A few weeks ago I was honoured to join Megan Van Petten, MA from the Esports Trade Association on a podcast to discuss mindsets, dealing with pressure, thought patterns and much more.
Check out the podcast and comment with your thoughts.
Who you are today is a culmination of experiences and perspectives and most of the time, how you are is OK. You do OK. But when it comes to professional sports, being OK isn’t good enough. You have to be excellent or at least be striving for excellence but reaching that level takes determination, guts and smart work, but what happens to your focus when something negative happens in your life. Perhaps a death, an injury, a fall out with a family member or even succumbing to pressure and stress.
Many athletes over the years have spoken about their struggles, Frank Bruno, Kevin Love, Michael Phelps, just to name 3 but a quick google search will bring you up a list even longer with no surprise.
So what can you do? What can you do to move away from the struggles quickly and get yourself back on track.
Let me share this story with you
For many many years, a man had taken the same path to work. He saw the same people, saw the same shops and felt the same way. He was familiar with this routine and familiarity gave him a sense of comfort and this comfort gave him happiness. He had no reason to change his route, he had no reason to walk faster, yet one day something changed but he didn’t know what. His thoughts began to niggle at him.
This niggle grew into an itch and after several days, his happiness has turned into anxiety. Instead of smiling at the people he walked past, he was on edge and avoided eye contact and had thoughts of changing something but he didn’t know what or how. He was so familiar with his journey that thinking about changing it, only brought on a fear, so he tolerated and tolerated until one day he decided not to get up.
Sometimes when we feel the need for change, we fear what might happen if we did change, and the sense of familiarity pulls us back from growing and we continue to tolerate, even when you know something needs to change.
But these past events do not define who we can become. Past events do not have to hold you down and stop you from achieving by doing and thinking differently.
You always have a choice to move away from negativity and choose to walk a new path and doing it is as simple as changing the direction in which you walk, who you talk with and recognising when you want change. You have to hold yourself accountable. You have to make new decisions because it’s very unlikely someone else will recongnise you want to change and help you.
So if you feel something needs to change, create that change for yourself!
Thanks for reading and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
Play with purpose
You’re in a room full of people all wearing hats. You look around and listen to the conversations and notice 5 people have green hats on, 5 people have blue hats on and 2 have red hats on. How many people are in the room?
While you’re working that out let me remind you you’re also listening to the conversations in the room with great interest.
Listening is a skill that few have mastered but many lack the understanding or purpose of listening so let me suggest why listening is a skill you need to master and you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be.
Let’s imagine for a moment you’ve got something you just have to share with someone. Something inside your head is urging you to share this emotionally charged news so you call your friend and begin to talk enthusiastically, sharing as much as you can.
When you’ve exhaled all the news you stop and wait for a response, hoping for some kind of recognition or acceptance.
In sports it’s very common for coaches or managers to talk at the players and expect them to carry out those instructions. The coach talks, the player listens.
Yet some of the better coaches approach communication from a different perspective often giving the players the opportunity to talk, and for the coach to listen. Why is this a good strategy?
When a coach is only giving instructions they are missing part of the bigger picture. Through listening to the players, the missing piece is found and solutions to improving performance can be found quickly.
And by the way, the answer to the question of how many people are in the room is 13. 5 plus 5 plus 2 plus 1 (you)
Thanks for listening and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
Play with purpose
When things go wrong you hear things like, time is a great healer, it will work itself out or you’ll get through it and although there is a tiny bit of truth in these words, they land more on hope rather than a determination to create change. I’ve never understood why you would want to place your hope into things changing because hope relies on external factors falling into place to create change. Its almost like you’re placing your fate in the hands of an unknown entity and crossing your fingers for the best.
To create real change for you, you have to take control and learn how to think with purpose. You wouldn’t see a fire in your garden and hope it would go out. You would take action. You wouldn’t look at your fuel gauge in your car and hope it would fill itself up. You would take action. You wouldn’t break your ankle and hope it would heal. You’d take action. So why would you hope things get better for you without taking action?
Purposeful action is you taking action to create change for yourself. To improve.
Your inner voice drives your performance and knowing what to say and when will give you leverage like you wouldn’t believe.
