Has been a delay in delivering this monthly coaching letter, but I hope that it will have been well worth waiting for. Because this month I delve into why a lot of people have such a hard time doing their best exactly when they feel they need it the most.
So if you have a difference in your performance between practice and competition, a presentation and a regular conversation or notice some pressure as ”things become more important”, I think you will get something extra out of reading this…
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Quote of the month
" A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it. "
- Albert Einstein
Does your super-self suck?
It all started with the most innocent of scenes. A caring mother straightening out the collar of her child’s shirt in front of a door. She quickly licks her fingers and pressing them down on a uncooperative tussle of hair to push it into place. Followed by glancing into the child’s eyes and an earnest request: Please behave yourself – i.e. don’t touch things, scream, use bad language, nag or hit anyone … If you have kids or have been a kid you probably recognize this everyday situation in some way.
As well meant as it is, it still comes with hidden side of ”baggage” because it sends a clear signal to the child that their regular self just won’t cut it in this extraordinary situation. It’s time to put your best foot forward. Bring out your best self. At least as soon as we have deemed something to be extra important in some way. As we grow up this thought virus is lying dormant within us waiting for us to think that something out the ordinary is about to transpire.
You can see it when we meet somebody we are truly interested in. We put on clothes that we don’t normally wear. You don’t really feel comfortable in that jacket or dress, but it was bought exactly for these kinds of important and exclusive events. Stay with safe language that shouldn’t bother anyone. Agree with views and interest we don’t really have but we think will impress enough to get a second date. In essence treating ourselves like a fixer-upper needing to be dressed up for the sale.
The difference can be so striking for both people that they actually don’t really meet. They meet each other’s representatives. Their own perceived super versions are having a date and themselves sitting like the wizard of Oz behind their mental curtain hoping for success. You know what I’m talking about. If we are lucky they see through our innocent charade and like what’s behind the protective curtain we have put up around us.
The problem we now face is that we think that what they really like is the ”super self” that we put out there. So, we have to live up to it as best we can. As you can imagine that in turn can easily lead to a lot of pressured thinking and desperately wanting to stop being so super. Just to find out if they would like us even if we were just our regular selves. Friction and difficulties usually follows as we overcompensate by doing something we know will rub our partner the wrong way.
On the other hand, if they don’t see through our protective curtain and rejects us it can feel pretty devastating. If our perceived super self is not enough, what does that say about my regular old self? That means it sucks even more than we first thought. So, we buff up our super self even more on our next perceived special occasion. If they see through that we have even more to live up to. If they don’t our thoughts about ourselves go down even further. If ultra super duper me is still not enough we really need to hide our regular selves in a secure location. Maybe even pretend it doesn’t exist …
Can you see the logic of the downward spiral that is set in motion? How every situation we deem special or important seems only appropriate for conjuring our super self or not doing it at all? Either way our regular self is a no show. We should always do our best and if that is putting our super self on, then that’s what we do. It just makes sense from the thinking we have about it. We start making up stuff for the job interview because obviously regular me wouldn’t stand a chance of getting the job.
In sport it takes on a slightly different form. Athletes play like normal until the situation is extra important. A certain competition, a special competitor, chance of winning, imminent chance of losing etc. So regular self takes them to the lead, but a soon as they see that they put on super self to bring it home. Tightly fighting their super thinking as they fall off the leaderboard… Then they get frustrated enough to give up, don’t give a shit and all of sudden are playing super again. So now they have a new strategy: Pretend you don’t really care and you do better.
This is really common. I don’t even know how many times I have had to bring this up with world class athletes who says they need help with their performance anxiety. It is completely hidden to them that what they think is the super self version really sucks. That it’s actually their regular self that is super. Until they understand this no amount of talk around unleashing our best self, just do your best or give it your all will help. As soon as they think it’s especially important it is irresistible to start correcting the collar, fixing the hair and shape up.
Because it looks like the solution and not the problem. So, no matter if it is in the sports arena, board room, press conference, job interview or on a date – we keep thinking it’s a superb idea to rise to the occasion. We see it in both ourselves and others as the veil of super thinking comes down over the eyes. We act like completely different people as we struggle more and more with less and less to show for it.
Our saving grace is seeing what is actually going on. So that we can stop adding and start subtracting. Stop trying to find and start revealing instead. To go the other way and relax. Stop trying to fix what never needed fixing in the first place and just do our regular best. Turns out that plain regular you not only is super – it feels super too.
av Steven Pinker
This book is already Bill Gates favorite book of all time. Maybe that’s enough to pique your curiousity. If not, Pinker here shows with depth and sound scientific footing how the world is constantly getting better. He also shows how science, common sense and humanism is the best way to solve the challenges that we face and continue our progress. Like me, you will probably want to read it more than once.
You can find more books under Suggested Reading
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As an integral part of living my vision "to inspire, educate and make a difference in enough peoples private and professional lives to make a positive difference in the world", I write and distribute a free monthly coaching letter. In these I share various ideas, thoughts and insights that I think can be of value for all of you who are interested in getting the absolute best out of life.Read more