Why I'm Ditching the Word "Performance"

Over the weekend, I was talking to a teenage swimmer about optimism. Like most of us, pessimism came naturally to him. I asked him what kinds of thoughts went through his head after a bad race.

Five minutes later, I cut him off. I had lost count of the personal recriminations he had leveled against himself. 

As we walked through the ways he could train optimism, I had a revelation. Not once did I use the "p" word. You know what i'm talking about. Performance. 

Why should I? Swimming was the context in which I was helping this young man, but I did not really care whether it helped his swimming. It would be pleasant, of course, but far from the point. 

When I started this business with Positive Psychology at it's base, I included this word in a few descriptions of what I had to offer. Today I scrubbed them away. 

I had put it up there because I thought it was what people wanted. There are probably a lot who do. But it's not what I'm offering.

Better swimming times is a nice side effect. That's all it is. Competition comes really naturally to us, so of course we think about how we're doing, how it compares to other, and many of us try to improve. That's all fine and good.

Optimism is a real skill and worth working on, even if you never set foot in a pool ever again in your life. It might save your life, in more ways than one.

Relationships are the most important thing in life. Working on how to have better ones, with your friends, your teachers and coaches, and your own family, is therefore definitely worth some time. 

If you get a little faster in the 100 breaststroke as a result of that, great. 

I understand that we live in a world (especially as coaches) where we will be judged heavily on results. Club coaches are heavily accountable for how they do in their local area of LSC. College coaches get hounded by their athletic directors about their conference ranking.

In that environment, it can be easy to lose your mind. You can slowly become indoctrinated to focus more and more on results. Your mind will work on rationalizations for why you are sacrificing things that are, in reality, far more important. 

If performance is the most important thing to you, you'll find plenty of psychology "experts" out there with the word front and center. I'm sure they'll be happy to work with you. 

Want to join the conversation? Write me.