Many people fail to recognise their inner strength, almost like they are ashamed of what they could accomplish if they only thought differently. Connecting with your inner strength relies on looking inwards and judging yourself in a positive manner and for some, the act of placing positivity onto themselves can feel awkward or egotistical, but these people are wrong.
Accepting your inner strength takes courage and an acceptance and acknowledgement that the person inside deserves to be heard to help you become the best you can be.
You owe it to yourself to learn how to think with purpose to achieve the results you truly desire.
Thanks for reading and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
Play with purpose
I’m going to suggest a relationship is the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.
One of the relationships you must pay attention to is the one between you and your coach and I’d like you consider the following three questions and give yourself truthful answers. Noone will see these and you don’t have to show your coach but you can take your answers and choose to do something positive with them.
To be successful there must be mutual trust and respect between player and coach and this relationship thrives when communication is honest, supportive and open with each having the mindset of “What can I do to help others be the best they can be” for when each player and coach has this mindset, their focus becomes more about the team and others rather than a selfish approach that can leave a person blinkered as to what’s possible.
Now let’s consider the relationship between team mates and others. In my younger days I had many teammates and I was very judgemental about their performances on the court. I had something to prove to myself and wanted to be the best I could be but also wanted my team to win so I would challenge my team-mates to step up and improve, if only with increasing their hustle levels. I believe any player, no matter your ability, skill set or technical ability can bring hustle and it’s hustle that brings a small increment of improvement over the course of a game.
If you’re lazy, I will call you out!
When you think of a team, you think of roles, and when you think of roles, you think of the people filling those roles and when you think of the people filling those roles, you can begin to understand what needs to be done to improve or what’s working really well.
The relationship between players again must be one of mutual trust and respect for a team to thrive. You don’t need to be best friends away from the field of play but as soon as you cross that line into competition you shift your mindset and place your trust and respect into your teammates and if you’re unable to do that, then that’s a sign that something needs to change.
Of course you’ll form stronger bonds with some which can sometimes cause a fracture between the team, usually the better players will create their own click so it’s important you recognise the fracture and tell yourself no matter a players ability you must place your trust and respect into them for the sake of the team. Another benefit of placing your trust and respect into lesser players is they will feel your positivity towards them and that can inspire them to play better.
As a recap over these last few episodes, we have explored the 7 pillars of growth that each of us need to spend time understanding when it comes to improving performance and wellbeing.
Moving forward I’ll be sharing insights and tips from my experiences with the aim to help you be the best you can be.
I’d like you to consider the following tasks:
Run a marathon tomorrow
Hold your breath for 4 minutes
Do 200 pushups in 5 minutes
What thoughts and emotions did you just experience?
Sometimes in life and sports, others expect a lot more of you than you are capable of and when these unrealistic expectations are presented to you, one of three things will happen.
You will make an excuse not to attempt to try
You will half-heartedly give it a go
You will do it to the best of your ability
It’s usually those closest to you that set these unrealistic expectations and each person will have a reason to set us these tasks. It could come from family, parents, your manager or coach because they want the best for you. They want you to succeed and somewhere down the line they have heard a person can improve by being pushed to be better and as much as I agree to that sentiment to some degree, if the person isn’t ready to be pushed, those expectations from others won’t be accomplished.
When this happens, there is some trust lost between the two and fractured relationships can occur, therefore hindering any further growth.
So what can you do?
Putting those unrealistic expectations to one side, what do YOU expect of yourself? (Be selfish)
How far out of alignment are your expectations compared to those unrealistic ones, others are setting you?
There is something very powerful about setting your own expectations with the right guidance and I want to be clear on what that guidance is because if you’re a person who really wants to improve, you have to get it right.
If you took away your fear of letting others down and living up to others expectations, what expectations would you set yourself?
Write down three things you improve but make it realistic. As an esports pro you might want to get more sleep, eat healthier or improve your mindset.
Secondly, select just one of those things and tell yourself you’re going to improve in this category in so many weeks, by doing x more consistently.
Now all you do is begin to take action and this is where setting your own expectations becomes powerful.
Now you have a choice.
