Blog 16.2

Our current blog series reviewing the book Legacy: What the All Blacks can Teach us About the Business of Life by James Kerr, has us taking a deeper look into what it takes to create a championship culture and leave a lasting legacy. Through this book, we are reminded by the lessons of Dr. Ken Ravizza, who left an indelible mark on the field of Sport Psychology with his work with athletes and coaches on the mental game. We dedicate this blog series to Ken, to both thank him for his contributions and also continue his legacy to more students, athletes, coaches, and performers.

Every performer has to deal with expectations – from others, such as their parents, coaches, and teammates, to their own expectations for goal attainment and success at their craft. Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw thought out his goals as a kid dreaming of being an All Black. With a push from his uncle, he outlined all of the steps along the way for him to achieve his goal. His uncle also pushed him to dream a little bigger. “Don’t just be an All Black. You want to be a Great All Black.” He made him sign his goals G.A.B. Richie McCaw went on to be one of the best All Blacks to have ever played the game. Check out our module on Goal Setting and Performance Tracking to see the UpsideDown Performance process on goals.

Beyond just setting goals, how we deal with our personal expectations and the expectations from others is critical to our ability to learn, relax, and enjoy the sport we play. We also must understand that failure is an essential part of learning, rather than steps backwards from our goals. Another former All Black captain, Sean Fitzpatrick said, “The key is to understand that there is a world of difference between fear of feedback or failure and harnessing that fear to positive effect.” If we fear failure, then we take fewer risks and our growth happens slower or not at all. Turn the failure into motivation to continue to push to achieve those goals.

The All Blacks use two psychological mechanisms to encourage and keep their eyes forward on big huge goals. Daniel Kahneman discusses the concept of anchoring, where if we set our standards incredibly high and then come back down a little, the new standard seems very reasonable. For example, an athlete that sets a long-term goal of being the best in the world and then adjusts to wanting to be the best in the state – best in the state sounds a lot more reasonable and achievable in their mind, but is still quite an accomplishment. The All Blacks also use the concept of priming, made famous by social psychologist John Bargh. When we are subconsciously presented with words or images, our actions and behaviors reflect the meaning of those words or images. For example, a runner who puts post-it notes and images reflecting the time they want to run will see these reminders over and over throughout the day and  may start running that time! The power of the brain is amazing!

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