We are about a week into the baseball season. Players are starting to peek up at the scoreboard and either a) digging themselves because they’ve popped a couple home runs, or b) beginning to panic because they gave up a few bombs and their ERA sits at 18.00. Whether they’re hitting .810 or .180, they, like us, would be best served focused on their processes and what they can control, day in and day out, rather than the results in small sample sizes that don’t reflect their diligence and work habits. Staying in the moment, rationally, rules.
As a player, I remember how misleading the beginning of the season could be. “Starting slow,” by baseball standards, meant that my batting average was around .200. This, of course, was utterly absurd. With a limited number of at-bats, an infield hit here and bloop single there would have transported me quickly into the “strong start” bucket. Ughhh. How are we this emotional in baseball when statistics are at the root of our beloved sport?
Baseball is a perfect metaphor for life, remember? We behave in a similar manner in our day to day interactions. Suppose we start a new eating plan and we immediately feel sluggish. Maybe we don’t feel as satiated and blame the veggies. We commit to a long stretch, perhaps even a lifetime of healthier eating, and when the immediate signals don’t line up perfectly with our action step, we throw up our hands because we are batting .000 after the first game of the season. It’s prudent, in baseball and in life, to hunt a personal state of mindfulness. From psychologytoday.com:
Because mindfulness helps you reduce vulnerability to negative emotion, helps formulate problems, increases attention in the present, reduces stress, helps people overcome depression, regulate emotion, increase perspective-taking, and enables you to manage daily difficulties and hassles in a calmer more considered manner.
Best of all it’s a practical way to stop rumination: that’s the constant negative chewing over of things that you think have gone wrong, that you dislike, that bug or annoy you.
Sure, our day to day events can be frustrating.
Picture yourself as a AA hitter finally getting into the lineup. You are desperately trying to impress your manager. You work a count from 0-2 to 3-2, then foul off 3 pitches before blasting a rocket at the pitcher’s dome that he somehow manages to throw his glove at. You’re 0 for 1. This event will test anyone’s patience. Similarly, in business, taking a deal to the one yard line then having it fall apart minutes before a deadline may look to your superior like you simply blew a negotiation. Or at least that’s how you envision their paradigm.
During these times, irrational thought begins to creep in for many. We wonder when our next opportunity for performance will come. That potential partnership that crumbled becomes the focal point of our self-examination.
But what if we honed in on how that deal came together? Our process was crisp and effective. We developed a relationship and planted valuable seeds. We spent hours putting thoughts in writing, researching and opining, ultimately making the best possible decision. When someone asks “how’d it go?” we can talk about our process instead of the dark alternative.
“I was 0 for 1,” or “My deal imploded.”
This isn’t the optimal place to focus our attention. Focusing on the moment and what is in our control is likely the ticket to longer term success and ultimately a more optimal state of well-being. We don’t have to meditate traditionally, per se, but staying present when small sample size irrationality ensues will strengthen our resolve and our brain’s muscle. From mindful.org:
Studies show that the ways we intentionally shape our internal focus of attention in mindfulness practice induces a state of brain activation during the practice. With repetition, an intentionally created state can become an enduring trait of the individual as reflected in long-term changes in brain function and structure. This is a fundamental property of neuroplasticity—how the brain changes in response to experience. Here, the experience is the focus of attention in a particular manner.
Look, I’m not saying don’t react to day-to-day events. I’m just suggesting we stay calm and logical. Your 0-4 today doesn’t define you as an athlete.