It’s perhaps the single most important factor in one’s overall success.
It’s also the first topic that I teach in all my psychological skills coaching programs.
Specifically, the Growth Mindset contributes to…
greater effort even in areas where he or she is lacking
the ability to bounce back from setbacks
It would be so much easier to coach an athlete with these qualities isn’t it?
So why aren’t we teaching our athletes about Mindset?
“Coaches have the misunderstanding that Mindset has to be taught at the expense of valuable practice time.” Coach Hansen
Unfortunately, a handful of coaches still feel that mindset or resilience is something that you either have or don’t, and that it cannot be taught.
However, most coaches do not teach mindset because they either do not know how to, or because they assume that teaching Mindset would be at the expense of valuable practice time.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the teaching of mindset or any psychological skills should be put into context and integrated into the teaching of technical and tactical skills whenever possible. Instead of taking away valuable practice time, it helps the athlete to learn more effectively.
My intention for writing this two-part blog post is to share how we can integrate the teaching of Mindset into our coaching practices.
Like many of you, this is the time of the year where we would have a little more time to hang out with our friends and catch up on each other’s lives. This has by and large been enjoyable for me with the exception of a couple of instances with my friends who are coaches.
Why do coaches have so much to complain about?
This is not a loaded question to suggest that most coaches are whiners or that it is wrong to complain.
There are many aspects of the coaching landscape that could be improved, and it is fine to vent a little. However, some coaches rant non-stop about their circumstances and the number one source of unhappiness seems to be the lack of appreciation for their work from officials and athletes.
Control Your Controllables
Don’t get me wrong, I do feel the same at times BUT, I am adamant that we should not be such suckers for recognition especially since it’s not something that is within our direct control.
You can’t control the officials and coaches who choose to criticize and even make fun of you despite your best efforts.
You can’t control athletes who are ungrateful and self-entitled.
What happens when we keep focusing on what we cannot control?
Over time, it spirals down towards helplessness and even depression! We end up becoming chronic whiners desperate for validation. Not only is this bad for our mental health, it affects the mood of the people around us including the athletes that we coach. Coaching becomes a form of drudgery and as a human being, we become ineffective and unhappy.
Is it possible to NOT expect any form of recognition?
This may sound bleak, but it is as it is. One of our core emotional needs is to feel appreciated and it is almost impossible to be selfless and do good purely for the sake of others, i.e., pure altruism. You could have given up your cushy job to help the poor, are raising funds to build a sanctuary for stray animals, or even doing missionary work for some god or deity, it is still a means to your own satisfaction.
People act in these ways because doing so affirms who they are (self-concept) and the kind of world they want to exist, thus tying self-interest and altruism together.
Is it possible to be selfish, altruistic and happy all at once?
I believe it is possible, but it’s something that we have to be constantly mindful about rather than a constant state or something that we can master. I do have some suggestions that has helped me with this struggle, and it may work for you too…
1. Take care of yourself TOO
The common advice would be to take care of yourself FIRST, rather than TOO. I do not disagree, but I feel that it creates the perception that taking care of yourself or others has to be always ranked, or that they are dichotomies.
I’d rather ask myself how I could take care of myself and others at the same time. How can I align my business and self-interests with a purpose that extends beyond myself? And when push comes to shove and I need to choose between the two, I need not always prioritize my self-interest over altruism (which is in fact also tied in with self-interest).
Bottom-line, if you take care of yourself TOO, you are less likely to feel disgruntled or “victimized” and are more likely to be able to serve as an effective coach.
2. Letting go of Expectations
First, merely expecting something to happen will not make it happen (p.s. the “Law” of Attraction is BS). Yet many of us at some point have mistakenly believed that expecting other people to behave the way we want will actually make them behave that way!
