Archives For April 2012


Whether or not having a baby has a positive or negative effect on an athletes career is a controversial subject. On the one hand, one could argue that anything that takes away from your focus on the task at hand and especially a commitment as challenging as a newborn would be a huge obstacle that would probably hinder an athlete. However, it is my belief that having a child is actually a positive thing in the life of an athlete.

One reason for my belief is Continue Reading…

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Confidence: How I Win.

April 25, 2012 — 2 Comments

I am convinced confidence is important when it comes to training for competition but how do you build this confidence? In many sports, there are multiple competitions which happen within a period of time. For example, in my sport Taekwon – Do, there are at least four tournaments I compete per year. This requires an athlete’s performance to peak multiple times per year and not always with the same amount of time in between competitions. One way to build confidence in sports like this is to win every competition, but this doesn’t always happen. So how do I do it?

I have created a system that has worked for me. I call it phasing. You may have read something like this and every athlete needs to figure what out what works for them.

In preparation for each event a number of factors fluctuate. Of course your physical abilities, weight, calorie intake and physical output change but one of the most important and most overlooked change is in an athletes mentality.

There are many factors which fall under the label “mentality,” confidence being one of them. In diagram 1.0 you can see how confidence increases through the preparation phase of training. This simply means that as you train and prepare physically you become more comfortable with your ability and more confident that you can perform what you practice.

Diagram 1.0

What you would like to do is really understand when it is that your confidence is at its peak. If it takes you four weeks to train and feel you are confident in your ability then you need to plan four weeks in advance of the event to begin training so that when you attend the event you are ready to go. Simple right? That part should be.

You may ask, “How do I know when I feel confident and when I am ready?”

For me personally, I keep a training journal and I write weekly or daily how I feel about my training to keep track of where I am from a mental perspective. When I am feeling lack of confidence at a point in my training, I may look back at my journal just to discover that I have only trained for 5 weeks. Then I can adjust for next time and start my training a week earlier. Of course there is more to it than time spent training but for the sake of simplicity we will stick to that one factor.

If you do take part in a sport like Taekwon – Do where there are multiple events strung together you need to make sure you phase your training correctly. Diagram 1.1 shows what happens to confidence when there are two events. It goes up as you train and then you get the result of your first event. After a win you ride out that level of confidence and it eventually comes down especially as you slack back training. In preparation for the next event it would again peak, assuming you planned your training properly.

Diagram 1.1

One thing that you may notice if you compete, is that after a while of training and keeping confidence at its peak you experience a bit of what we call “Burnout.” This happens for a number of reasons relating to physical exhaustion but for myself it is always mental exhaustion. This happens when you are pushing your mental ability to the max for extended periods of time and not giving your brain and body a chance to understand what you are putting it though. Change is good and pushing your body and mind is how you grow, but at some point you need to plateau to start the process again.

Mental exhaustion or “Burnout” may feel like this:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Uninterested

Diagram 1.2

There is an ideal level of confidence. You do not want to be over-confident and you do not want to lack confidence during training. You need to be somewhere in-between. The majority of athletes would like to be here for their training. Keeping this ideal level will allow you to peak in confidence when a competition rolls around. I find that keeping this level of confidence throughout my training allows me to focus more on future goals.

One may argue that you wouldn’t want confidence to reach its maximum even during competition. It is healthy to believe in yourself and your abilities but I believe that every good athlete realizes that losing is not impossible. Believing that your opponent or challenger can get the better of you that day keeps you in a state of flow. It keeps you sharp and aware.

Diagram 1.3

Equally important is what happens to an athletes confidence after the event. Depending on the result, the rate at which confidence will decline changes. As in diagram 1.4 you can see how if you win the event your confidence will stay at the same level longer and will decrease more slowly than if you lose. Of course, we all want to win but in a sport where you have a string of events to train for I argue that it is more important to react to a decision than the actual decision.

