A large man walked into his doctor’s office, launched himself up onto the examining table, and extended his right leg.
“Doc, it’s broken. You gotta fix it.”
The doctor, a kind man who tried hard to listen to his patients before offering a diagnosis, was perplexed. He watched the man walk into his office, and jump up onto the table. How could he have a broken leg?
“Doc, you see, I’m a football player. I kick field goals. And I’ve hit a slump. I can’t seem to kick anything over 50 yards. It goes left. It goes right. It comes up short. My leg is broken, and I need you to fix it.”
“How far can you kick, right now?”
“I am pretty consistent under 50 yards. But sometimes I still miss. Especially over 50 yards! My friends in other cities can nail the long kicks but I just can’t! I am broken, doc – you gotta fix me!”
The doctor shook his head and looked at the floor, wondering where this “I’m broken” mentality was coming from. As crazy as it sounds, he related to what this patient was asking. The doctor was also a driven man. He worked hard to perform at his best, just like this professional athlete. He worked long hours, in a high-pressure environment, and when he “missed”, there were difficult consequences.
The doctor thought about his patients. He thought about how he sometimes prescribes the wrong course of treatment. He considered his mistakes part of the human condition – that’s why they call medicine a “practice”. He knew he made mistakes, for a variety of reasons. But he also knew that dwelling on mistakes – or taking extreme measures to fix things that are just part of life – wouldn’t help him to serve the next patient. Or this one.[bctt tweet=”Just because something turns out differently than you hope, it doesn’t mean you are broken. #pitchcoach”]
Luckily, his mistakes were few, and his cures were many. Sometimes, what he considered as “mistakes” turned out to be opportunities – leading him to a new diagnosis, a new course of treatment – or a new lesson about what not to do next time.
Many patients recovered, many patients found improvement, but some couldn’t be saved. He carried insurance, went to conferences and trainings, and was diligent in his practice. He prepared for the risks associated with his profession, and left it there. What more could he do?
The doctor knew something that the athlete couldn’t see: just because something turns out differently than you hope, it doesn’t mean you are broken.
This little story probably sounds extreme. It’s hard to imagine that a professional athlete would think that they are broken.
But, I wonder, have you ever seen someone at the “top of their game” who was filled with self-doubt and misunderstanding about their talent, their skill, their ability to be OK even in the midst of difficulty?
I know I have. Because I’m describing myself. And my clients. It’s a fact of human nature: the way we feel about our situation, circumstances or talent is the reason we act the way we do.
And those feelings are always coming from one place: our thinking.
Which is better: Is it useful to explore our shortcomings, focusing on the 52-yard field goal you missed…or the 49-yard field goal that won the game?
The answer is: neither one.[bctt tweet=”Failure is an attitude. Not an outcome. #pitchcoach”]
When it’s time to perform, it’s best to look at where true performance comes from. When we let go of our thinking, because we see it for what it is, we see things in a new way.
- “Thought is fleeting”. Sometimes we feel broken. Sometimes we feel great. Either way, it’s just a thought.
- Performance comes from within – is that true? The world is full of stories of people with limited ability creating results in spite of shortcomings. We are all perfectly imperfect.
- Your desire and your drive doesn’t reside in a plaster cast, or a prescription. The only way to perform is to get in the game.
You can think about the past, you can think about what you’ve missed, you can think about what looks broken. Except you’re not. And that thinking doesn’t serve you.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. And take the first step.
The performance paradox is that what we let go is what sets us free.
We are at our best when we are not thinking about what’s broken, or what’s missing. When that thinking settles down, when we ignore what doesn’t serve us, we see the goal posts in a new way.
You’re not broken. You don’t need fixing. Sometimes it may look like that’s not true. Sometimes it looks like that, for me. But I want to make sure that I don’t live my life out of a misunderstanding. What about you?
- If you were the doctor, what would you say to the field goal kicker with the ‘broken leg’?
- Interestingly, the third-best kicker in the NFL last year made no field goals over 50 yards. The number four guy missed 66% of the time, over 50 yards. See the full chart here. Is it realistic to consistently kick field goals over 50 yards, even for the best of the best in the NFL? What percentage of success is acceptable, achievable and realistic for you?
- What’s your ‘broken leg’? Have you ever taken extreme measures to try and find peak performance?