“I get the thrill of being at the very edges of my ability, the outcome is unknown and I’m out there trying to do it. I’ve been on the best teams in the world, where winning was an expectation, and it doesn’t bring the best out of you.”  Reid Priddy 4X Volleyball Olympian (taken from Finding Mastery Podcast Interview with Michael Gervais.)

Tapping into the very edge of your ability is to have faith in your skills and training to allow for “letting go” and being completely immersed in the present moment. When there is fear, tension, and overthinking about the results, in particular winning, this will lead to inconsistent performance and sabotage any hope for seeing the best in yourself and from the athletes that you coach. I must add that this is true for business leaders as well. One of the top tenants of sport psychology is to create an internal and external environment that allows for the mind to be quiet and concentrated in even the most challenging situations. Mentally preparing the mind to have a process to focus on before, during and after crucial moments will steer thoughts to be in control of what truly matters, to bring out the best. An untrained mind is a chaotic mind that is predominately attending to the past and the future. A reminder that the only thing that is within your direct control is what you are doing at the present moment. Where your attention flows, energy goes!
To be in the zone, or in the pocket (for musicians), is when we are synchronized with our bodies so that no thinking has to happen. We are free to create, to take risks, and to live on the edge of what we are made of. As parents and coaches, we can instill a culture of growth and the pushing of boundaries by praising effort and allowing our kids/players to make mistakes without consequences. This is where that magical zone happens. How many times have we seen individuals and teams crumble and fall short of their goals when the only expectation is to win? This is all or nothing thinking that will only instill uncertainty and inhibit the best use of mental and physical resources.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

Last fall I wrote an article on the concept of grit and how this quality contributes to growth and resilience in the success and achievement of almost anything that you choose to accomplish. Grit can be exhibited and learned through a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, Stanford University Psychologist, has developed the idea of two mindsets; Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset.
  • A fixed mindset is one that a person perceives their intelligence and talent is based on results. Focus is placed on documenting wins and losses, pass or fail, dumb or smart, and there is no way to change this. You either have the talent or intelligence or you don’t and effort does not count.
  • Alternatively, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment,” writes Dweck.

3 steps to develop a Growth Mindset:

  1. The power of the word “Yet”- A growth mindset is always on the lookout for improvement and forward movement. Setbacks and let-downs fuel the desire to learn how to do it better the next time. When faced with a set-back or poor performance, rather than saying; “I am not good at this,” add the word “yet” to the end to identify that there is work to be done and additional abilities to be developed. On the other hand, a fixed mindset is subjected to the anguish of judgement in their so called “failure”. It is a painful place to get stuck in that is the result of a personal perception.
  2. Focus on the Process – pick 2-3 specific things that you would like to improve and develop, such as attitude and self-talk, swing tempo (example; golf), a percentage of skill follow-through, execution of team plays, slowing down to hone in on the details (example; piano), etc. Praise these efforts regardless of results. Assess and discuss how to improve on these areas and develop a plan to create new process goals. This is one of the very best ways to train the mind to be in the present moment and focus on what is within your control.
  3. Assess the challenge! Was it hard or easy, exciting or scary, ability to take control and stick with it? To be able to put value in the challenge that gives you a thrill each and every time you step out of your comfort zone is not only exhilarating but it will bring the very best out of you. Most importantly, you will create a love for seeking new challenges that strengthen your growth.
I believe that it is within each of us to be better than we were yesterday. Whether it is in business, music, sports or relationships, we can allow ourselves the freedom to know that we can reach higher than we did before. Letting go of judging ourselves and others on immediate results and valuing the process of taking chances. After all, the very best day is when you have left it all out there, no regrets.