You will either do it, or you won’t.
If you don’t reach your expectations, you overstretched your capabilities so you must reflect and make adjustments.
If you do reach your expectations, enjoy that feeling when you achieve because that is true growth!
We live in the moment, we exist in the moment, yet it’s easy to get distracted by the past or think too far into the future and I want to start with talking about the importance of recognising where you are because when you accept your reality, you can begin to set realistic and achievable goals.
I want to talk about goal setting because in sports, goal setting is important to help us gauge our growth and development and this gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment. How great does it feel when you accomplish a goal? I’m right handed and remember practicing to make a left hand layup, a shot in basketball. I was in the school gym with my mate in the lunch hour and it started off with a simple question, shall we practice left hand layups. So we started. Of course we sucked at them! Hitting the bottom of the ring, missing the ring completely, but all the time we were adjusting and repeating until we eventually got one in! And although we managed to make one and accomplished our goal, we instinctively wanted more. Making one wasn’t good enough so now could we make three in a row.
We tried, we made one, maybe two before finally making three and again, goal accomplished. But we wanted more.
The goal now was to be consistent.
After being consistent could we make them under pressure
Then could we make them in games?
Our reality was very much in the moment, and we didn’t assume we could go straight into a game and make left hand layups, we had to learn the basics and fundamentals before moving on and the recognition of our reality kept us grounded.
How often do you compare yourself to others? How does that make you feel?
It’s easy to begin to compare yourself with others who are either more successful than you or not as good as you then begin to judge yourself based on your judgements of others which isn’t fair on you because their journey to where they are was very different to yours.
This unfair comparison can raise anxiety through thinking you’re not good enough, or bring a sense of complacency thinking you are so much better, but when you focus on your journey, your needs, your goals, improving becomes something you can control and feel at ease with.
Be proud of where you are, be accepting of your current level of ability and if you really want to improve set yourself realistic targets based on your needs.
Thanks for listening and remember to Take action, Reflect, Adjust and repeat
Play with purpose
YOUR IDEAL VISION
Looking to the future gives us something to focus on and work towards.
Imagine a ship with no destination, the crew and captain may be completing tasks and surviving but to what end, for what purpose are they simply sailing around with no destination?
Do you remember learning to fasten your shoe laces? Probably not, as it’s a skill learned when you were around the ages of 6 or 7 and now you complete that skill without thinking twice, but there was a time when you found the motivation to learn that skill.
But for what purpose?
Although you can understand the point of learning to fasten your shoe laces, ask yourself this question – For what purpose do I want to improve?
Your answer may surprise you or a least spark some interesting internal dialogue around why you do what you do.
We all have our motivation for wanting to improve and when you really connect with your purpose, you will jump into improving with an almighty splash and begin to feel and see results quickly, but if you’re unsure as to why you want to improve, improving won’t come easily to you.
In The recent docuseries the Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls, NBA team of the 90’s, Michael Jordan, arguably the best player that ever lived, told a story about how a young player had got the better of him in a game, scoring 37 points. It was said that after the game the player, LeBradford Smith uttered something to Jordan like “good game’, Jordan took this small comment as fuel to motivate him for the next game and said he would score his opponents full game total of 37 by half time next time they met. Jordan went to score 36 and proved a point.
But here’s where his motivation goes to another level. The comment Smith made, was never made! Jordan allegedly made up the story, meaning it wasn’t the verbal comment made by Smith that lit his fire, which in itself would be a good mindset, but it was simply his inner voice, creating a scenario that fuelled the fire.
Can you imagine! The desire to win and improve so badly was simply created by imagining another player said something disrespectful to him! Now that’s on another level but it is possible to create motivation from anything and it doesn’t have to come from an external source.
In this instance, Jordan’s vision was to beat the same team that beat them the night before and get revenge on a young player.
He simply needed to tell himself the right words.
When creating your ideal vision, think short term, as in next few days, medium term, next few weeks and long terms, next few months/years and keep it realistic.
You can’t tell yourself you’ll be the best in the world if your diet is poor, you are constantly tired and you aren’t even close to being great.
But it’s important to get into good habits so you can achieve your short term, medium term and long term vision.