What this means is that you need to analyze and adjust. If you win you need to realize the trajectory of your confidence. You don’t want it to ride to high for too long. Being over-confident can cause you to develop false confidence. A lot of people who do this become successful at an event and let it get to their head, they stop training because they feel they have been there done that then when they go to compete again they lose.

For me, personally, I love compliments. I know it makes me feel good when I am recognized for hard work. In fact other people’s compliments go a lot further than they should in my world. I have recognized that from journaling how they make me feel. So I adapt. After winning at a tournament you will never see me at the Dojang. I stay away for a day, or two, or how ever long it takes for me to come down off my high and for the students excitement to subside. Some people I explain this to think I’m crazy but I get pleasure and satisfaction from the process of preparation and then the performance not necessarily if I win. I still have the goal of winning but sometimes you may win but perform terribly and this doesn’t satisfy me. I want to win easily and then get right back to training. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I don’t think it’s really a good thing. I wish I could celebrate with others but I know myself and that’s how I am.

On the other hand, if you lose you need to realize that your confidence may have taken a hefty blow depending on things like your perceived confidence going into an event, your belief in the probability of a win, and any strange things that may have happened during. As with most people your confidence will probably fade away more quickly assuming you do nothing to reverse this erosion.

After a loss, my thinking is that I am actually in the perfect level of confidence to be training. I call the loss a reality check. My latest example of that would be losing to a competitor at the 2012 Nova Scotia Provincial Championships. What I realized after that loss was that I needed to hit the gym… and hard. A short time after my loss, I captured the Eastern Canadian Championship. If you adjust quickly the previous result doesn’t matter in fact I would argue that a loss, if managed mentally, will increase motivation and allow you to reach a higher level of confidence than what you had before the loss.

After I explained that to someone they asked me why you wouldn’t want to lose every event and then win the most important event when the time came, so that along the way you can increase the trajectory of your confidence. The problem lies in your thinking. Just like how exhausting it is to keep your confidence and physical conditioning peaked for extended periods of time it is equally hard and mentally draining to restructure your belief in your self to over come a loss. You can’t do it time and time again, you need a win at some point to assure yourself that you worked this hard for something.

I have a high tolerance for losing. That doesn’t mean I am a good loser. Anyone who has played golf with me can attest to that. In Taekwon – Do I instantly start thinking about my next plan of action. I remember losing and on my way to the other side of the ring to shake the other coaches hand immediately after a match I was thinking about being in the gym and what I would do to correct my performance.

The thing about confidence is that it is always fleeting. We build it up but it continually wants to come down. Don’t let confidence appearing people fool you. If someones confidence is just bursting out of the their body, in my experience, they are over compensating for a lack of confidence or they are riding on false confidence. False confidence is believing in skills that you don’t posses and belief in ability you don’t have.

As your sills increase and your challenges become more familiar it takes more and more for you to get the same increase in confidence. What do we do to continually increase our confidence the same amount or the maximum amount? Evaluate your skills versus your challenges before, after and during event and make sure your goals are leading you to a place where you are testing and pushing yourself each time.

The Art Of Adaptation: Confidence is continually fleeting. Monitoring your mentality and adjusting your game plan is the best way to make sure you are on track to increase performance and to win events.

How I monitor my mentality:

  • Journal
  • Plan out training and take notes on how I feel
  • Talk to people about my performance
  • Note how I feel after the result (Win or Lose)
  • Review my notes and ask myself “how you can adjust”

 

You may also like:

Performance Plateau: How To Increase Performance In Anything


The most simple view of results in competition is that there are winners and there are losers. If you are a competitive person you want to be a winner but not everyone can be a winner. There are actually very few people who win consistently. That is the nature of competition.

The question every competitive person asks themselves is, what is the difference between most people who don’t win and the few who do? I’ve asked myself this question often and the more I want to win the harder I search for the answer.

I believe there are a number of factors which contribute to this but if you don’t have the slightest idea where to begin I would suggest looking at your approach to learning.

