What’s In Your Toolkit?

What an astute statement by Abraham Maslow. Too often we fall into this trap whether in the show pen or in the board room. Once we find a method or technique that seems to work or feels comfortable, we apply it to every situation. It seems like many of us get to a certain level of expertise, then just stop learning. 

 We become comfortable with a certain approach, and rather than take a risk, we keep applying the same method regardless of the varying circumstances. Does anyone recall a school teacher who taught the whole class the same regardless of individual learning styles or a manager who did not take into account his or her employee’s differences? Perhaps a therapist who used the same theoretical approach for every client or a trainer who trains every horse the same regardless of varying abilities, personalities and experiences?

Few of us are immune to this performance trap, particularly if we are just starting out. As we venture into unfamiliar waters, whether a new job or new sport, we often feel awkward and uncomfortable. As we gain some experience and start to feel a little more comfortable, what we tend to do is grab onto what feels familiar and stop moving forward. At this point, we experience a plateau in our performance and become frustrated with our lack of progress.

I have seen this with people who have started to incorporate sport psychology techniques or mental skill training into their current training programs. They enthusiastically learn a couple of mental skills, then apply them across the board. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. Think about how many thoughts run through your mind in a day, even a minute. How often do you change your mind or your mood?

Mental skill training is about identifying your current mental state, then drawing upon your mental tools to achieve your ideal performance “zone” prior to and during a performance. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more likely you are of finding what you need to consistently achieve that ideal mental state.

So back to Abraham Maslow’s perspicacious quote, the key to performance improvement is to stock up your toolkit. Keep learning, keep trying new techniques and methods and stay flexible.

Don’t assume that every situation or performance will be the same. Learn to recognize the differences in your circumstances, your mental and physical status, and adjust your game planning accordingly.

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