In many of my recent discussions with teachers/coaches and young people it would appear that dissatisfaction, and unhappiness is way more prevalent than I’d imagined.
Making excuses, failing to show up to lectures/sessions, blaming others and themselves appears to be fairly commonplace!
Behaviours like these are not limited to education. Look closely and lethargy, lack of inspiration and an absence of creativity and love for life are everywhere. The experience of hopelessness shows up in sport, relationships, businesses, and family life.
How much are our athletes suffering beneath all of that sheer grit determination to succeed?
What about a student’s boredom, apathy, depression or worse still bullying or eating disorders?
We live in a highly evolved digital, fast paced culture, which nurtures a personal best mindset; it’s ingrained from a very early age –‘do your best’!
Are we innocently mis-leading our youth, in an attempt to develop high achievers?
Let’s look at the response of ‘blame’?
Whether it’s a student, athlete, or coach all behaviours, and actions are determined by a persons ‘state of mind’ in the moment.
Another way of describing ‘state of mind’ is a persons ‘mood’. Some days we’re noticeably high, some we’re distinctively low but invariably, we dip in and out of various mood states continuously all day long.
In a low mood, people can feel discomfort, dissatisfaction, frustration, and fear; in short they’re suffering. It can be very difficult for them to be motivated and self-empowered at these times.
In sport, athletes experience spates of low mood, on and off the field, which may result in lack of composure, ill discipline and under-achievement.
This low psychological functioning state can actually paralyze people – it literally sabotages a person’s capacity to live a happy, healthy, high performance and fulfilling life.
How often do you innocently blame someone or something else as a response to the way you’re feeling?
Why is it you beat yourself up or lash out at others following a poor performance?
Consider these statements (blame/fault/judgment – to others):
- This line-up is off the wall, its never going to work against………..!
- It’s your fault, you shouldn’t have……..or you could ……… or you ought to ……..!
- Why can’t you just …………!
- If I had known about this, I would …………..!
- What IS he seeing/thinking, that’s ridiculous!
And blame/fault/judgment – to self/team:
- The dressing room was really tense, I hate it when we start like that!
- I’ve always struggled with ………., goes back to my childhood!
- Totally let you down, I should’ve been able to control my ………….!
- I know I need to ………, it’s my job, but I just hate it!
- People are relying on me, such huge investments; I’ve just got to get it right?
In sport the act of ‘blame’ or distribution of fault is quite visible – athletes regularly hit out.
Traditionally in elite sport, we observe an athlete’s performance, how they settle and focus. We support athletes who divert responsibility, and seem incapable of taking ownership for their behaviours. The elite/daily training environment (ETE/DTE) is established early to actively encourage accountability – a no hiding, no excuses culture.
Throughout my coaching career, the Brunel Hurricanes, Glasgow Wildcats (both England Superleague) and the Scottish Thistles (Scotland National Squad) – the ‘Elite Training Environment’ was a fundamental part of the performance programme.
The management team together with the athletes create and agree, the rules of engagement/code of conduct, identify the characteristics of an elite athlete, and share our understanding of the attributes/qualities of great team work and leadership – what we individually and collectively value!
It seemed to me that effective management of the ETE/DTE, (behaviour based) with authenticity, humility, openness, consistency and honesty, provided a solid foundation on which we could accelerate learning, quicker and better than the opposition.
As a best practise, it proved very effective but I always wondered why is it, at times, athletes simply could not, would not, comply or live by what they had previously agreed?
What’s going on for an athlete when, despite his/her incredible capability and commitment, he/she lashes out, makes poor decisions, causes disruption on and off the field and demands valuable time and attention?
Or goes from, an outstanding personal best performance, to withdrawal, objections, physical niggles and unexpected and unrealistic suggestions for change.
Now I see that dealing with, paying attention to ‘behaviour’ is futile, as by then it’s too late! Behaviour is the symptom not the cause!
So how can you help to optimize a person’s performance in life and sport?
Look way beyond behaviour, towards how a person sees the world, their understanding about life, their perspective, and philosophy, where they believe their happiness, satisfaction and contentment in life resides.
There’s an innocent misunderstanding about how life works as a human being. Most people believe, (I know I did), that outside circumstances, job, relationships, people, achievements, house, car, money, activities are the source of your happiness and well-being.
It looks like circumstances give you your experience, your feeling state, when in actual fact, 100% of your experience in life comes from within via the role and power of Thought to create it – its an illusory trick of the mind.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west right?
Not so – the sun is a constant. In fact the earth spins towards the east giving the illusion that the sun is rising and setting – same trick of the mind.
Curious? – Take a look at these two entirely different experiences of the same facts.
Facts: Adrian’s a business executive who has a few deadlines approaching. He has a meeting in London 12.00 mid-day. The train journey is 1 hour and his train leaves at 10.15am.
Put this example into a sport or education environment and you can see how a person will take the information, and according to how they make sense of the world, give personal meaning to the situation – they become a victim of circumstance.
Here are two possible responses from Jane at being de-selected for the upcoming match:
Jane (Outside in) has a lot of head noise! She has scary, insecure, unproductive thinking. It’s her story (film) of the situation (facts), which might lead her to finish her career with the team.
Whereas, Jane (Inside Out), has way less going on, and is able to maintain clarity of mind, and composure in spite of her passion to play. She has every opportunity to get fresh new thinking from a clear mind and regain her spot on the team.
A person’s response to the facts depends on their relationship to their thinking (story).
If a person’s thinking feels real, solid and compelling, they may well feel threatened and action the so-called fight or flight response.
Whereas, if a person deeply understands that their entire reality, how they make sense of the world is made of Thought, a formless energy, optional, transitory and fluid in nature, they won’t take their thinking so seriously and be able to maintain clarity of mind in the moment.
When you get lost in Thought, you simply lose touch with your true self, your natural capacity as a human being for happiness, fulfilment, contentment and peace of mind. These are just words to describe your true nature, here are some more, love, well-being, innate resilience, and joy.
It’s a part of you that cannot be earned or given away; it’s always present, no matter what the circumstances. It doesn’t depend on things you do, have, achieve, say, hear (or even think for that matter, but we’ll go deeper next time)– it doesn’t care about circumstances – well-being/love is a constant just like the sun is always shining behind the clouds.
Understanding how life really works, (inside out) and a deep knowing that you’re always OK, that your self-worth, OK-ness as a human being is never on the line, opens up an incredible freedom to get involved in life and sport in a whole new revolutionary way.
It’s like having beginners luck, the spirit of a rookie, the innocence of a child, and the calm of a Zen master, for each and every game!
The intricacies of high performance in sport and life are of real interest to me, if you’d like to join me on this journey, do sign up for the articles.
(I hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to share with anyone you know who may be struggling with their form or in life generally – it may prove to be their game-changer).
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