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The One Simple Truth

One Simple Truth:

 

I have the answer. You have the answer. There are skills that can be learned. There are skills that can be implemented when you need them. You may be bad now, but you can get better. You may be good now, but you can get better. You may be great now, but you can get better.

However, there are no “hacks”, quotes, 7-step systems, pump-up songs, or YouTube videos that create a sound, repeatable, and consistent “mental-game” that over and over allows you to be resilient, focused, confident, and calm. If someone promises you a “hack” to mental strength – don’t just walk away – run away!

There are fundamentals just like any and every other skill set you can imagine. Like those skills they take time, repetition, perseverance, and willingness to learn.   But, lets more specifically define what we mean by “learn” – what I really mean is that we need to be willing to listen, try, fail, correct, try again, fail again, fine-tune, and finally get better.

After we do this process once, we start it again, but this time we are building off of the prior improvement (even if it was incremental) and using that as the starting point. You see the road to learning and developing anything of importance is not straight, short, and flat, but more typically, winding, extended, and up and down.

However, here is the “one simple truth” – you can’t change your habits of thought, until you’re ready to invest in the entire experience of it. That you actively decide you want to explore this. That you choose to listen, and that you choose to ask questions that give you a more in-depth understanding. That your investment is in experiencing it enough and as often as it takes to create that moment of realization…”There it is”!!

Just like you don’t get physically stronger in a single workout session, or in better cardio-vascular shape on a single run, the mind can’t become significantly stronger with a single one-hour session.

When you are willing to work at your mental skills in the same way you are the physical than it will come to you…simple as that. Not to say you’ll become mentally “perfect”, but simply to say you’ll become better, and more consistent.

But are you willing to dive in, to trust, to try, to fail, and then to try again? Are you willing to jump on the path, while not being 100% sure of where it takes you? Until that point the “one simple truth” understands that you already have one foot out the door, and it’s really hard to get better at something when you aren’t already committed to doing it.

In the growth of the mind you can’t physically SEE the growth. You won’t feel “better” immediately. You may feel like the skill work is impossible to do on the court or field. You may want to say, “it’s not working”. But, you must continue to do the mental workouts. You must continue to try the skills.

Here’s what the “one simple truth” understands…that it is literally impossible for someone to tell another to just simply have a mindset. Instead we do the workouts and the repetition and after a period of time the mindset reveals itself. It’s there for you to use when you need it.

Mental strength is really all about attention. If your attention is stuck on the last mistake, predicting a future error, or your imperfections you’ll feel pressure, anxiety, or stress. However, if you work on paying a specific type of attention it will be on the things that you do control, that are process oriented, and that are within the present moment. If so, you’ll feel empowered, in control, and composed. The ability to RESPOND and not REACT with emotion will become yours.

The “one simple truth” is that having a resilient, strong, and consistent mental approach is within your reach, and your control. There are fundamentals that you can “workout”. There is no hack, there is no 7-day program, and there is no YouTube video that will create and sustain the growth you truly desire and need. Invest authentic, committed, and daily focus and the strength you want will be there.

 

 

My article on the 3 Core Principles of Mental Strength in Adidas’ Game Plan A

https://www.gameplan-a.com/2017/07/mental-strength-3-core-principles-use-every-day/

 

Q&A with Doug Lemov of Teach Like A Champion

A Q&A with Stuart Singer on Mindfulness and Performance

Performance enhancement through the mind-body connection

Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind and it’s a technique that has really helped me. You do have to focus because there’s some positions that can really hurt you at times if you aren’t focused and breathing right.”Lebron James

 

Concept: How you can use Yoga and Mindfulness in order to maximize your performance.

First we need to understand how and why these practices work?

Yoga serves a number of extremely important purposes for a competitive athlete. First, yoga increases flexibility and core strength. Increased flexibility and core strength are associated with increased speed, wider range of movement, balance, explosiveness, overall strength, and injury prevention.

Secondly, yoga serves to detoxify the body and add in deeper and faster recovery. Intense training and competition take a toll on the body. While we often think of intensity of competitive training and movement as the “important” part of performance development it is actually in recovery where muscle growth occurs. If the athlete doesn’t engage in high-quality recovery they will never maximize the benefits of their training.

Yoga also connects deeply with the mind. Yoga has moments of deep discomfort. During these moments it is easy to have the mind suggest to “escape” the discomfort. Instead what yoga teaches is how to use deep breathing techniques, which allow us to relax and work with the discomfort instead of against it, as Lebron James mentioned in the quote above. Too often when something is uncomfortable or even painful (as in losing a big game, or having a poor performance when it matters most) we look to want to avoid or escape those feelings.

However, the mentally strongest athletes understand that discomfort and painful moments are an inherent part of competition. When we look to avoid them at all costs we actually end up playing it “safe”, which doesn’t allow us to play to our maximum. Yoga trains our mind to be highly aware of those moments and how to overcome them when we need to most.

