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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Overcoming Psychological Barriers

Don't let failure limit your game...

Yesterday's post - titled Psychological Barriers - was an article written for a farm's newsletter written by my nephew (in-law), John-Scott. The article used the analogy of a string fence's ability to contain massive animals to the human predilection for using past failures to psychologically bar future risk-taking.

John-Scott's article was similar to a post I recently wrote titled Learn to Overcome Adversity in which I discussed using experience and discipline to overcome mental lapses due to distractions from past failures. I want to briefly discuss an item in his article with which I disagree by showing my reply to his article:

Just 5 days ago, I wrote an article for my blog titled Learn to Overcome Adversity. The point of the article is that past failures can easily (and negatively) impact peak performance.

I did some research for the article and came across a study (Bad is Stronger than Good) that included:
"The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events, major life events (e.g., trauma), close relationship outcomes, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions, and learning processes. Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones."
The authors found several good reasons for this natural predilection in man. It is so ingrained because it allowed us to survive since man's creation. That makes it difficult, but not impossible, to overcome. My experience is that overcoming it is a learned process and can be dependent on the perceived importance of doing so. 

Instead of "deliberately abandoning the past" as you have stated, I try to learn from failures. For example, I might think about what I could have done differently to change the outcome rather than accept that failure was inevitable. That requires acknowledging the failure and accepting responsibility for it happening instead of ignoring it. 

But I also draw from successes...despite the science saying that they matter far less. Remembering successes - even little ones - builds confidence. Confidence gives me the courage to try new things and breaks the psychological barrier of which you write.

So here's the bottom line for me:
Science says that bad events are far more impactful than good events. Overcoming that psychology requires a mental strength to bring good and bad memories back into balance.
Just don't overdo the balance or the confidence to succeed could lead to skydiving without a parachute! (Examples like that were actually part of the study.)

Here is the important takeaway for pickleball players. We all fail. We all hit bad shots. We all make bad decisions. We all lose games...and matches. But guess what. We all succeed. We all hit good shots. We all make good decisions. We all win games...and matches.

The secret to future success is to overcome our natural inclination to remember failures and lose confidence. Instead of remembering the failure, recognize it for what it is, determine what you could have done differently to change the outcome, and file that learning away. Then, when a similar opportunity comes up in a game, have the confidence to use your learnings to succeed.

Easier said than done.

1 comment:

  1. I have recently started adopting this strategy. On the drive home from pickleball (45 minutes), I try to replay in my mind, my best shot(s) of the day and allow myself to feel that buzz again. I don't want to drive home thinking about the mistakes. On the way to the gym the next time, I pick three things to work on and make that a mantra - eg. "paddle up, track the ball, go for the middle." The good feelings make me excited to go back, and the mantra helps me focus next time.