Recently, two amateur archers approached me to ask me how they could improve their game. They presented themselves with a bunch of graphs of their performance results, wanting to get an analysis and a diagnosis of what they were doing poorly technically and mentally.
"We are engineers," they said. "We are very analytical."
However, they had brought me all the wrong data. I told them to take two weeks and collect the data that mattered, not what they had been doing, but what they had not done.
Look, the difference between being good and being fantastic, or between being stuck and improving (it does not matter if you're a runner, a swimmer, a weight lifter, an excellent soccer or basketball player, an archer or any other type of athlete) is not always found in the raw and fast numbers. In fact, sometimes what we know actually gets in the way of what we have to do.
Before I sent the archers away to pick up this other type of data (about which you will read later), I did a simple, but challenging question that I have done to some 10,000 people as Throughout my career: What you feel affects your performance?
Almost everyone says yes, but the archers were skeptical at first. They called them "Touchie-feelies" (intimate perceptions about the truth of the subject).
But what they found, which is what everyone I've worked with have found, is that feeling is different from having feelings. Feeling, intangible but still very powerful, is in fact the key to better performance in any scenario. My archers learned it, the world-class athletes I've worked with have learned it, and many other people in all kinds of professions, too.
Here, the five steps to take advantage of what you feel and learn the secrets for better performance.
Step 1: Focus on the game, not the performance
Most of the athletes I have worked with come to me, because they have lost their sense of play and put too much emphasis on goals and results, losing sight of why they do it in the first place. What is the reason why most people stop playing? Because someone told them they were very good, they told them that if they worked hard, they would be successful. As a result of this, they stopped playing and focused more on performance.
When Jon Lugbill was 14, he won the first of his five canoe world championships. I had the opportunity to see the best C1 canoe competitors in the world. What was the first thought? "I can beat these guys," even though no American had ever done it. His response was to play more, experiment in his training, "play" to redesign his team, and invent new moves.More than insisting on what he already knew, simply by doing it more often and harder, he learned and experimented; in his own words "play and row more frequently". He always did this training, he did the work, but he always made time to play, without being subject to rigid schedules.
In all the fields in which I have worked, the game is fundamental, since it allows you to put aside the external pressures to carry out, and find new (and sometimes better) systems that work for you (even surgeons practice constantly tying knots, sewing their socks, playing with the fastest and best ways to "make a stitch.")
DO IT YOURSELF: The best way to incorporate more sense of the game in your training is to put aside some of your tangible goals and suspend any traditional measurement of what you are doing (times, weights, repetitions). Run or ride a bicycle without a watch or take a new route, and focus on the reactions of your body. Define intervals of how you feel instead of how far you go, test yourself instead of pushing yourself. As you feel more comfortable with the game, add the measurements again, the clock, the mileage, but just look at them after you're finished. This allows your body to guide you to make better training decisions that will eventually bear fruit with better tangible results.
STEP 2: Learn the ability to feel
Unlike feelings (which you can not really control, but which are valuable in terms of connection to what we do and who we do it with), the feeling is actually a skill that you can control and develop. Understanding this difference was critical to the success of the Olympic gold medalist swimmer Jeff Rouse. Like most of us, he had never become aware of the distinction between sensation and feelings. However, a 24-hour period at the Olympic Games in Barcelona taught him why this difference matters.
The world record holder and favorite in the 100 meters back, Jeff, heard the conversation that his legacy as a swimmer was based on winning the Olympic medal. He believed it when people told him that without the gold medal it would be a failure. He worried about losing and, as a result, he swam not to lose. He did it with more effort than usual, and in his own words, "died" reaching the goal, losing by six hundredths of a second.
I could not believe it. He beat himself mentally and was physically beaten in the race. I was exhausted. Worse still, I was scared. The next day I would have to lead the USA. UU in the relay of 4 x 100, a race that had never been lost in the history of the event.
