Control and Perfection – Not the Pathway of Champions
Over my years of coaching, I have seen recurring themes that hamper an athlete’s dreams of success. In today’s blog I will focus on this shortlist:
In sports (and life), controllers and perfectionists can play havoc with the morale of their teammates, the capability of their coaches, and especially, their awareness and well-being. These personalities are resistant to change – the secret sauce that leads to the pathway of Champions.
I have never met a completely happy person who has control issues or seeks absolute perfection. There always seems to be an undercurrent of discontent. Maybe controlling and perfectionist personalities can indeed be happy. I simply have not met that person yet.
Today’s blog contains some bad news, some good news, and some great news!
Here’s the bad news.
We’ve all experienced the ‘Controller’. We may have encountered this personality type as a teammate or as an opponent. Beware that each of us has a little bit of ‘control’ ingrained in our personalities. Let me clarify. If our controlling mechanism is the desire to discipline our internal thoughts (our mind), then ‘controlling’ in this context can lead to positive outcomes. Conversely, if the control maneuvers are focused externally (everything and everyone else), then trying to manipulate the extraneous world can lead to negative outcomes. These negative effects usually manifest in frustration, exasperation, and exhaustion, and can lead to depression, anxiety, fear, or other undesirable emotions. Controllers, attempting to dominate, mistakenly believe that doing so will lead them to happiness and a sense of peace. Unfortunately, that peace will never come.
Does this sound familiar? You are on a team, and there is one teammate who constantly criticizes and complains (about anything and everyone). This person creates unnecessary drama. He/she is characterized as moody most of the time and insists on blaming other team members or circumstances for their performance (or lack thereof). On top of these things, the Controller is unable to consider the views of others and will never admit he/she is wrong.
The Controller may believe his/her actions are done with the best of intentions; however, unfortunately, their intentions are focused only on the Controller’s best interest. Controllers are not good team players. Their continued presence will create a toxic environment for the coach and team. Moderating a Controller will consume the coach’s time and energy. Regardless of talent or skill, the Controlling teammate will lower the level of any team. Regrettably, the coach or the pro who tries to diplomatically reign in this person/situation could be harming his/her career.
I bet you expect me to offer a golden coaching tip for handling this kind of person. And, you are right: My advice is to remove that person from the team. In my coaching career, I have found that trying to mitigate a Controller is not the swift solution. With a Controller in the midst, working with a team and growing its potential will be painstaking at best. At worst, the Controller will prevent development, destroy team spirit, and spoil the fun – for coach and team.
Controllers are toxic. The reason for this toxicity weighs heavily on my heart as a coach. By definition, coaches want to help others. That is our “why”. Often, a Controller’s personality has been formed as a result of a past stressful situation or painful circumstance. These victims live in a dark place, a downward spiral. I would like nothing more than to help them shed these harmful behaviors. Alas, I am not fully trained in resolving these deep-seated personality traits. It can be a messy and sad state.
That said, as a coach, I have tried. Rarely have I been able to collaborate with a Controller to establish the issues and the required changes. When confronted with the harsh consequence of their behavior, I have seen Controllers substantially change their negative habits. However, this is an uncommon exception. As coaches, when we decide to take on the lofty goal of reshaping a Controller, we must realize that he/she will require a disproportionate amount of our time and energy. No doubt this is a process, and it can be grueling. There is no quick fix and no guarantee. Younger students are a bit more malleable, but change is not a welcome concept to any Controller.
Adult Controllers are even more difficult. Club coaches and pros, I feel your pain. You, unfortunately, cannot threaten a club member with the same kind of consequence above. My best advice is to manage the collateral damage that Controllers create. This may be a constant juggling act to try to ‘keep the peace’. One way to vitiate a Controller is to pair him/her with an accommodating player. This is not particularly fair to the accommodating player. This tactic is merely a band-aid approach and does not rid the toxicity that permeates you, your colleagues, and your club members. It’s also tough when other club members expect you to correct their teammate’s annoying behavior. Offering ‘sportsmanship clinics’ or ‘etiquette tips’ might be another tool. Tread carefully.
