Wayne Van Zwoll, long-time competitive shooter, made a remarkable observation when he wrote: “One important trait shared by amazing shooters like Annie Oakley was their supreme confidence. Neither arrogant nor naïve, they knew they could hit their targets. More to the point, they knew they would hit. They earned this level of self-assurance by hitting repeatedly. They hit repeatedly without missing because they fired many thousands of cartridges, training themselves to execute only good shots. Most importantly, they fired each round to hit, rather than not to miss.”
This quote speaks to many aspects of developing the habit of a winning attitude. However, the last sentence introduces a seldom-mentioned factor beyond supreme confidence and exceptional practice: the detrimental motivation to not do something. This becomes negative energy that makes a huge difference!
In peak performing competitive sports the motivation not to do something can quickly produce avoidance energy which starts as a mild anxiety state which can turn into a motivational state of fear. Then the core question becomes, “What will the fear lead to?” Invariably, what you fear is what you choose to avoid. And if you choose to practice avoiding things in your competitive life, you will never grow your peak performance potential.
But you don’t have to be a sports competitor to witness the effects of fear, particularly fear of change. In the workplace this reality of avoidance-fear is crystal clear when people attend good training events that do absolutely nothing for them because they won’t let anything change. What are they afraid of?
My current hunch rests on the fear of “uncertainty.” But that’s not my original hypothesis. From academic indoctrination my original bet was with Sigmund Freud’s concept of resistance. You push back on what you are anxious about or afraid to try. That’s sensible but too simple!
I suspect there is something more fundamental behind the fear associated with uncertainty. With decades spent administering and interpreting personality assessments I’m now aware that at some level, most people are afraid to find out who they really are. They would rather settle for “sorta-knowing” and avoid the uncertainty of not really knowing themselves than discover the certainty and celebration that comes with the statement, “I really am this person!” Unless or until you embrace who you really are, you will never improve who you become.
Let’s assume for the moment that you have overcome the fear of self-awareness. How do you go about becoming a new and improved version of yourself? One of the best ways to strengthen the mindset of a better you is to find a competitive venue where you have fun, become proficient, engage competitively and still remain a civil and socialized human being.
Denis Waitley has written extensively on the concept of winning, and in his book by the same name he states his belief that “total winners” have ten qualities in common. Among them are the ability to: a) build positive self-expectancy; b) maintain a positive self-image; c) practice positive self-control; d) use positive self-motivation and affirmation; e) use positive self-direction, You get the idea. And these “qualities” will really work, but not for everyone. Why?
The customary explanation for those who “try” but do not succeed is that they “just didn’t try hard enough.” At this thought one should re-read my sentence, “What are they afraid of and what will the fear lead to?” I believe that those who try and succeed and those who try and don’t succeed are separated by something more powerful than level-of-motivation. I strongly believe there’s a cognitive-emotional force that I call a Winning Mindset.
In her 2006 groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success Carol Dweck, describes mindset in a way that goes well beyond its historic minor role in personality. She presents the case that mindset “creates our whole mental world.” A short and simple version of its power can be understood by using a model of thinking with two opposed frames of mind: An Engaged Growth Mindset; and An Apathetic Fixed Mindset.
Here are examples of the two frames of mind:
|Challenges||Embraces Challenges||Avoids Challenges|
|Obstacles||Persists/Overcomes Obstacles||Gives Up Easily|
|Effort||Is a Path to Mastery||Is Fruitless or Worse|
|Feedback||Learn from Positive & Negative||Ignore Useful Negative|
|Success of Others||Inspired by Others’ Successes||Threatened by Others’ Successes|
|Forgiveness||Ceases Anger, Learns Lessons||Clings to Anger, Avoids Learning|
The result is that a Growth mindset can achieve a reality of fulfillment. A Fixed mindset eventually achieves burnout. With a Fixed mindset you reconcile your infrequent wins by saying that “those losers were really bad.” With a Growth mindset you view your frequent wins by saying “I played well and I can still improve.” A Growth mindset leads to wins that are realized through being a peak-performing winner.