A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Mark Bawden. He is England Cricket's Sports Psychologist and has been the lead sports psych for the English Institute of Sport. He has an impressive CV including 5 Olympic Games and, most notably, London 2012. Mark presented a model which gives a completely different perspective on improving performance, I've tried to summarise my take on it here.
In the situation laid out at the start we are, by focusing on our weaknesses, trying to improve our game. Mark explains that this is a common error and instead we should be focusing on finding a way to win. Ultimately it doesn't matter how proficient you are as long as you can win.
Imagine a boat where weaknesses are holes in the hull. Obviously we want to repair any holes below the waterline, termed making our weaknesses invisible. However many people waste time repairing holes above the waterline. This work won't make the boat less likely to sink and won't help it travel faster.
So instead of stressing about our weaknesses we need to focus on our strengths. What are we really good at? Focusing on this and developing a super strength can give us a point of difference over our opponents. Now we have something that they fear. Now we have a way to win.
This model is wonderfully simple but how can we practically apply it. This is my take:
1. Take a step back and analyse your performance, get a coach or manager to do likewise. What are your weaknesses and what are your strengths? Are there any visible weaknesses? Which are your dominant strengths?
2. If you have any visible weaknesses look at the fastest methods available to make them invisible. You aren't trying to make them a strength you just want to be able to get by.
3. Decide your super strength. What is your point of difference going to be? What do you want the perception of you to be? Write this down as if your opponent was saying it.
4. In practice keep your super strength at the front of your mind. Work to become world class at it. Can you be the best in the world in your area?
5. In every competition set out to make your point of difference count. Use it to find a way to win.
There is much more that can be done here in terms of understanding your performance, how to manage performance stress and so on yet the above should give you a taste of how a positive model can be used to give you an edge.
The super strength is also a way out of those situations which we all encounter, in sport and in life, where our performance crumbles, we can't remember why we were good at the sport or even why we enjoyed it. At times like this, when our weaknesses are staring us in the face, it is so useful to go back to our strength. Use this to remind us of what makes us talented and why we enjoy the sport. Use it as an anchor point to build your game back around, use it to slowly make your weaknesses invisible again.
I'd be interested to hear from you if you've used a similar approach before or whether you have been able to use this one for your benefit. Please let me know via the comments or on social media.