Getting Better Making You Worse?

Working hard to develop one’s self as an athlete is a noble ideal. Just recently, Dwayne Wade said that he took part in rigorous tests at the Gatorade Sport Science Labs in order to find any edge possible. Athletes are encouraged to lead monk-like lives and are lauded for tremendous off-season commitments. Again, all noble efforts, but one must ask when is enough enough? Perhaps more importantly when is self-improvement making you worse?

Tireless efforts and never being satisfied with one’s current level of performance can actually be performance inhibitors. An off season of extra practice and added discipline in the gym can create heavy expectations if an athlete is not careful. Great efforts prior to a contest can too often leave the athlete “hoping” that investments will reap great dividends… rather than “trusting” that the game will unfold as it should and they are ready. Furthermore, the athlete that is truly never satisfied with his performance level has a difficult time settling in and playing the game at hand. In order to truly compete freely one needs to accept herself and what she has to give that day on the playing field (dig through M. Scott Peck’s Golf and the Spirit for a rich explanation of this concept).

Tireless efforts and never being satisfied with one’s current level of performance can actually be performance inhibitors.

Alina Tugend published a nice piece in the New York Times recently, Pursuing Self-Improvement at the Risk of Self-Acceptance. It is worth a read. It provides a nice lens on the negative consequences of a cult-like approach to self-improvement. Happiness and high-performance is not found in perfection, but rather in acceptance.

It is so easy to trip and tumble over one’s self once you try to improve. Overtraining runs rampant… so often that is simply self-improvement run amok. Pressure to perform can be smothering… after dedicated practice, great outcomes seem required rather than something healthy to strive towards.  Confidence too often is fleeting… if constantly under critical scrutiny it is difficult for self-belief to get a true foothold.

Most days an athlete would benefit from putting forth a solid effort and accept himself as a good athlete. This certainly does not suggest that one is not trying to get better, it simply means that he is not obsessing on it. As a mentor, coach, and friend of mine Paul Assaiante says, “Perfect is the enemy of good… and good is good.” I trust him… he’s won a lot of national championships… 13 and counting.

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1 Response to “Getting Better Making You Worse?”


  1. 1 Mason November 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

    “Happiness and high-performance is not found in perfection, but rather in acceptance.”

    Perfect. Thanks.

    Mason


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