic breathing. When inhaling, the diaphragm drops, the rib cage moves out, and air rushes into the vacuum created.  On the exhale, the diaphragm pushes up, the rib cage moves in, and air pushes out. Use the following practice:

  1.     Sit comfortably, with your knees bent, arms and legs uncrossed, and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
  2.     Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
  3.     Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
  4.     Exhale slowly through your mouth as you let your stomach fall inwards. The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible.
  5.     Simply focus on breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth. If you get distracted, use it as a reminder to return your attention to breathing.
  6.     After about 10 complete breaths, start to focus your attention on a word, phrase or image as you breathe out. Pairing your cue word/image with your exhalation.
  7.     Your goal is to slow your breathing rate down to around 6 breaths per minute.
  8.     Practice one 10-minute session per day or two 5-minute sessions per day.

Accountability

Choose a teammate or coach that you often are performing with or nearby.  Ask them to observe your performance and offer feedback….what do they see when you are first start experiencing negative emotions like frustration?  Gather feedback on the earliest signs of negative emotion. Your breath control will be more effective if scaling you back from frustration rather than rage.  Consider also using your accountability partner for a check in on your breath control practice.

Resources

  • “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman

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