It’s habits that will help drive you forward.
So now, with that new perspective, ask yourself, for what purpose do I want to improve?
Your values form the foundation on which you perform work and conduct yourselves. … The core values are the basic elements of how you go about your work
but when it comes to sports, you should remind yourself some of your values might be compromised and that’s when problems can occur. They may present a list of values but are these real values or hollow values?
For example if one of your values is respect, for yourself and others, yet your manager fails to treat you with respect, there will be an internal conflict for you to work out and raises questions like, shall I stay or should I go, Shall I mention it to my manager, shall I keep quiet because If I say something I will be thrown off the team….
Let’s consider a few values that should be included in all sports delivery
You will interpret each of these values in your own way based on your past experiences and so will everyone else. It’s unfair to assume your interpretation of professionalism is the same as one of your team mates. Its unfair to assume your interpretation of growth is the same as your manager’s, which brings us to the importance of communication.
Without conversations and dialogue and specific questions, teams and individuals can quickly lose focus so let’s look at three important questions any player should be encouraged to ask to help them understand the values of themselves and the team:-
1) What can I do differently to help the team?
2) What is the one strength I have that you can count on that helps the team?
3) What works when we are winning?
Consider what your three core values are and ask yourself if you’re aligned with them or does something need to change?
There is a link between cakes and esports and not the obvious one you might be thinking. We are talking about recipes and when it comes to improving performance, it’s all about the recipes, so let’s look at what you need to do.
You’ve got your ingredients for a cake but now what do you do with them? How do you transform these individual items into something really tasty?
Unless you’re trained and have done it before, the likely hood is you’ll follow a recipe and a method that involves weighing, measuring, mixing and heating and if things go to plan, your cake will be completed, ready to eat (and share if you really want to) in the shape of an X-box or PS or something that you can enjoy
Imagine for a moment the cake represents your ideal outcome. Whether that’s finding confidence, or improving performance or overcoming an issue that’s been bugging you for a while, you want a different outcome than the one you’re currently getting
Just like the recipe for the cake there is a recipe for the mind and the ingredients include how you see, hear and feel and when you learn how to mix them in the right way, your ideal outcome will be achieved quickly
The hard part is convincing yourself, you are ready to try mixing the ingredients up differently and this is hard because to do that, you must first understand how and why you think. Have you got the time and open mind to learn new perspectives?
Over your life you’ve created beliefs, values and habits, rightly or wrongly but somewhere down the line, you decided you want to change things; you want things to be better for you. Perhaps you feel tired all the time, perhaps you have had enough of losing or perhaps you want to try something new? whatever different outcome you want, you have to think and act differently.
The thought of changing can be enough to put some people off from trying, but it’s important to know changing takes courage and determination and will lead to different outcomes, and by coming out of your comfort zone for just a few moments, you will begin to feel a change. Then you ride that momentum and embrace what’s happening
Just like baking that cake of yours, getting the right outcome takes time to perfect. When I was younger, every Christmas I would bake a chocolate log, a Swiss role covered in chocolate. I’d make about five of them for my relatives and I was that skilled, I could do it without a recipe because I got into the zone and just did it. But to get to that level took time. Yes I made mistakes but quickly ate up the evidence before my mum saw
You deserve to find new outcomes if the ones you’re achieving now, aren’t providing you with what you need or desire, so embrace change, embrace your ability to do things differently and start to bake a new cake!
One FIFA pro I was working with talked about letting his team down, being distracted and wanting to finish the game quickly and score quickly which led to hasty decisions. We talked about his thoughts and broke them down then reframed his thinking to create a new emotion which led to improved outcomes of winning game 1 – 0 or 2 – 0 and getting more wins. He’s recently beaten two brilliant players, DullenMike the youngest winner of a FUT Champions Cup in the history of EA SPORTS FIFA and The Gorilla, arguably the GOAT of FIFA.
The point is this – When you have a need or desire to improve, you can change your thinking to fast track your way to improvements by changing your recipe, just like you can change a recipe from a chocolate chip cake to a strawberry cake, you make a couple of adjustments and off you go. You might not get it right first time but you have taken the first steps to improving