Thursday, October 22, 2015

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Weed Out the Negatives In Your Approach

A coach sits on the sidelines, calling out instructions to his team as they run the ball all over the field: "Don't do that, don't throw long, you dummies... ah, how could you do that! That's so stupid, don't run without looking where you're going. Don't you know anything, you don't make up your own rules as you go along, don't keep making the same mistake over and over ..." 

            The more the team plays poorly and messes up, the harder the coach shouts the same messages over and over and over, exhausting himself with the effort he is putting into the team. And the coach wonders why this team he cares about so deeply doesn't seem to get it, why they're so nervous and drop the ball all the time and never seem to get anything right. But it never dawns on the coach to try a different approach.

            Often, we are so caught up in our desire to see a certain result happen, that we completely forget to notice the approach we're using. If your heart and soul are genuinely into whatever you're trying to accomplish and it's not happening, look at your approach, the "how" you're going about it to get the "what" you want.

            The coach's approach in the example above is to teach by giving the team a series of "don'ts," telling them what not to do: "Don't do that, don't throw long, don't run without looking where you're going, don't make up your own rules, don't keep making the same mistakes." He then reinforces those "don'ts" with negative comments: "You dummies, how could you do that! That's so stupid, don't you know anything." 

But it isn't working, because at no time does the coach tell the team what they should do. Nor does he tell them what they should be! Telling them they are "dummies," "stupid" etc., doesn't tell the team what he wants them to be. So of course, the team just plays worse and worse, thinking less and less of themselves.

Yet that is all too often how we work with ourselves. Listen to your internal patter sometime. Chances are, most of what you will hear yourself saying to yourself is "You dummy, how could you do that! You should know better than that, don't do it that way!"
It would be far more effective (and more loving) to say to yourself, "Hey, try doing it this other way, that's right, that'll work. Nope, didn't work. OK, back to the drawing board. I'll try another way. Ah yes, much better, I'm doing good here!" No beating up on yourself. No reinforcing what isn’t working. On the contrary, your focus is on what’s working, what could work and what you might try next that eventually will work.

             You can't get to a positive result from a negative place. You can't browbeat yourself into any kind of lasting success. It's the wrong approach. Instead, tell yourself what you do need to do, what will work, and reinforce your efforts with honest praise, or, put in the coach's terms: "Throw long! Look before you run! You're doing great!" and watch yourself catapult into happiness and success.

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