Leadership Presenter and Coach
Recently my coach’s sixteen year old daughter competed in the 2015 Speedo Junior Nationals held at the Lee and Jamail Natatorium at the University of Texas Austin. My coach is an Olympic gold medalist. She proudly and nervously stood in the stands for each race her daughter competed in. On the second day, of three days of competing, her daughter did not perform to her capability and her mother questioned her daughter’s desire to swim. Her focus was telescoped on what her daughter was not doing well versus what she did well. Does that type of focus help her daughter become a better swimmer?
It is said that when Tiger Woods was younger after every game, every practice he would go back to his room and review every shot, every swing he made. He reflected on what he did well and learned from it and then he would reflect on what may not have gone so well and then would visualize himself doing it well.
When you have just completed a race, given a big presentation, had a serious conversation with your teenage son or daughter or are in the middle of tough training set do you ever stop and take a moment to breathe and reflect on what went well or is going well?
Our minds are hard wired to focus on what we perceive we did or are doing wrong. Our mind is the first to judge our every action or inaction. Before our feet hit the floor in the morning, our brain focuses on what we should have done or do. Did you oversleep? Did you eat too much last night? Did you neglect to put the garbage can out? Did you forget to stretch before you went to sleep? Did you let your phone go on mute and miss a call, text or email? How does this make you feel?
Do you know that when we focus only on the negative thoughts/self-talk we are releasing the stress hormone called “cortisol”? Cortisol helps maintain fluid balance and blood pressure while regulating some body functions. But when we stew on a problem or problems, the body continuously releases cortisol. Chronic elevated levels of cortisol can lead to serious issues. Too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and sugar, decrease libido, produce acne, and contribute to obesity and more. Probably even add wrinkles to your face <or at least it has in my case>. :)
Taking a moment to breathe and reflect on what we did well helps to re-balance our autonomic nervous system and stops the cascade of stress hormones. It helps us be more fully present in the moment which allows us to perform at a higher level.
As a Masters swim coach, my swimmers are constantly asking me: “Coach, watch my stroke and tell me what I am doing wrong”. I am never asked “Tell me what I did right so I can learn from that and repeat it.” Watching the deflation of my coach’s daughter, I thought to myself that I wanted to change my approach to coaching my swimmers. It is amazing to see the change in their eyes when instead of focusing on what may be going wrong, I challenge them to reflect on what they did well and repeat it. When we need to change something, we visualize the new technique before attempting the change. Then we can take the time to reflect on what went well while trying to improve.
Recently, when I worked as a business analyst for a computer company and would have a one-on-one with my boss, I can’t say I ever came away and reflected on what went well but rather felt like “why doesn’t he understand all I am doing for this company.” And yet, I could have made a different choice and taken a breath, thought back on what went well in the performance appraisal and felt better about myself versus going down the negative self-talk path.
When you have one meeting after another, do you ever take the time to stop, breathe and just take a moment to reflect on what went well?
At the end of the day after you have worked hard at your job all day, trained hard, cared for your children and wife or husband, handled the household responsibilities and checked in with your parents, do you ever just take a moment to breathe and reflect on what you did well?
I would guess that most of you are like me and never contemplated this very simple, yet powerful, action. So wouldn’t it make sense that taking the time to reflect on what we did well throughout our day improve our ability to be a high performer; and, more importantly, a sustainable high performer in all areas of our lives?
On her fifth attempt, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage; Havana to Key West 110 miles and 53 hours.
Diana had a mantra during that swim and throughout her training: “Find A Way”. If you have a dream; “find a way”. And Never, ever give up. In her Ted Talk for Women Diana shared that for 53 hours she reflected on what she was doing well, not on what was going wrong. Not on the nausea, the jelly fish stings, the hallucinations or the hypothermia. If she had, she would never have made it to the shore.
I respectfully request that we all take quiet time to reflect on what went well and then pay it forward in 2016 as we become better “swimmers”.
Reflect on what went well.