Excuses are the seeds of regret.
Every time we use an excuse to condone a poor behaviour such as blowing off a session we should be doing, we are planting a seed of regret that will one day sprout. Now, if we only did this once, then we would end up with one solitary regret plant in a big field and it would be very insignificant. The solitary regret plant in the big field when we look from afar, would barely be visible, so its impact on our vision and what we see in front of us would be insignificant. We would be left with acres of room to plant seeds of success.
However, if we make excuse after excuse after excuse we are continually planting these seeds of regret, and because of our behaviours we water these seeds well, and before we know it we have a field full of regret plants. So, when we step back to look at our field, all we can see are regret plants, as far as the eye can see, and these aren’t pretty plants. They don’t have beautiful flowers, they are ground creepers that are messy and tangled and if we walk over them our feet get caught and we are forever getting tripped up by their gnarly vines. There is no amazing rainbow at the end of the field, just grey clouds. These regret plants grow in the dark so we don’t really see them getting bigger until one day we realise there is a mass of tangled ugly plants, out of control, in our field. They stink of failure. They have thorns that prick us every time we try to get rid of them.
We look out at our field and there is no space to plant seeds of success. Seeds that get planted every time we complete a session, every time we are purposeful in our practice and preparation, every recovery session, every analysis session, every curious question we ask to learn and improve.
These success plants blossom, sometimes they take a long time to blossom, but they do blossom. They have beautiful flowers, strong stems, they smell like success, they are soft to touch and they reach for the sky aiming to get higher and higher. The more success seeds we plant the thicker the field becomes until it is a carpet of success, so thick we can walk on it with confidence knowing we aren’t going to fall through the foliage to the ground. We are able to almost float over the success plants, softly bouncing from one to the other and occasionally we might stumble but the thick foliage catches us and reminds us that our field of success won’t let us get dirty anymore. It won’t let us get tangled in the regret plants that are tangled and gnarly underneath.
Most of the issues we face with poor performance stem [please excuse the pun] from the fact that we have created poor behaviours or habits that either distract us or completely stop us from doing what we need to do to be successful. These habits or behaviours are the gardeners who can either create a field of regret or a field of success.
Finding excuses is a habit, and with all habits they can be changed, and for us to be able to perform we need to change or create habits that enhance and strengthen our performance.
Creating a habit of exercise is good for my health, which aids my performance in so many ways, and is such an easy thing for me to do because I love running. But there are many things I don’t love doing that will make my performance as a coach so much better. I am not great at getting on the phone and ringing my athletes to create greater connections, and it’s not because I don’t love having the deep and meaningful conversations with them, on the contrary I love those conversations. My stumbling block is the thought that they won’t want to have that conversation with me. That I will be rejected. That I will fail. Who controls and owns that thought? I do. My problem is that I am letting something I have compete control over, dictate my poor behaviour. So instead of making an excuse for not making the call because of what my athlete may potentially think, I tell myself to make the call because of the great conversation I will have and the level of connection I will make. That one conversation goes from being a seed of regret to a seed of success.
It is in the internal dialogue that we have with ourselves most of the time that stops us from having the right mindset around what I call “doing the work”. We are having the wrong conversations with ourselves. The conversations we need have to come from a proactive, constructive and positive place that finds the benefit in a situation as opposed to the potential of what might go wrong. What happens is that “doing the work” may not meet our expectation and so we create a disappointment about a situation that hasn’t even happened yet and so we look for some reason to not “do the work”. If our conversation focuses on the benefit we could get out of the situation then it becomes a lot more enticing and we will start to look forward to the work. With that mindset what could have been an excuse not to work becomes a motivation to work. It becomes a seed of success and not a seed of regret.
How do we change that habit. Firstly, reflect on why we don’t do the work, and establish and accept the real reason why we procrastinate on certain tasks. We won’t be able to change it if we don’t know what it really is. Secondly, establish what the trigger is for the behaviour we want to change. When do we suddenly go into procrastination mode? Once we have that worked out we need to interrupt that thinking or internal dialogue with a trigger for the new habit or behaviour. At first we will need to be really conscious of this, and work hard to act quickly on the trigger. We will make mistakes and go back to the old habit, but persevere. Like every good skill we need to work on it and it will take time and we will make mistakes, but we also know we need to keep at it. As we become better at anticipating the trigger for the old habit and replacing it with the new trigger, the internal dialogue will be so much more proactive and positive. The new behaviour will be enjoyable and we will become more consistent with it. We may even get to the stage where it is completely autonomous and our new habit becomes a normal behaviour we don’t even have to think about or have an internal dialogue about.
Regardless of whether we have a green thumb or not, plant seeds of success by finding the positive in every task, as opposed to finding excuses and planting seeds of regret, and start by challenging the internal dialogue we are having with ourself every time we look at our to-do list.