Curiosity is one of the main catalysts to personal growth. It is important to be curious about the way things work and the why behind yours and other people’s actions. This is why as athletes we need to get really good at asking ourselves great questions and pursuing the answers through our actions.
If you were to explore different measures in behavioral styles and characteristics, you might find that there exist traits which are connected to the version of ourselves that we know and think about and another version of our self that sits somewhere down under the surface of what we know. This is consciousness and unconsciousness. When we think about what we know about ourselves and our behavior, we really are only aware of the tip of the iceberg. There is much more below the surface that impacts our decisions and actions.
With this in mind we need to understand how to work on our self-awareness because we adapt our behavior in certain team environments and with specific people to act in the way we think we are supposed to. However, under high levels of stress, duress, and pressure our natural styles emerge. If our natural styles aren’t appropriate for the needs of what we are seeking to achieve in what we are doing in the pool, for example, then our performance suffers. Your natural style could be correct but with self-awareness we can maximize our performance even more.
One of the best ways to examine your natural style and adapted style would be to start a performance journal. You should hand write in it after practices and games to explore your interactions with others as well as with yourself as hand writing improves retention much more than typing. Ask yourself how direct or indirect and how guarded or open your conversations were as well as your comfort level when others acted along those lines. Did you tend to avoid challenging conversations or explain things in a way that was less on the topic and more focused on pleasing others? How often did you look at the stands to see if your parents saw what you did?
A well-rounded team needs players with natural and adapted styles composed of all behavioral profiles so none of this behavior is bad. It’s more important to understand within yourself and your teammates. When the pressure rises such as when a college or national team coach is watching you play, how do you use your awareness and plans to respond that boost your play in that moment? How does emotional attachment to the opinions of people outside the pool interrupt your concentration on matters in the pool? How long will it take you to engage again in the play at 100%? Ask yourself these questions as you reflect in your performance journal.
It is important to be honest with yourself as some of this behavior is rooted in anxious thought processes. It takes vulnerability to be honest with yourself and acceptance to take action in the right way. Be objective with yourself with an emphasis on growth and improvement. If it is happening and others tell you but you have a tough time honestly accepting it then perhaps you are working out of a protective state of mind that could interrupt your potential.