One of the approaches I use with many of my athletes in sports and life is to not care so much. Care less. Not to be “careless” but to “care less”.
Well, for most of the people who come to my work, they don’t have a problem of being lazy.
They are usually the people trying to really make it happen. That’s why I call them “athletes”. They want something bad and they are applying their physical, technical, and tactical know-how to make that thing happen.
But here’s the deal…if you are “efforting” you’re probably not in your sweet spot and things just don’t feel very good.
The Sweet Spot of Flow
To get your best performance you really want to hit that flow state. It’s where your skills and the challenges you face are well suited for one another.
If your skills are above the challenges you face…you feel a bit…bored.
If you feel your skills are under-suited for the challenges you face then…you feel…anxious.
So I think you’ll agree that bored and/or anxious are two mental places you really don’t want to be.
You know that song…”I’m bored in the house and I’m in the house bored…”
I could write another one that goes…”I’m anxious in the house and I’m in the house anxious…”
Not good feelings, either one of them.
So why then would I want to recommend for you to care less about what it is you are doing?
Because feeling bored and feeling anxious is really under your control. There is some…how should we say…room for interpretation. And this is where many of my go-getter athletes in sports and life tend to be a bit hard on themselves.
When you feel underprepared you want to work extra hard to be prepared.
When you feel like “you’ve GOT THIS!” you want to really make an impression.
Both of those approaches can pull you out of your potential to get to Flow.
So what do you do?
Well, if you feel like you want to work extra hard you’re probably going into the situation thinking that you’re under prepared. It’s rarely a positive feeling. Instead of easing into a situation with a feeling of “I got this” it’s usually one of “I’ll show ‘em.”
That’s not a good headspace to be in.
Your perception of the moment is that your skills are not enough. You are underprepared. The skills you have are not going to match up with the challenge you face.
You can actually disasterize the upcoming challenge and make it bigger than it actually is.
On the flip side of that, if you feel like you’re going to be so prepared that the upcoming challenge you face will be easy…well…you just might end up on the bored side of the equation and that’s not a great place to be either.
The Art of Caring Less
Caring less is actually an art. As you get better at understanding what it is you need to do to help reach your peak state you’ll begin to realize when you are efforting too much and will be able to throttle things back.
I learned this after getting sick prior to a very important event in my life. I woke up the morning of the even so sick that I felt that I had zero energy. I was trying to muster up some energy but I had none.
Feverish. Sick to my stomach. And with a massive headache I got ready to compete but felt like I could pass out at any moment which was something I had never done in my life.
By the time it was my turn to compete I had to resign myself to having a bad performance. I didn’t care. I couldn’t care.
When I got to the finish I had set a personal best.
Later in life I was hired for a speaking engagement that I really wanted but the morning of the interview for the event I had one of the worst sleeps. In my anticipation to “do a great job” I woke up so tired I felt hungover.
Resigned to not having a great interview and thus losing the speaking gig (which payed really well BTW) I gave up. I didn’t care.
And I ended up getting the job.
When I asked why I had been selected over other speakers the meeting planner said, “You were the most relaxed of any of the speakers so I just knew you could handle everything else I was going to throw at you!”
These examples can seem like I just…gave up.
Step 1: Don’t Care About the Result
Giving up and not caring about the result is actually the first step to a great performance. When you have expectations about the outcome you immediately take yourself out of yourself and into a future you really can’t control.
Step 2: Focus On Your Process
If you have time between now and your next event you may have some time to adjust your process…if it needs it. (Hint: It probably doesn’t need changing.)
If you are reading this I know you’re more committed then most, so your work ethic is probably better than most.
Put in YOUR work. Focus on YOUR process. Let everything else fall where it may.
Step 3: ALLOW Yourself To Have a Great Result
This is probably the most important part of the process.
I have people reach out to me usually when something big is about to happen in their life. Maybe it’s a big presentation or a talk. It could be a tryout. Or a championship. An Olympics.
Usually the athlete in question has some sort of anxiety about it. They usually feel underprepared. On the rare occasion they believe they should do well but are worried they won’t do as well as they know they are capable of.
No matter what it is my advice is the same, “In the short amount of time you have between now and what it is you are working for, I’m sure we can both agree that you aren’t going to change…physically…significantly before now and then. Would you agree?”
Physical changes take a lot of time. You’ve either done that work, or you haven’t.
“You aren’t going to learn any new whiz-bang, secret technique between now and then. Would you agree?”
This MIGHT be possible, but it rarely is.
“Tactically, you’re not going to learn some secret play or presentation skill. Would you agree?:
Again, this MIGHT be possible, but it’s never the answer.
The answer that the athlete needs to get out of his or her own way mentally. They must allow their body to do what it knows it can do…naturally.
By not caring at this point, the athlete in question can relax and the body will take over.
Step 4: Go Into Game Day Feeling Good
This step may seem a little counterintuitive. I mean really, if you’re anxious about what is about to happen how can you possibly feel good?
The idea here is that you can “bleed over” feeling good from one thing to another. One situation to another.
Just this past weekend I asked one of my athletes, “Can you remember a time when you felt great?”
“Um, yeah. Who couldn’t do that?” they asked.
“Exactly.” was my answer.
My recommendation to this athlete was to create their own personal “Hype” Reel. A mental (or it can be an actual) series of performances where they just killed it. Every athlete has an experience (or many) like this where their body did something and they thought, “Wow, I can’t believe I just did that!”
Could be an epic verbal comeback. Could be an epic save or a move. It doesn’t matter what it is, it just matters that it happened. Even if it was only once.
The idea is to string together as many of those images as possible. They will serve as a reminder to what it is you’re capable of and THAT is what you want to tap into going into this next Game Day.
In addition to that Hype Reel you can also just tap into feeling good using something else. Music is a good one. Maybe watching funny movies or comedians. It could be anything really. We know that just feeling good, and even laughing, can make incredible things happen like changing your health. To see proof of this check out the story of Dr. Patch Adams.
If feeling good can be so powerful that it can help people overcome things like cancer and other debilitating diseases what do you think it can do for you and your next Game Day?
If you’re reading this, I know you care. You’re a hard worker. And it doesn’t really matter what it is you are doing. When your next Game Day comes around, care less. Don’t be careless, just care…less. Your best result will come when you allow your body to do what it already knows it can do. Reminding yourself is a great place to start. Start accumulating a hype reel of your past successes. Watch it repeatedly. But if you don’t have something like that just focus on feeling good. Listen to music. Spend time with friends. Watch a funny movie or a comedy. Take that good feeling energy and go into your next Game Day focusing on that feeling and allow your best results to happen.
Olympian - Jonathan Edwards
Olympian Jonathan Edwards is the Chief Challenge Master and Performance Coach at OvercomeAnyChallenge.com. An author, Olympic Speaker, blogger, podcaster and more he's been dedicating his life to helping people overcome any challenge using the power of games and sport. He looks forward to hearing your story and the challenges you are planning to overcome.
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