So, your performance did not go as you had planned. We all know that feeling. Don’t worry, the best athletes in the world experience that feeling as well.
When reviewing the particular aspects of competition that didn’t go as planned, you can usually point back to five ways to assess what went wrong. By analyzing them this way, you increase your ability to process the information and move forward:
1. Bad Preparation
Preparation is the work you do to put yourself in the best position possible to succeed in your training. Sometimes, due to choices or external factors beyond your control, you’re not adequately prepared for the competition. It happens to every athlete and team. If the greatest contributor to your struggle was a lack of preparation, use that disappointment as the discipline to get back into the proper preparation program. And there’s no reason to beat yourself up about the lack of preparation – instead, use your angst to pay closer attention to your preparation details in the future.
2. Bad Strategy
This is often overlooked and may be misunderstood for bad preparation, and in fact, preparation may be a contributor if the struggle is due to an ineffective strategy. Planning the in-game strategy is very important for many team sports, particularly when the strategy is designed to maximize your own strengths and take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses. Unfortunately, the chosen strategy is sometimes not effective. It happens. The effort may have been well intentioned, but it just didn’t work. Your opponent may have had a better strategy, or you may have over-thought your own strategy, which led to even greater difficulty.
I find that younger teams and coaches often overthink their strategy, which often causes them to rely on weaknesses or untested strategies in competition, rather than trusting what they’ve done well in training. Remember, as Chad Metcalf – the Navy SEAL turned professional golfer – told me, people don’t rise up to the challenge; they fall to the level of their training. Bad strategies often overlook this. To remedy it, trust what you do every single day in training and what you can successfully complete over 80 percent of the time under pressure.
3. Bad Execution
In the performance world, you’re not a robot. There’s nothing you can do with 100 percent precision every single time. As the pressure and the intensity of competition increases, it gets harder and harder to perform with absolute precision.
I work with an elite collegiate gymnastics squad, and those athletes are beyond inspiring. During warm-ups, they continually hit their routines with perfection, but the challenge comes when they’re being judged under the bright lights. This team, however, understands that execution is never a given, but something that needs to be invested in, so they’re prepared to execute with the utmost precision and capacity when it matters the most. But there will be small variations, so instead of looking at execution as an absolute “all or nothing,” review it as a percentage of completion. If your execution was less than 80 percent, understand that it could have been an aberration or an aspect that could benefit from more training. Your preparation and strategy may have been ideal, but you might not have executed a skill that you normally do with great precision – it happens, so just move on. Even the greatest occasionally miss a shot.
4. Bad Mental Focus
Sometimes you just had a mental letdown at the moment that mattered the most, or, for a team, at exactly the wrong part of the game. Mental focus is a dynamic skill and there are times, due to a variety of physiological, psychological, and environmental factors, that your mental focus is simply not as sharp as it is at other times. Whether it was due to a lack of sleep, a poor diet, or the pressure of the moment resulting in loss aversion or a preventative mindset, mental focus can be adversely impacted.
If, when reviewing a poor outcome, you determine that a less than optimal amount of mental focus contributed to the adverse result, it’s important to figure out what contributed to the loss of focus. Remember, learning is the pathway to mastery, so being aware of the circumstances under which your mental energy was robbed by other factors will help bolster and improve your focus in the future. It may even lead you to find ways to improve your focus in highly distracting environments, for example, or when you’re tired, hungry, or not feeling well. Enhancing focus is a skill that can be learned. If your focus was the main factor behind a poor outcome, be aware of it and work to improve it for the next opportunity.
5. Bad Fortune
When I was pitching, there were times when I did everything right – but the ball took a bad bounce and got by the infielders. It wasn’t their fault and there was nothing I could do – it was just part of the game. In every sport, there will be times when you’ve done everything to the best of your ability but have still been beaten by a better opponent or a random, fluke of a play.
Personally, I think bad fortune in sports is evened out by good fortune, but that doesn’t make the instances of bad fortune feel any better. But when you’ve done everything in your power to succeed and still haven’t, it’s important to ask yourself if you really need to change anything moving forward. Why change something that doesn’t have to be changed? Why raise alarms on a great mindset, strategy, and execution plan? Shit happens, right? Accept the outcome and move on. The bad fortune may come in waves, and you find yourself stuck in a period in which everything is going against you, but changing what you’re doing and abandoning the plan will only cause more disruption into the performance model. Resist the urge and challenge yourself to be committed and aggressive in the face of bad fortune. It may turn in your favor moving forward.
“I Have Analyzed What Went Wrong. What Do I Do Now?”
After understanding what contributed to the areas of struggle, record how you plan to improve going forward. If you have a solid plan and process in place, it should be consistent with that. If you notice that your recommendations are different from your plan, seeing it on paper may prevent you from abandoning your plan all together. It’s okay to make adaptations for continuous improvement, because all great plans are adapted over time, but the physical act of writing down the plan moving forward can really be a powerful act.
Journaling allows you to see things from a different perspective, especially when you put it away and read it at a later date. Your psychological motivations and emotional state change over time, so reviewing your past performances in life and sport to see where you were at that time can be an extremely valuable way to gain deeper insight into where you are now. Whether you’re studying past progress or building a plan for the future, taking time every day to reflect through journaling will be a valuable investment into your overall productivity and success.
Doing these five things every day won’t guarantee success, but not doing them will only cause unnecessary clutter and frustration during the day. Performing at a high level requires absolute mental focus and clarity, which allows you to make effective decisions, influence positive outcomes, and overcome challenges. When the mind is cluttered with inefficiency, mental energy that’s needed just to survive is robbed from the drive to succeed.
Developing a daily strategy and executing it with purpose will only lead to an increased probability of success. You can develop the mental strategy of a world champion, but if your actions are that of a continual runner-up, the amount of psychological and mental energy needed to overcome the hole that you’ve built in your own life will be tough to come by. As the stakes get higher and higher, it will simply become more and more difficult to succeed. Talent alone may separate you from your competitors, but learning to do the little important details every day will increase your odds of success.