I finally had a chance to sit down and read “The Practicing Mind” by Thomas Sterner while on a plane to Ireland. This is part of a kick I’ve been on recently on how to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of practice. Not only do I want to improve my ability to learn new skills quickly, I want to be a more effective coach as well. I only get to work with people three hours a week, max. It is super important that these sessions be as successful as possible, and that the new movement patterns “stick” with clients long outside their time with me.
Though there are several lessons to be learned from this book, the one that stuck with me the most is this: Maintain your focus on practice in the moment, not comparing yourself to your end goal. This produces short-term satisfaction and long-term success.
Searching for Bobby Handstand
I saw immediate feedback with my quest to master the handstand. I realized that I was falling into the trap of wanting the handstand so badly, that my practice suffered. Every day was a failure because I hadn’t reached my end goal – a solid freestanding handstand. As soon as I switched my goal from “I want to do a handstand” to “I am going to practice a handstand for 5 minutes today”, my practice sessions took off. Now, every time I spent 5 minutes working on a handstand, I was a success.
Once I stopped wanting the handstand so bad, and instead focused on ENJOYING THE PROCESS of learning the handstand, and all the mistakes that implies, I not only had fun, but the handstand seemed to appear out of no where. It’s kind of like how you always find love once you stop looking for it.
How to Become a Better Coach
This carried over into my coaching when I realized that many clients hamstring themselves in the same way.
A prime example is the weight loss client who constantly weighs themselves and obsesses over minutia in their diet. I’ve even had clients tell me that they weigh every morning and it will determine whether or not they have a good day! (Which is one reason why they should divorce their scale pronto.) The question is, does micromanaging your weight in this fashion, and being so tied to the outcome, actually yield good results? In my coaching career, the answer is a resounding NO!
Another way to frame this is to say that outcome goals are important, but behavior goals should be your every day focus. You want to lose weight? Great! Instead of checking the scale, let’s focus on eating veggies with every meal. Once you’ve got that down, we can try eliminating all added sugar and artificial sweeteners. If you continue to build on small successes, there is no limit to how far you can go.
Encourage your clients/peers to set small, attainable behavior goals. Help them learn to ENJOY the process of achieving their goals. A goal easily attained is far less rewarding than one you have to bite and scratch for. Use cues that keep them in the moment, and praise them for what they DO, not what they ACHIEVE.
Perception is powerful.
I’ll leave you today with an excerpt from the book (which I highly recommend you pick up), that sums up nicely what I experienced myself.
“I found that, when given my present-moment attention, the practice sessions were very calming, not bothersome. I didn’t have to be anywhere but “here”, and I didn’t have anything to accomplish but exactly what I was doing “right now.” I found that immersing myself in the process of practicing shut off all the tensions of the day and all the thoughts of what had to get done tomorrow. It kept my mind in the present, out of the past and the future. I let go of any expectations about how long it would take me to acquire a good golf swing because I was enjoying what I was doing right now: learning a good golf swing.” – The Practicing Mind
Stay healthy, my friends.