Secondly, it is impossible to have no expectations, but we can learn how to let go of expectations and refocus on what matters and what’s within our control. Very often, this involves regaining control of our thoughts and recognizing that we can’t control what others think and do (or don’t do), but we can control how we respond to them.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl
In my opinion, this is by far the most important and difficult psychological skill to learn, and it is something that we can never really master. However, it is a worthwhile pursuit since it holds the key to our mental health and happiness.
Practicing gratitude and reminding ourselves about our coaching philosophy also helps us to let go of irrational thinking and expectations. This brings me to the last point…
3. Remind yourself of your WHY
For coaches, this refers to your coaching philosophy or why you coach. Our coaching philosophy most often centers around a goal that extends beyond our self-interest (again tying in self-interest with altruism), unless of course your coaching philosophy is simply about seeking respect and recognition from others.
Reminding ourselves about our WHY helps to put challenges and irrational thoughts into perspective.
Finally, if you are caught in a situation where not only is there a lack of appreciation for the value that you bring, and your health and income suffers as a result, my suggestion would be to do yourself a favor and quit.
I recently shared an article about a controversial and outspoken local athlete on my Facebook. The responding comments were somewhat polarizing – some felt that he should be more respectful towards authority and his rivals, yet many felt that his arrogance was justified.
Even though I really wanted to join in the discussion, I hesitated because the thread seemed to be spinning out of control. Hence this post to share my thoughts about the underlying tension between arrogance and humility and also some suggestions on how to develop confidence without being outwardly arrogant.
Confident or Cocky?
One of my friends on Facebook commented…
“A truly competitive athlete usually display arrogance. In order to be the best, you have to believe you are the best…”
It’s a valid comment and confident athletes often envision themselves as a great athlete. These athletes will not hesitate to make use of positive self-labels to play up their own skills, and may at times play down or undermine their opponent’s abilities.
However, in a country like Singapore which has been described by Michele Gelfand -author of ‘Rule Makers and Rule Breakers’, as having a tight culture*, athletes who are overtly confident and outspoken are likely to run into trouble with the gatekeepers, since they are likely to be perceived as being disrespectful rather than confident.
Hence, if you are a coach or athlete, it would probably be in your best interest to learn how to develop a healthy self-concept that supports strong self-confidence without coming across as being arrogant.
I’ve recently started coaching a new group of athletes who are prepping for the Manila SEA Games, and one of the more “contentious” discussions we had relates to the Fear of Failure associated with Social Approval.
What’s the Fear of Failure associated with Social Approval?
Simply put, many athletes simply worry too much about what others think about them. I often refer to this as ‘Mind-Reading’.
Although they may not admit it readily, most athletes are driven by the respect and recognition associated with their sporting prowess, and their identity as an athlete. They might believe that they don’t care what others think about themselves or their performance but that’s seldom true.
Social Approval is part of human nature (The world works only when we care how people think! We are all social animals and a communal species that is interdependent) and all athletes are driven by it to a certain extent.
However, when taken to an extreme, it often turns into a source of fear. For example, athletes may be afraid of letting their teammates down or to disappoint their coaches and parents. They often feel tensed and anxious or are afraid to take risks when others are watching.
Two of the biggest influence on my approach to coaching – Process Focused Coaching, are Albert Ellis and Ken Ravizza. Both have passed on, and both were heavily influenced by the Stoic philosophy.
Ellis was described as a ‘Stoic Philosopher with a Sailor’s Mouth’. He was inspired by the writings of Stoic Philosophers to devise Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). REBT was the first form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and is still my preferred technique for athlete counseling.
According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is a dead ringer to the quote below by Epictetus (one of the three most important Stoic philosophers along with Marcus Aurelius and Seneca).
“It isn’t the events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.” – Epictetus
The question put to me by a friend was essentially – what can she do to ask her daughter’s primary school coach to be less harsh and loud?
The primary school softball team had started holiday training in preparation for next year. She observed that the coach tends to yell at the kids when they make mistakes, as a result they tend to be very tentative when they play. Her daughter tends to “freeze out” especially when it’s her turn to bat.