He did not sleep well and was concerned about defrauding his colleagues, his family and his country... again. Five minutes before the race, his teammate Pablo Morales grabbed him and told him that "he should swim the way he swam to get there."
At that precise moment," sensation "took the place of" feelings "in Jeff and broke his own world record and went on to win two more golds in Atlanta.
DO IT YOURSELF: The sensation is the byproduct of the game, tests and the touch of the things that capture our attention The sensation is in the shot, in hitting, running, swimming by the very sensation of the practice until you know that what you feel in the matches is what you want It's quality over quantity, and to get it, you have to play (see Step 1.) How did you find it? The feeling is not to leave the gym until you've done 50 good-looking shots and went in, not counting Those who entered but felt bad, the feeling is to run or climb the hills until you find the right gear change rhythm, attacking the hill without losing the momentum of the slope you have left behind, the feeling is to find and keep the slide in every hit in water that reduces friction. Feeling is not about working harder or trying to hit a certain number on a goal of the routine; it's about experimenting to find what works best for you. And then, when you find it, you know how to get it next time.
STEP 3: Remember why
The athletes I interviewed had a fairly simple, though not always easy, formula for success. They chose their sports (or races) because they liked how doing that made them feel when they did it. Most of us assume that by pursuing what we want (for example, a PR marathon or a triumph on the tennis court), we will also get what we like. But we can lose sight of what we like by pursuing the current goal.
Many years after working with Jeff Rouse, I talked to the guy who broke all of Jeff's records, Aaron Piersol. Aaron told me: "You can never forget why you are swimming, why you are doing what you are doing".
"I started swimming before I could walk, my family loves water, it was like" throw the child in the water "because we were always close to her, in a pool, on a pier, on the beach. It was like we were spending our days, "he said.
"Competitive swimming is a very narrow definition of swimming, I have tried to explain it to other people and there are plenty of other opportunities to be comfortable with water, if you want to be a good swimmer, you really want to know why. You're doing, I just developed an appreciation for water, when I go to the beach, it's beyond words, it's just a feeling that I have, it felt natural. "
Too often, we pursue what we want at the cost of doing what makes us feel in a way that we like. We dress as we would for a hard and dedicated job. That can lead us to make excuses to replace what we like or want with others' appreciation of how hard we work.Or it can break us, because what we like is no longer aligned with work to get what we want.
DO IT YOURSELF: When we were kids, we played and liked. We played with the things and people we liked. We had the freedom to like something, a freedom that a few of us allow ourselves. Instead of the pressure to "love", which comes with adulthood, like little children, we were free to "like, love" someone. What do you like about what you do? What do you like about running or cycling, playing basketball or golf, or even your work, regardless of where they take you? My job is mostly to remind people what they like to feel and the activities and people that make this happen. I do not need to remind people that they love what they do or what they want to achieve. My job is to reconnect them with the "like, want" of a small child that covers the gap between what we like and what we want and do the work that is needed to get there. How did you get it? Try it by telling your story to someone or write a blog (or press entry) about how you do your sport, how you got into it, how you learned to "like, love". When you review the roots, you will remember how it felt to want to do it day after day. It's a useful exercise, especially when you reach plateaus, hit a hard training point, or just need a little extra motivation.
STEP 4: Develop confidence, not security
What is the difference between the two? Security is the belief that you are going to get what you want; the result. Trust is knowing that you have done the work to be able to do what you want to do. It's subtle, but important, because trust can actually help you get better results, even when you do not feel very safe. The best example of this came out in my interview with Grammy-winning musician Bruce Hornsby.
Bruce sat in the center of the court with his piano in the NBA All-Star Game, waiting with Branford Marsalis to play the national anthem. As the lights went out, the signal for them to start playing, a small red light went on over the television camera indicating that they were live to China. Bruce's hands resting beside him, began to tremble. He did not remember this happening before and his usual security faltered.