I wish I had a better strategy. I wish I could ‘Put a Helix on it’ – as we say in my company when we offer a specialized compression product for a particular injury. Controllers can indeed create an injurious environment, but BodyHelix doesn’t have a product for that — yet. To my coaching colleagues, please let me know your approach to Controllers. All I can suggest is to try and ‘Move Through It’.
Footnote #1: My connotation of the word “Controller” is used to define a personality trait and not meant to define the financial officer of a company or organization.
Here comes some good news.
Like Controllers who believe they will only be happy if they can control everything, Perfectionists believe they can only be happy when they achieve perfection. A person rarely achieves perfection at a given task, thus a Perfectionist’s happiness is rare and fleeting. The good news is changing can come easier and quicker for the Perfectionist.
A sports Perfectionist is an athlete who wants to achieve and sustain perfection in a given sport. The ‘greatest of all time’ athletes understand this is unattainable. Using Tennis as an example, could it be possible to reach the point of perfection (at least in your mind with your definition of ‘perfect’)? Let’s imagine you played a match. You had your “A++” game on and played flawlessly. You were in the zone and left it all on the court. Great win. You are feeling the adrenaline high of peak performance. Perfection. Now, ask yourself some questions. How did your opponent’s skill level factor into your great victory? Will your next performance be a repeat? Will your next opponent have different or stronger skills? How about the one after that? My point here is that even though it seems possible to reach perfection (as you defined and experienced it in your mind), it is merely a moment in time, not a sustainable action.
To work with and develop someone with a Perfectionist personality, we must cultivate concepts that focus on process over results. Since this approach emphasizes work ethic, patience, and discipline, it will resonate with the Perfectionist. He/she is accustomed to hard work. The coach’s goal is to encourage the Perfectionist to trust the genius of adaptability. Learning, changing, growing, and employing new techniques for specific results is adaptability with purpose. A shift in thinking from results-driven to process-driven can allow a Perfectionist to relax and focus on their evolution. Perfectionists need to enjoy the journey, a growth mindset can allow for this.
Consider this business example of perfection vs. evolution:
In 1984, Apple’s Macintosh changed the computer industry. In 2001, Apple’s iPod change the entire music industry. In 2007, Steve Jobs stepped onto the stage and introduced the first iPhone. This new smartphone could do more than ever imagined, and Jobs said, “Apple is reinventing the phone”. Apple had become the pinnacle of the tech world with this trifecta. If a tech company can reach perfection, then Apple had done it, right?
At the MacWorld Expo that same year, techies touted iPhone’s cool features like its multitouch sensors, large screen, camera, iTunes, email, extended battery life, etc. By all standards, Apple – the perfect tech company, had created the perfect phone. Customers scrambled to purchase 6.1 million units (and one of those was me).
Stop the presses. This perfection of technology was discontinued in July 2008. How could this be? Apple’s perfection was a blip in time. Apple continued its relentless pursuit of perfection. They continued to evolve and change. I wonder if any of you are possibly still using the very first model A1203 iPhone? If you raised your hand, I hope no one saw you. Companies and products that continue to evolve will continue to succeed. The same can be said for people and especially athletes.
If you are a Perfectionist or if you are coaching a Perfectionist, I offer this advice. Review the many examples of how adaptability and consistent upgrades win the day. While some Perfectionist personality traits stem from insecurity or fear of failure, most Perfectionists have higher than average IQs. Once explained, the concept of adaptability is easily grasped by the Perfectionist. The Perfectionist will quickly realize the choice to live the frustrated life of always wanting the unattainable or they can choose the life that concentrates on process and progress. This is great news! This freedom allows the Perfectionist to still have those moments of perfection along the grander journey of striving for growth and happiness.
Footnote #2: My Apple iPhone and MacBook Pro are the hubs of my life’s work. I’ve purchased just about all of Apple’s products from day one to the present. Apple’s products are a precise combination of beauty and function. It’s astonishing to recognize that the vision for these tools came from one team.
Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and CEO of Apple, was a perfectionist when it came to his products. I am compelled to list Jobs’ wisdom regarding perfectionism:
- Aiming for perfection in your work can have remarkable results. Truly.
- Perfection as a driving force needs to be handled carefully because seeking results at the cost of all else (including relationships) can alienate you from others.
- No one is perfect. You’re not fooling anyone into thinking you’re perfect. Think of someone close to you. How easily can you list off all their imperfections? Do you love them anyway? I bet you do.
- Vision, laser-focus, and risk-taking drive big achievements.
- You do not need to look perfect or behave perfectly to be successful. “People-Pleasing” does not necessarily equal “Earning Respect.”
Now, for the great news.
For both Controllers and Perfectionists, the secret sauce for improvement is change + adaptability. Change means to become different from the current state. Adaptability is adjusting to a change in condition or environment. The two go hand in hand. For Controllers and Perfectionists, fear is the common denominator when resisting change. For the Controller, it is the fear of uncertainty. For the Perfectionist, it is the fear of failure.
Change is part motivation (the ‘why’) and part process (the ‘how). Understanding both of these parts can abate the fear of change. Similarly, adaptability’s ‘why’ and ‘how’ are willingness and elasticity.
I realize that ‘change’ can be a scary word for many of us. We like to stay in our comfort zone. However, change can force us out of tired habits and impose better ones upon us. Change is proactive. Adaptability is intentional.
To get from point A to point B, we must consider our options and choose the best route. If we encounter an obstacle (internal or external), then we must be open to a change of route. Stay where you are or make a change. The decision is yours. Take ownership and live with it. Even the slightest shift in thought can start to cultivate a growth mindset that will bring wondrous life improvements. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”
It’s staggering to think about the changes we’ve seen over the last couple of decades. Think about a world without smartphones and computers. Think about the skeptics and naysayers of that first Macintosh computer or the first cell phone. Even Plato was a naysayer of the written word, claiming people would become unable of remembering things. Change and adaptability have been and always will be constants in the stream of life we call humanity. Controllers and Perfectionists may be more resistant to change, but I believe they can become change ambassadors.
Let’s use the power of language to describe it a bit differently. See if this can work for you, change the narrative. Try replacing the word “change” with “fine-tune”. To fine-tune is to precisely adjust and revise for the highest level of performance. And, replace “adaptability” with “pliability”. Pliability describes the state of resilience, enabling one to absorb forces and operate efficiently.
Going forward, I plan to continue to build on the interrelationship of Language, Change/Adaptability, and Mindset. I’ll provide ideas on how to cultivate your narrative. As you refresh your story, your path of life can be altered and thus, your destiny.
Athletes are flocking to the scientific advances of neural-cultivating. It is no longer the strongest that survive and win. It is now the strongest and smartest. Let’s continue the journey together. Be well, my friends. I invite you to reach out to me and join the deep dive.
For more information please visithttps://bodyhelix.com/blog/
It is my greatest hope that you will implement some tips from our Bio-Cultivating and Neural-Cultivating blogs. Further, it is my hope you will be inspired to pass these learnings along to family and friends. We all have people in our lives who have the desire but lack the accurate information to improve their health. It is frustrating to sift through the bombardment of data and the misinformation in today’s world. It’s no wonder some give up in frustration. I believe that we deserve the healthiest choices that honest modern science can offer. It is my mission to help as many of us as possible get and stay healthy.
As a tennis coach myself, I found the compression industry to be unacceptable for our needs. I set out on a journey to help you and your students. I know we all get beat up. The harder we compete, the more we get injured. All compression is not created equal! At Body Helix, we start with an unapologetic obsession for exceptional quality. Our design philosophy is to create modern, innovative gear that surpasses that which is offered in the global marketplace. As a privately held, Veteran-owned, North Carolina company we challenge global leaders to elevate their compression game or step aside. Its compression gear designed by tennis players for tennis players.
Be well and stay focused on cultivating your health, your mind, and your solitude. If I can help you further never hesitate to reach out to me.
Move Through It.