Excerpted from the book on conscious business management, Business Black Belt
He who stops being better stops being good.
~Oliver Cromwell, English General & Statesman
What you say to yourself in the privacy of your mind can either help you or mess you up. Here’s what to think to keep improving your performance.
One of the best places this forward-thinking process comes in handy is in practicing sports. Notice when you flub a golf swing, you tell yourself, “Darn, I hit a bad shot,” or “Oops, I sliced it. I hate it when that happens!” That’s not productive thinking. What does that do for you? Nothing. Does it help you improve your swing? No, you just get mad at yourself. You’re frustrated with the game. And, your game cannot improve with this attitude.
A more productive thought would be “OK, I sliced the ball. How can I hit it straight?” You already know what you’re supposed to do to hit it straight. Think, “What do I need to do to hit it straight? I know, I’ll ______ to hit it straight.” Then, every single stroke you take becomes a learning experience.
The same thing occurs in tennis. You hit the ball late and it goes out of the court. You think, “Darn, I hit the ball late again.” What would your instructor say? “Hey stupid, you hit the ball late again. You sure are lame, you’re never gonna get good at this game!” I don’t think so. Only you might say that. But that’s the thinking we will eliminate here. Your instructor actually says, “Let’s try that again. This time get to the ball and hit it sooner.” (My instructor is from Argentina and he says, “Move more your feet.”) That’s a more productive thought—something you can use—and when you get to the ball sooner the next time, you’ll hit a better shot.
When you’re playing by yourself (and even when playing with an instructor), you tend to use this negative self-talk—the conversation with yourself in the back of your mind—about how you’re playing the game. It’s unconscious, but you do it. When an instructor is present, at least someone is giving you positive or productive comments.
Let them know that you know that you stink
Speak the internal verbal abuse aloud. When you miss a shot, you say to your opponent, “Gawd, I’m soooo bad at this,” as if they were thinking it too and wondering why they were playing with you. Perhaps if we can beat our opponent or instructor to the negative thought about our performance, we can prove that we really are good enough to recognize a bad shot. Then we can still psychologically maintain an upper hand. Is it better to maintain that upper hand at the expense of improving your game? If you’re into maintaining your psychological upper hand, the upper hand becomes more important than improving your skill. Consequently, you remain at one level, making excuses, berating yourself, and going nowhere.
The point here is to comment internally only with productive messages and you will effectively become your own coach. At least, between lessons you’d be practicing what you learned and not grinding bad habits further into a rut. Look at what coaches actually do. The coach gives positive direction about what to do to improve your next shot or swing. They acknowledge you for really doing something well. They push you to do more, do it better, harder, and faster. If you were to tell yourself what it would take to improve your previous action and acknowledge yourself for what you did right in the previous action, you could productively coach yourself.
You need coaches to gather positive commentary
Now you might be thinking that you can do everything yourself. Not so fast—you still need another qualified person to observe you, be your coach, and recommend corrections. (Remember what you learned in the chapter “Qualify Your Advice” and use that to find a good coach.) Also, paying a professional for advice is far different from receiving coaching from friends and family, especially when the coaching is unsolicited. A coach knows certain things about the subject that you still might not yet have in your head. He or she will tell you what to do and this advice is what you use for self-talk when the coach isn’t around. You need a coach to collect some good recordings of good advice you can play back to yourself later.
Now, instead of working against yourself and taking a long time to learn something, you can plug in these positive commands while practicing and teach yourself to do better. You won’t undermine all the instructor has been teaching you. You get more out of the coaching and your performance improves.
Anger produces nothing except something else that you’ll regret.
Conserve your energy—you need it to move forward
This concept carries over into everything you do: sales, management, relationships, parenting, working with people. You’re going to make mistakes. When they shoot movies, they often shoot many takes—miss takes—to get a scene right. They know they have to do it again, and they just get on with it. You can too. Burning up precious emotional energy and time (yours and that of others as well) does nothing to get you closer to solving your problem, completing a project, or improving your score. Indulging in anger only raises your blood pressure, wastes time, and scares the hell out of everyone around you. They become defensive and tend to pass the blame to keep you from focusing your displeasure on them. This is the time when you most need everyone’s participation and candid input. I’ve found that when I immediately shunt my energy away from screaming about something that went wrong to asking questions and taking steps toward making it right, I begin to feel better. And everyone else seizes the opportunity to quickly put whatever went wrong aside and put in place the corrections to assure that the same mistake is never made again. When we’re doing something about the error, we’re closer to achieving the results we want. This is productivity.
The amount of energy you have is a function of your resistance
I find if you just flow with the activities around you, you have a tremendous amount of energy and you get a lot done. If something goes wrong, you can resist it and try to get around it, “I don’t want to do this or that…. Damn these interruptions.” I don’t dwell on problems being problems or avoid dealing with them. I just deal with stuff as best I can, delegate tasks to people, and just keep going rather than spend a lot of time grinding my mental and emotional gears. Mental friction wears you down. If you can let go of this stuff and know that you’ll find solutions to the problems, you’ll discover peace of mind. Otherwise, the energy drain is like having one foot on the brake while the other is on the gas.
Business Black Belt Notes
- Coach yourself by using positive commands to produce improvement.
- A coach pushes you to do better the next time—do that with yourself.
- Coaches provide good samples of what to say to yourself while you practice.
- Immediately channel anger and frustration to positively dealing with a problem.
- The energy you have left at the end of the day depends on going with the flow.