He did what great artists do, even when security gets away from them, he put his hands on the keys. Why? Because he trusted in his hands they knew what to do once they felt the keys. His hands could remain in the moment. He had done the job well enough so that they could do what they knew, to do what they could control without having to worry about the outcome.
DO IT YOURSELF: Developing trust is the result of the relationship between what you do and how you do it.Confidence comes from playing as well as from workouts or repetitions. Know your "thing" whether it is a bicycle, a ball, or your shoes; the game allows you to try them out, to bend, move, shape, control them until they are your friends. Throw the golf ball or tennis ball into the air, sitting at your desk. Ride a bike instead of driving as often as you can. Wear the shoes until you know them and love them and feel that they fit you, not just your feet. Whatever it is, play with it, and this is essential, in addition to your training, to get that feeling of confidence.
Step 5: Stop judging
Accountability is literally taking responsibility for your results. How did you do it? Judgment is how you feel about yourself based on how you did it, and is too informed by your feelings. The great artists, above all, are responsible for how they did it, but in reality they work to get away from the judgments.
A player of the national golf team was having trouble landing a ball softly without rolling too far from the hole. So I had a suggestion: I stood in front of her while she hit the ball.
"Hit the ball over my head," I said, "and make it land right behind me."
Her eyes went out of her head, as if to say: "Do you want me to do what?"
She told me about the trial, about the worry, about the pressure she felt to do it. She had shared how golf had gone from the wonder in which she first put a ball in the air as a child, breaking a window in the back house of the family farm, worrying about what she would lose if She did not play well, the scholarship, the education, the opportunities that had allowed her to be good.
He had tried visualization and relaxation techniques, focusing on training and simply hitting more balls, but he could not escape self-criticism. She worried more about what she could do wrong than what she had done really well or how to improve. She just needed to play golf and stop judging herself.
So I stayed ten feet in front of her, between her and the fifth hole, and I told her we would not leave until she hit the ball over my head and left it near the hole. We were not going to leave until she felt what she needed to feel.
She writhed on the ball, shaking, moving, uncomfortable and afraid of hurting me. I smiled She knew that if she could do this, she would learn what she had to learn, or at least experience what she needed.
He lost time with the first ball and crouched down when it whizzed by my head and fell into the stream. He covered nervous laughter with his hand over his mouth. I laughed, and that made a difference. She knew that I was not judging her.
The next blow was too soft and landed softly on my hands. We played a little in the club, where the ground was flatter, and something fell into place. She stopped writhing and put herself as if she suddenly knew what she needed to do. And he did. It hit the ball over my head and it landed softly behind me, and then it rolled a foot from the hole. A huge smile, almost a giggle.
We stayed and played with the shot, with the ball, experimenting to see what worked. She played with that. He assumed the responsibility that the ball was doing exactly what she had him do. And when I did not do what I wanted her to do, she played with a little more with the ball until I did exactly what I wanted her to do. Without technical or mechanical thinking. Just playing and feeling. No trial or pressure, but experimentation, creativity and results.
I saw her a month later. She had been playing well and I asked her why.
"I realized the important thing," he said.
MAKE IT YOURSELF: Getting rid of self-criticism requires discipline to play, creativity and experimentation, trying instead of pushing yourself. You have to create those meaningless moments on purpose with your friends or teammates or people who do not care about the results, people who like to spend time with you, who like to play with you and who give you freedom to be yourself. Really, it's like being a child again, running through the forest, swimming in stages like pretending to be in the Olympics, cycling like saving ET, or taking the "winning shot" game and losing, and then pretending that it was for a ful. Doing these things allows you, in what seem to be moments without effort, to realize, soaked and exhausted, that it is only self-criticism that you lack, not your willingness to do what works, to win, or to be best.
Performance coach Doug Newburg, Ph.D., has worked with thousands of elite players in all fields. You can read more about his work at www. dougnewburg. com.