Learning to Coach Yourself is the fundamental skill in creating massive change.
In part I, we discussed the importance of learning how to communicate with yourself.
You need to be your best coach, and to do so, you need to communicate with yourself just like expert coaches do.
Specifically, we addressed how critical it is to keep your communication positive.
In part II, we’re going to build upon that skill with 4 more strategies that are extremely important for long-term progress.
Keep it encouraging. One of the roles coaches fulfill is that they encourage you.
Good coaches will encourage you to try again when you fail. They’ll point out the opportunities and reinforce the belief that you can be successful.
They have an unwavering belief in your ability to get better, particularly in the moment.
Whenever you’re struggling, especially when you’re struggling, good coaches are effective in communicating the belief that you can be slightly better on the next repetition, and they’re always right.
No matter how poorly you are performing, you have to keep your communication encouraging.
This is especially true during times of challenge. That’s when you need the most help to continue to provide effort and get slightly better.
As we’ll see below, this is not necessarily simply repeating ‘you can do it’ to yourself.
Wishful thinking is not a recipe for success.
However, there is a lot of value in encouraging continued effort and engagement. You need to tell yourself to keep trying even when you’ve become really frustrated.
You’re often only one effort away from improvement, and encouragement can provide the push to do that next repetition as well as you can.
Be honest. Good coaches tell their athletes the truth.
They provide honest and accurate feedback.
They don’t exaggerate the quality of the effort or performance, regardless of whether it was good or bad.
They won’t pretend it’s any better or any worse than it actually was.
They tell swimmers what they need to hear based upon the reality of what they see.
The value of honest feedback is that you know where you really stand, and you can use that information to get better.
If you’re unsure about the accuracy of the feedback, or you’re not getting the feedback you need, it will be difficult to improve.
Communicate with yourself in the same manner. If you do something really well, acknowledge it.
If you don’t give your best effort, or your execution is below your standard, honestly acknowledge that as well.
Most people are familiar with the idea of brutal honesty.
Unfortunately, it’s often interpreted as an opportunity to just be brutal. Honesty should be delivered in conjunction with the previous suggestions of remaining positive and encouraging.
They are not mutually exclusive.
Always recognize reality, and do so from a frame of positivity and encouragement
Judge the outcomes not the person. Good coaches don’t assess the person, they assess what they’ve done.
hey provide feedback about the swimmer’s behavior not their character. If a swimmer gives poor effort, they communicate that rather than tell the swimmer that they’re lazy.
Likewise, if a swimmer performs a poorly executed swim, a good coach will let the swimmer know that the swim was sloppy, rather than communicate that the swimmer is a sloppy swimmer.
While it may seem like a small distinction in word choice, it makes a difference in how it’s perceived.
Feedback about the person is an attack, while feedback about behavior is an opportunity. It’s much less abrasive and it’s framed as opportunity for improvement.
You’re not slow, that performance was slow.
There is a big difference between these two statements.
When providing feedback and assessing outcomes about yourself, reflect on what happened, not who performed the actions.
Be objective when judging your behaviors. They are not a reflection of who you are.
While it makes sense to do this from a framework of positivity, it’s also more effective for change.
You can’t necessarily change who you are.
However, you can always change your behavior. By judging outcomes rather than the person, you’re creating a frame and expectation that you can facilitate the changes you desire. This reinforces the agency you have to improve.
If you regularly tell yourself that you’re lazy, it becomes a permanent part of your framework, and it’s going to be show up in your behaviors.
Frame mistakes as opportunities. Good coaches make mistakes seem like opportunities.
Rather making a statement about how poor your head position was, they’ll make let you know how much better your head position could be.
In the first case, you’re presented with criticism.
In the second case, you’re given opportunity.
This works because the coach is turning what could be perceived as a negative conversation into a positive one. Instead of dwelling on errors, the focus is on action.
The coach is focusing directly on what you can do, rather than simply informing you of your shortcomings.
An opportunity is a direct call to action.
You’re informed of what you can improve and what to do about it. This leads to action and action is required for improvement.
You can do the same when communicating with yourself.
Rather than criticizing yourself for a mistake, emphasize the opportunity for improvement in the next repetition.
If you do something poorly, you can follow that up with a better performance.
It’s an opportunity.
The more opportunities you find in your swimming, the more you’ll be able to improve. This increases motivation to act whereas negative feedback tends to decrease motivation, especially when presented consistently over time.
As you’ll likely be making plenty of mistakes, there will be plenty of negative feedback unless you change how you perceive those mistakes.
Start to implement these skills in your training sessions.
While it may be awkward at first, just like it is for coaches, you’ll soon find your training sessions to be more effective, more rewarding, and a whole lot more enjoyable.
We’ll explore 3 more strategies in part III.
Faster. Easier. Better.