By Airwaves writer Mike Ingham
I was just coaching a guy and I suspected his goals were out of whack, so after the regatta I asked him to answer some self-evaluating questions including one on his attitude. It became clear he was that he is focused on results not process. Here are some quotes from that email conversation to illustrate:
· My question: “Evaluate yourself on your ability to focus on one move at a time.”
· His answer: “I did not have full confidence in my team, and found myself distracted by boathandling. Usually I beat Bill, but this weekend….”
· Me: “That is not what I meant. I don’t mean specifics about any one move, nor if you beat Bill or not. It’s the ability to focus hard on what is important one move at a time independent of all that other stuff…”
· Him: “Ok, some of the issues I have had were because it took me too long to commit to a move and caused an issue where it shouldn’t have been. I did focus hard but I was really disappointed that I did not finish in the top 5, I was so close last regatta…”
· Me: “I think you are missing my point completely, I am asking about the PROCESS of making the decision…”
We went back and forth, each time I would steer the question to the process of making decisions, and he would try his best to answer but could not help but bring it back to results.
He is obsessed not only in his finish results but comparing himself to individual. I think this introduces way too much emotion which clouds decision making while away energy from focusing on whatever is important at that time.
We are all guilty of misplaced goals to some degree. Let me explain by showing 2 scenarios:
1. Suppose at the first mark you are in 15th place. You have a great run and pass a few boats then the next beat you pass a handful more, then at the last bottom mark you get a last second overlap and round 7th. The whole team has positive energy and works hard but perhaps is a bit overconfident and takes some chances because the comeback has gone so well.
2. Next race you round the top mark first with a nice lead. You boggle the set and the fleet closes in, someone sneaks in an inside overlap at the leeward mark and your whole second beat unravels and before you know it you are in 7th at the last bottom mark. Everyone is disappointed, perhaps even starting lay blame. The tactician takes some unnecessary risk in frustration and the boat is not quite up to speed because everyone has all this baggage in their head.
The right approach is nice balance somewhere in between those two extremes. A good way to look at it is this 3rd option:
3. Suppose instead you were rappelled into that 7th place boat in either of the races. Well in one instance, you would have come from behind and the other from ahead but either way, you would not know it. In each case you would make the best of it by making good rational decisions. Everyone would have a great attitude to make progress from the leeward mark to the finish. You would likely have more positive attitude than if you had been plopped into the boat that had lost all those places, and you would not be overconfident as if you had just made great gains.
I think it is impossible to completely separate ourselves from the emotion of the sport, but I think the quicker we put behind us the good or the bad, the better we will do. It all comes down to goals. Avoid goals that are results oriented. The goals, long or short term, should be PROCESS oriented and specific. For example, We recently raced a regatta where we identified two areas we could improve on: we did not start very well, and we missed some shifts in the lighter air. For our next regatta, here are our short term goals:
· Come up with a more robust pre-start routine. Instead of just our bow person looking at line sights, I would like all our team to talk about, agree on, and keep track of how far off the line we are.
· span>In light air we need to shift our focus and look more for pressure. When it gets light, I would like someone besides the tactician to stand up in light air at least every minute and take a good look around and find pressure.
Our mid time frame season goals are:
· Get off the start line in the front row more consistently than last season.
· Improve our very light air speed air speed.
· Improve our decision making process on risk. We are excellent at sailing a conservative race, but there are times when we need to take a calculated risk when we feel strongly we have a good chance of success
· Clear communication on what the next move is: Our goal is to not miss a tack or any other move because communication is not clear.
Whether it is specific goals for the regatta, or a season, or more universal goals, they should all be things we can focus on to do well, but NOT RESULTS. There are just too many variables in sailing from what others may do to you, randomness in the wind or whatever to focus on your results.
I like goals based on process. I make them specific enough that we can evaluate them one by one. I feel results based goals only introduce more emotion that clouds our vision because there are too many external factors outside of our control. By making your goals process oriented on things within our control we can keep focused and improving, results will surely follow.