Slow and Steady Wins the Race

When I decided to start a coaching practice specializing in work with artists and athletes I was full of doubts. In fact, I can’t say I decided to start it: I thought it would be fun to incorporate my love of the arts and sports with my work (which I also love.) And then I came up with a million reasons for why I couldn’t do it.

When I finally got sick and tired of the excuses and decided to give it a go, I had very little (read: no) confidence. So, I decided to use one of the techniques I would use in my coaching practice (should I ever get out of my own way) on myself. This technique, Resource Installation, involves building up the qualities I’d need to successfully meet the challenge of starting the coaching practice.

I asked myself, in keeping with the protocol for the technique,  “When had I been confident?” I hit a wall immediately. I was never the kid who believed I could do anything. On the contrary, I believed there were many things I could not do. “I could never be a lifeguard,” I thought, even though I loved swimming. Another thought, “I‘ll never be Miss America.”

I despaired of coming up with a memory of a time I was really confident. None came to me. But what I did remember was just as useful: that I tried something even though I didn’t think I could do it. It was summer camp and I was 11. Our challenge was to swim ¼ mile in the lake. This sounded like a ridiculously long distance. But, what the heck, I was being told to do it so I tried it.

You guessed it: I swam the ¼ mile. I was SO excited! So, this is the memory I used to begin to build my confidence for this adult endeavor. The realization that, no, I wasn’t convinced I could swim the distance but I was willing to try anyway helped me have the confidence that maybe, just maybe, I could get this business together. And I didn’t have to worry about whether I believed I could or not; all I had to do was try my best and stick with it. Turns out gumption and persistence are a pretty good combination.

I still smile when I think of that 11-year old girl getting out of the water, dumbfounded at having gone the distance. Even though she never did become a lifeguard. Or Miss America.

Jumping to Conclusions: Mind Reading

In jumping to conclusions we assume the worst. Today we’ll focus on the aspect of mind reading. Next time I’ll talk about fortune telling.

Oh, my. I certainly didn’t limit myself to art or sport for this one. In high school (remember high school? how most of us were insanely insecure?) I was mind reading when I assumed that a girl in my class didn’t like me, simply because she was quiet. I was mind reading when I decided that the whole audience thought I totally messed up when I dropped out for 8 bars while accompanying the chorus. (Click on the following to go to read that blog:
All-or-Nothing Thinking: My Story)

Here are some other examples: “My peers think I have no talent.” “The rest of the team believes I let them down.” “Coach is angry at me.” “The audience thinks I suck.” “No one likes my poetry.”
Let’s apply the familiar questions.

1) What is the evidence? Did your peers actually come out and say, “You have no talent?” Did everyone on the team say, “You let us down”? Or was there a look that you interpreted negatively? What superpowers do you possess that enable you to read the collective mind of an audience? Performers tend to focus on the imperfections (in spite of all we know now about mental filter) and many in the audience don’t even have the technical knowledge to critique you in the way you fear they are critiquing you.

2) What are alternative explanations? If your peers actually did say something, why else might they have done that? Could they be joking? Maybe your team members are doing burdening themselves with their own thinking errors. Maybe what you’re seeing is simply their disappointment that the team didn’t do better. Is coach angry at you? Is coach angry at all? Or just intense? Maybe people loved your poetry but the folks at this reading are too shy to say so.

3) What are the implications? You’re not necessarily a pariah, even if some of your assumptions are accurate. One performance or competition or critique does not a career make. If coach is angry she’ll get over it. The implications may be that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

4) Is this thought useful? Rarely, for sure. Never, probably.