In the book the Art Of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, he presents evidence from a leading researcher in the field of developmental psychology, Dr. Carol Dweck. She talks about the difference between entity and incremental theories of intelligence.

Basically, people who see their intelligence or skill level at a certain discipline as a fixed set of gifts and abilities are in the entity classification. They think that they are meant for a specific task and that they cannot evolve or change. They feel they are naturally better at certain things than other people and that they have weaknesses in other areas that they cannot change.

What an entity person may say or think.

Incremental or learning theorists are people who say they got it because they worked hard at it. These people have a sense that no matter what it is, if they work hard at it, it can be mastered.

There are a number of studies that suggest that, despite level of intelligence, the entity theorists tend to have a much more difficult time stacking up against the incremental theorists when it comes to challenging problems. The entity people crack and give up, thinking it just isn’t their thing and never develop the skills to solve that problem or situation, where as the incremental people push on until they find a solution.

As a Taekwon – Do practitioner I can definitely vouch for this point. Some of the most gifted athletes are terrible under pressure and have a very hard time facing a loss.

As long as you are persevering in something that actually does have a solution then being an incremental theorist means you will eventually rise to the occasion.

What an incremental person may think or say...

These ways of learning are programmed into us at a young age. I can remember my parents saying to me that if I keep trying I’ll get it. My father would take me golfing at a young age. I remember being so frustrated with my bad shots but that one good one would keep me coming back. He would see that shot and in the moment say, “See! You can hit that shot. You just have to keep practicing.” That language created my incremental attitude.

I see parents in Taekwon – Do tell their children things like, sparring is their thing, you were made to do patterns, or criticize and ask them, “Why can’t you do that kick?”

These statements are very subtle but make the difference in learning styles especially during the developmental phase. As young adults we may do the same thing to ourselves through positive or negative self talk. Maybe even be lucky or unlucky enough to have a coach to comment in one of those ways.

How does this affect our lives as athletes or as people in general. Simply put, people who relate to the entity theory will have a much more difficult time stepping out of their comfort zone. When asked to do a task within their range of capabilities they will show confidence and calmness. When asked to do something beyond their natural talents it is hard for them to comprehend a process of problem solving and more importantly, to demonstrate that confidence in a time of adaptation.

On the other hand, people who relate to incremental learning will not only be at ease with the difficult task or failing the first time, they will find a way to solve the problem, learn, adapt and develop new confidence.

In time incremental theorists are almost always the winners.

Art Of Adaptation: Try to identify your style of intelligence and what language was used by your parents and instructors. Do they still talk to you that way? Do you still talk to yourself that way? Ask them to be conscious of speaking to you with that language and teach others so that they develop into people who learn incrementally.


Sometimes as athletes we tend to over think and analyze, hell, even make excuses when we don’t “feel” like it.

This is my thought process when it comes working out.

The Art Of Adaptation: Simplify things and just do it.

Pillars of Relationships

April 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

There was a request for a post on relationships so I thought I would share this with you.

I drew a diagram a long time ago and over the years it has helped me immensely.  It is a diagram and a theory, which probably does have a psychological name or term, but I actually just stumbled upon it realizing how all of my relationships were interconnected.  Here is the diagram:

Work, Family, Self

There are three sections and three levels to this diagram of relationships I call the three pillars.  My intention here is not to tell you or assist you in fixing, maintaining or nurturing these but to simply show you the importance of having healthy relationships.  Also, I would like to show how having unhealthy relationships in one area will affect another.  The following examples may seem obvious but I guarantee we all have or know someone who has trouble with one or multiple areas.

