Friday, 23 January 2015

Arrogance vs Super Confidence

I recently worked with a professional squash player (let’s call her Amy) on issues she had around confidence. Although she told me she wanted more confidence it soon became apparent that she had developed an unhelpful perception of what confident people were like and, in her mind, she had concluded that the super confident people she knew were all arrogant. This caused her real conflict as, although she wanted to be more confident, she didn’t want to become arrogant so she ended up resisting change in her personal growth.

One thing I have found over the years is that we often get trapped in our problem state because we form an unhelpful belief around any alternative way of being.  This was certainly the case with Amy. In her mind she had generalised that all confident people are arrogant which meant that the only way for her to become more confident was to become arrogant herself; something she did not want to do.

The irony about Amy’s belief is that arrogance has absolutely nothing to do with confidence. In fact, it is the polar opposite of confidence as it tends to be displayed by individuals who are lacking in confidence.  Put it this way, if you had all the confidence in the world, why would you feel such a need to tell everyone? One of the most confident and inspiring people I ever worked with was a client called Simon who I was helping develop the culture of his business. Simon is a man of very few words and prefers to listen more than speak. I can remember sitting in on a meeting with him and about 15 of his senior managers who were all desperately taking turns to talk up their role in the success of a project they had all been working on. It was reminiscent of a scene from The Apprentice where everyone was desperate to take the glory at the expense of the remainder of the group and it started to get quite heated.  As things started to get out of control, I could see a grin appear on Simon’s face like that of an indulgent parent. Then he leaned forward, made the tiniest of coughs and, as if he had put a spell on everyone, the room immediately fell silent and all eyes were on him. In a matter of a few, quietly spoken words, Simon had diffused the whole situation, refocused them on the subject that needed addressing, changed the tone of the meeting and then he leaned back again, leaving his team to take turns speaking in a calm and collegiate manner. At no point did Simon speak to them as anything other than as an equal. He is a man of great humility, empathy and modesty, all under-pinned with a big dose of confidence.

Interestingly, when I explained this to Amy, she actually started to feel sorry for the arrogant people that she knew. This allowed her to let go of the limiting belief which had been holding her back and over the following weeks we were able to make a real impact on her confidence levels in all areas of life.

So if you ever start to feel intimidated by someone who is being arrogant remember that they are probably a lot less confident than you are.

Andy Barton
Performance coach

Monday, 12 January 2015

Charl Schwartzel’s collapse: A case of thinking too much

The denouement of yesterday’s South African golf championship was very much one of mixed emotions. If there was ever an advertisement for the benefits of playing sport to enjoy yourself, then Englishman Andy Sullivan’s dramatic win on the first play-off hole against Charl Schwartzel was it. Throughout the final round a smile never left Sullivan’s face as he seemed to thrive on the joy of playing the game just for the sake of playing. He was a pleasure to watch and, ultimately, his maiden tour win was well deserved.

It was not, however, such a happy end for Schwartzel, who had been not long before been standing on the 14th tee five shots ahead of the field with only a handful of holes to play and looking a huge favourite to win his home championship for the first time.  Sadly, there ensued one of those terrible collapses that are painful to watch and are what is often cruelly referred to as “choking”. Choking essentially comes about from over thinking. When we are performing well, we process information unconsciously, trusting our bodies to perform the skills that we have learned. When we start to over think, we process information consciously which leads to a deterioration in performance and, in extreme circumstances, can lead to a complete crash.

For me, the telling moment that Schwartzel was over thinking could be found as far back as the 8th hole when he could be witnessed spending a considerable amount of time discussing the mechanics of his swing. There is only one place for dealing with your technique, whatever your sport, and that is on the practice ground. If you take your mechanics into a competitive situation, it forces you to perform consciously and that will always have a detrimental effect on how you perform.  The unconscious mind is your feeling mind so to put in a winning performance, it is far more important to work on your emotional state rather that getting into deep analysis. So while Andy Sullivan was preparing himself effectively by staying in a happy state, Charl Schwartzel was activating his conscious mind by going into over thinking mode.

So if you want to be competitive make sure you leave your mechanics in the garage. 

Have a great week!

Andy Barton
Performance coach

Thursday, 1 January 2015

How to achieve your goals for 2015

Happy New Year to you!

This is the time of year when a lot of you may be considering setting some goals. You may have even set some goals for 2014 and some you may have achieved and others may be still on the “To Do” list. There are a number of reasons why people don’t achieve their goals. Some of the main ones include; setting a goal that is too big (“I want to win Wimbledon”), having a goal that isn’t inspiring enough (“I want to keep my house tidy every day”), aiming to achieve something that is too vague (“I want to be successful”), looking to please someone else (“I will practise my clarinet for 2 hours every day to keep Mum happy”) or creating a goal that doesn’t have a timescale (“One day I’m going to write a book”).

If you want to set some goals for 2015, here are seven hints to make it more likely that you will achieve them.

1. Make your goal challenging yet achievable. We are more motivated by a challenging goal especially if you have a good reason for achieving it.

2. Be as descriptive as possible, in terms of what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and what resources and abilities you require to get your goal. The mind is always scanning for things in the environment that are relevant to you. If you let your mind know exactly what you want, it is more likely to draw your attention to things that will help you achieve your goal.

3. Break your goal into small, easy to achieve chunks. If you are aiming to be able to run a marathon, the first goal may be to run a mile first. Give each stage a timescale so that you know whether or not you are on track.

4. Tell others about your goal. It has been found that we are far more likely to achieve a goal if we tell everyone about it. If you keep it to yourself, there is a lot less to lose if you give up. One very good reason for using social media.

5. Write your goal down. Research has shown that you are far more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down (remember to make them descriptive!).

6. Have fun. Enjoy the process of achieving your goal. The pursuit of a goal can be far more rewarding than the actual achievement of attaining the goal itself.

7. Take action. Do one thing every day towards your goal. Even if you are not in the mood to work towards your goal, just do one very small thing that moves you towards it. Once you have started, the chances are that you will end up doing more than you intended to.

Have a fantastic 2015! I hope it is all you wish it to be.

Andy Barton
Performance Coach