Now, lets look at the mind and the use of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation teaches our minds to be completely aware of “The Moment”. Many coaches preach for their players to “just stay in the moment”, but never do any training at all to help teach their players the skill of blocking out the last mistake, or how to prevent “predicting” the next mistake if the player is already struggling that game. Mindfulness is literally the practice of training the mind to be present and aware of what is happening right NOW, in THIS moment. The natural outcome from this practice is a more calm and composed athlete.

Additionally, mindfulness teaches us to become highly aware of what the mind does. No one – the novice athlete all the up to the Olympian – can avoid moments of doubt, fear, anger, lack of motivation, or frustration. These are all real emotions and what make us human. So, instead of denying that these things even enter our minds, it’s more important that we learn to recognize them, and then learn to implement skills to move beyond them if they are holding us back. Mindfulness is literally the most powerful skill that any athlete can learn in terms of the mental-game!

Yoga and mindfulness can be designed in way that enhances ultimate athletic performance. The mind and body are one system that are in constant connection (sometimes battle) with one another. If we are looking for maximum performance we must train the entire system as the interconnected unit that they are.

 

 

Coaches often Misuse “Growth Mindset” and “Grit” Theories

I’m jumping into this blog respectfully because I do feel that Angela Duckworth’s research on Grit, and Carol Dweck’s research on Growth Mindset are extremely important in our quest to the answer for the psychology behind success. However, neither go far enough. Again, respectfully, neither are really earth shattering. Boiled down, they both suggest that students (or athletes, employees, CEO’s, etc) are most successful when they work hard, have passion, persevere, and are motivated for the long run. While I don’t argue these beliefs we’ve pretty much always known this.

 

The real question is CAN we develop these characteristics in kids/athletes/employees that don’t seem to inherently have them already? It would be really nice to say to our students/athletes, “hey, success is really about hard-work, perseverance, passion, and motivation…so…HAVE these things!”, and then miraculously they have them. Sadly, it doesn’t happen that way though.

 

My experience, and the research that I’m beginning, is that these characteristics are built from the environment that we (parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, and business leaders) create. It’s not the students/athletes’ job to just “have” these characteristics, its our job to create a teaching/learning environment that builds these characteristics.

 

It’s actually a bit of a cop-out to blame the student or athlete for not having them. We should be pointing the finger towards ourselves for not having helped them to develop these characteristics. We’ve failed them and not the other way around.

 

This doesn’t mean that the individual doesn’t have responsibility to work and invest towards their own learning and growing – they do. Very much so in fact. It is just to say that Grit and Growth-Mindset are more about the environment and teaching and valuing these characteristics more than its about simply telling the individual to go about doing them.

 

In real life practice here’s how we’ve fallen short. I see coaches/teachers all the time talk about growth-mindset. As in, “you MUST HAVE a growth-mindset. Take risks, challenge yourself, don’t fear failure!” This sounds great. They are spouting off the newest and greatest lingo. And, then the reality hits. In order to “take risks”, “challenge” oneself, and “not fear failure” is to feel extreme vulnerability. This is a reality that we simply can’t skip over. If the coach, teacher, parent, leader does not create an atmosphere where that vulnerability is rewarded, nurtured, valued, and maybe even celebrated than the mindset simply isn’t going to happen. Period.

 

Students/athletes/employees will value what we track, collect data on, grade them on, and reward them on. If we want an individual to work hard and persevere we better be tracking and rewarding perseverance more than we track or reward the wanted outcomes. I get it – we all want to win and succeed. Unfortunately, the W doesn’t always happen, and is almost always out of our control. But, what is within our control are our actions and behaviors. If we teach and reward great actions and behaviors – success is the highly likely bi-product.

 

Why do we think kid’s cheat on a test? The simple reason is that THE GRADE is what we show value for and not the LEARNING process. A good grade does not necessarily show learning, but we track the grade so that is where the student’s attention goes – some do it by really learning the material, some by memorizing only long enough to put it on paper for a test but don’t actually learn the material, and others may do it by cheating. Point being is that what we really want is that they learned. By tracking the number of correct answers ONLY we absolutely are placing the value on the number and that alone. Fast forward – why do you think big-time athletes risk their reputations and their health by taking PED’s?

 

If LEARNING is what we really want than the student actually NEEDS to make mistakes, have correction, discussion, maybe given some more explanation or demonstration, and then attempt to get it right again – this is how learning occurs. How many of us take the time to do this process? Even further, how often do we patiently and with great enthusiasm show value for that process? Think this isn’t possible? Watch this US Women’s Volleyball team video as Coach Kiraly preaches the Growth-Mindset, lives it, and believes that it is his and his staffs responsibility to create it. He places the responsibility on himself and his staff and then on his players.

 

To wrap up – I love the ideas of Grit and Growth-Mindset and teach them within my work. However, lets not get the sequence confused – it is not the students, athletes, child’s, or employees job to simply HAVE these mindsets, but more specifically, it is the teachers, coaches, parents, and leader’s job to create the environment that fosters and supports these mindsets.

 

What are your thoughts? I’m interested to hear. Whether you agree or disagree I get a chance to learn and grow!
Stu

 

 

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