Be Great

One of the best ways I’ve ever learned to accomplish goals and sustain momentum is to pay attention to the messages and conversations I have with myself. What am I saying to myself over and over again?

Believe it or not, those conversations matter. In my opinion, they are often the most important conversations I have every day. They are conversations that really make a difference.

The practice of paying attention to the conversations you have with yourself can have a significant impact on you as well. What playbacks are going on in your head as you read this?

This past weekend my youngest son Jake was playing in his first soccer tournament of the season. This is a new team and a new coach for him, so the tournament was my first opportunity to really see them all play.

Our new coach doesn’t sit there passively on the sidelines. He is constantly communicating with the boys, reminding them what they want to do and what they worked on in practice. I really like a coach who is talking to the kids during the game. After all, they’re 12 and 13 year old boys, so it’s probably a good thing to remind them about goals and expectations during the actual game. Even grown-ups, I’ve learned, could use a reminder about goals and expectations every once in a while!

During the games I heard our coach restate a phrase over and over again when one of our kids got the ball in a good position – “Be great!” the coach firmly stated. It took me a few times to understand what he was telling them, and after a few consultations with the other parents, we all agreed – “Be Great” were definitely his instructions in the moment. And I loved it!

I suppose some may think this statement sounds cocky or overconfident, yet it really wasn’t that at all. He only used it in situations where the player had an opportunity to do something special, challenge himself, step outside his comfort zone, be courageous and do something he had never done before in a game.

All those situations are the perfect opportunity to encourage someone to “Be Great,” because when someone takes advantage of the moment and does any of them, they are, in fact, being great, even if the result does not end up going the way they would like.

What I love about this directive is the specific simplicity of it, and how it focuses in on exactly what he wants them to do, rather than what he doesn’t want them to do. Usually what I hear most coaches say on the sidelines is what the coach doesn’t want. For example, “Don’t make that pass,” Don’t move the ball there,” Don’t let your man beat you,” very clearly spelling out exactly what he or she doesn’t want the kids to do.

The problem with this type of coaching is that the brain is designed to do exactly what we tell it to do. Unfortunately, the brain does not understand “don’t” phrases and instead locks in on whatever statement comes next. I’ll prove it. Have you ever said to a child, “Don’t’ spill your milk?” What usually happens next? You guessed it, milk gets spilled all over the table.

You see, our brains are designed a lot like GPS mapping systems, and if you’ve ever plugged the wrong coordinates into your GPS, well, you end up in a cornfield somewhere, way off course. Most of us are crystal clear on exactly what we don’t want and consequently we tend to end up right there because that’s what the brain focuses on.

When you focus on exactly what you do want, your brain has an amazing way of taking you to that destination. That’s why writing down your goals and being very specific and intentional on the outcomes you want is so important.

When our soccer coach is reminding the boys to “Be Great,” he is getting them to focus on good outcomes and possibilities, and everything they are working so hard to accomplish. Isn’t that what we all really want, for our son’s and daughters and those close to us?

I recently heard an interview with a coach of one of my favorite college football teams (many of you know who that is!). When asked about the goal of his star wide receiver, he happily stated that his goal was to “not drop any third down passes.” When I heard this, it was like hearing fingernails scratching on a chalkboard, and I cringed.

Guess what this receiver has been doing over and over this season – dropping passes, and more often than on just third down.

Clearly this coach can do better.

If he coached the young receiver about what to do rather than what not to do, he’d be helping the player so much more. For example, the coach could encourage the receiver to set goals like, “Catch every ball that comes to me,” or “Make every third down catch, or “Be great!”

Clearly identifying the outcomes you want, then stating your goals in a way that supports those outcomes goes a long way towards helping you effectively manage that conversation you have with yourself everyday, and ultimately achieve at a very high level.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, our boys won two out of three games that weekend, losing a heartbreaker that would have put them in the finals.

And, they were great all weekend.

Ask yourself this week

What outcomes have you clearly defined for yourself and for your team?

Are you crystal clear on what you want, or only certain about what you don’t want?

How are you conveying your coaching messages to your teams?

What conversations are you having with yourself on a daily basis? And, are those conversations moving you towards your goals and objectives or pulling you further away from them?

How will you “Be Great” this week?

Thoughts for the week:

Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement- Brian Tracy

Thoughts have a way of becoming things, so think good thoughts. -Unknown

If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else- Yogi Berra

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. –Henry David Thoreau

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. –Seneca

All we are is a result of what we have thought- Budda

Looking forward to our next conversation.

Tim Furlong