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’ve built upon that skill with 4 more strategies that are extremely important for long-term progress.
We’ll close part III with three more skills that can really help to overcome challenges.
Acknowledge your successes. Good coaches do an excellent job of reinforcing success and positive behaviors.
If an athlete does something well or they improve in some manner, the coach recognizes it. This is true even of small improvements and small degrees of progress.
While good coaches won’t wildly celebrate small accomplishments (remember honesty), they will acknowledge them, and that’s usually all it takes.
Good coaches know to relentlessly focus on progress no matter how significant, as progress is what leads to performance, and motivation is built upon success.
Most swimmers will dwell on their mistakes and dismiss their successes.
This is the opposite of the approach you should take. Take a page from successful coaches and reward yourself after every successful repetition, every successful set, and every successful practice.
This doesn’t mean you buy yourself a $100 meal because you held your breathing pattern for 100 meters. It’s simply a small acknowledgement, an imaginary high five, or a pat on the back.
While this might seem insignificant, the impact adds up over time.
There is a lot of time between major competitions, much too long to wait to be rewarded for your efforts.
Reward your progress on a daily basis.
Can you do it? Rather than constantly telling swimmers ‘you can do it!’, good coaches will ask swimmers ‘can you do it?’.
In any challenging situation, the swimmer must ultimately decide if they can accomplish the task at hand.
They must seriously consider the question and make a judgment call based upon the situation.
If a coach tells a swimmer that they can be successful and the swimmer’s consciously or subconsciously knows this isn’t true, the coach’s words are meaningless.
Coaches are much better off asking the swimmer if they can do it, while doing so in an encouraging tone.
This will force the swimmers to seriously consider the question, decide, and then act accordingly.
Once the answer is ‘yes’, there will be a total commitment to the effort as the swimmer knows they can do it, and any shortcoming is a result of a lack of focus and effort.
As very few people are willing to fail because they didn’t try hard enough, they’ll make the effort.
Fortunately, you don’t need a coach to take advantage of this same dynamic.
Simply telling yourself that ‘you can do it’ is not the best way to encourage yourself in a positive manner. It’s very possible that you can’t do it, and if that’s the case, you know it’s true at a subconscious or conscious level.
Trying to override your beliefs is not going to work.
You need a different strategy.
Ask yourself ‘can you do it?’.
Keep it in the third person and make sure you ask the question rather than making the statement.
Give yourself the freedom to decide for yourself, analyze your resources and capabilities, and then mobilize those resources.
It may seem like it would take a lot of time to ask this question prior to asking.
However, you only really need to ask the question when you’re being challenged.
It’s not something you need to do during warm-up.
You know what you need to do then, and you know how to do it. It’s when you’re under pressure that it matters.
In these situations, the question is mostly subconscious, you just decide you can do it or not based upon what you’re feeling.
You usually KNOW.
Once you say yes, it’s time to figure it out and find a way to be successful. Again, you’ll know what you need to do, you’ll find a way.
Find a way. Good coaches encourage swimmers to find solutions.
When faced with a particular challenge, swimmers simply need to find a solution that accomplishes the goal.
This is particularly true when swimmers are faced with challenge their game to attack, yet they’re not really sure if or how they can accomplish it.
Coaches require swimmers to find solutions. Swimmers will reflect on their resources and come up with a plan for action, knowing they can find a way.
You can apply this same strategy.
When you’re facing a significant challenge, and you’re not sure if you can do it, you just tell yourself to find a way.
You’re not telling yourself ‘you can do it’, you’re setting an objective of finding a way.
You’re providing yourself with a clear objective, where anything goes in terms of generating a solution, and you’ll start looking for a way and considering the options for finding a way.
If you commit to finding a way, you’ll mobilize a full effort to the action.
It may not get you success, but you’ll get as close as you’re able.
Over the course of your life, and certainly your athletic career, you’ll communicate with yourself more than any other person.
From a performance standpoint, it makes sense to ensure that communication is as effective as possible to facilitate as much improvement as possible.
Model your communication after the best coaches and how they communicate.
By using the same strategies that they use while talking to yourself, you’re more likely to get the outcomes your looking for while enjoying the experience.
Use the following strategies to make it happen-
Keep it positive
Keep it encouraging
Judge the outcomes not the person
Frame shortcoming as opportunities
Can you do it?
Find a way
Many of these strategies will seem counterintuitive and difficult to work with at first, as they’re often the opposite of your instincts and what you’ve done in the past.
As with any change, communicating differently takes time and practice.
However, that time and effort is worth it.
You’ll find the results will be better and more consistent, and you’ll like coaching yourself a lot more.
Remember, this is worth implementing regardless of whether you have an actual coach.
As much as you interact with your coach, you’ll interact with yourself many times over.
Make sure that communication is as effective as possible.
Faster. Easier. Better.