Family First

Believe it or not,  the simplest area to build relationships in is family.  Mostly due to the fact that you have to know these people your entire life and they are your blood… they have to love you.  Of course there are going to be exceptions to every rule.  In Canada we have a high divorce rate which speaks to the complexities that could arise in these relationships.  We also have many cultures and religions which are difficult to set boundaries around.  Your job is to navigate through all that to foster healthy relationships.  When you have strong relationships and support these relationships can be a great resource which you will need when we talk about the second level of this diagram.  In my life my family had been my rock.  I’ve taken many risks when it comes to work and sports.  The day I said I was moving to Argentina to train for the Taekwon – Do World Championships everyone I had around me supported my decisions and helped out.  I remember the first time I quit my job.  It was for a number of reasons.  Feeling a little insecure about the decision I thought my family would criticize my decision but the exact opposite was true.  I knew at that point I had developed healthy family relationships along the way.

Love Your Self

Self is a fairly complex relationship and a strange one to navigate.  I will have to say that most people who I meet have no idea how to develop this relationship and very few people make an effort to develop a relationship with their self.  I don’t mean that in any type of egocentric way.  I mean, knowing yourself, being kind and understanding to yourself and wanting to know how you feel and relate to different things like family, work and your environment.  Some people go to psychologists or some type of councilor as a reactive measure and some a proactive measure.  I am very fond of proactive measures.  Getting there before the problem begins is important because there will always be problems.

For me Buddhism has been my vehicle for self reflection.  It allows me to discover who I am and work on developing a relationship which is understanding and kind.  In doing so I realized that who are and who you think you are may be two different things altogether.  Really liking who you are has been an important factor in what success I have had so far in life.  Not having to look outside myself for approval and appreciation has let me channel that effort into other areas of my life.

Work

The third Pillar, Work, is probably the most complex.  This is due to the number of relationships and the complexity of them all inter-mingling.  Most people work 40-60 hours a week for a third of their life.  They do this with a number of people.  Depending on where you work you may have co-workers, assistant manager, managers, district managers, media contacts, CEOs, consultants and countless other people you have to navigate around.

It is quite obvious how having relationships in their area can help you in your career when it comes to getting promotions, making money and developing as a professional.  Fortunately most people understand this.  Unfortunately, often this is a fast paced environment and methods of communicating today will not be the same in 5 – 10 years, take Facebook.  It is important to make efforts to keep up with methods of communication and to foster mutually beneficial relationships.

Admittedly this is probably the hardest pillar for me to strengthen.  I have found my life that the line between working relationships and friendships is very thin.  It is often the person who can straddle this line that will be successful.  I have had situations at work where I have carried to much friendship into the work environment which can lead to poor performance and I’ve also missed out on building great relationships for fear of sacrificing work performance or not being able to discern when it was proper to carry on more than a working relationship.  Networking has been one of my greatest weaknesses… but I’m working on it.

The Three Pillars

Interrelationships

How each one of these Pillars influence each other is the next level.  Once you have established relationships in each you need to look at the effects of them all coming together.  There are so many combinations or situations that could happen between each.  I will give you one so that you may analyze the rest on your own.

Lets take Family and Work.  There is a section in the diagram that represents the situations when both of these relationships come together.  Maybe you own a business together with a family member.  There are many family owned businesses.  If the relationships in both Work and Family are healthy this section will be healthy as well.   You will likely work together and be able to keep up a healthy family relationship.  On the other side, if you work with a family member and you really don’t click as co-workers then that tension in the work place may carry over into your family relationship in different ways.  This also works in the reverse order which you see a lot in family owned businesses.  If the family relationships have issues this may carry over into the work/business side of things affecting the bottom line.

The point is that it is key to have healthy working relationships in the three areas because issues are amplified once they start to mingle.

The Real World

In the real world all three areas are pieced together.  For the most part this occurs naturally.  People have families, they go to work and have to be with themselves, their strengths and weaknesses as they navigate life.  There are outliers like the law school student who graduates and work his/her ass off for the next couple years interning, never seeing or being involved in family.  There are some situations which need an extreme focus that may involve eliminating one of these three Pillars for a time.  Can you think of any?

For the majority of people though you will have to build, support and repair relationships in the three pillars because they hold up your environment.

The Art Of Adaptation:  Focus on building, maintaining and repairing relationships in the three pillars because they are each interrelated and each play a role in establishing the balance of your environment.