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Fatalistic? Pessimistic? Take control of the controllable instead

I was recently chatting to some of the boys in my son’s football team. It was before an important league match, against a team that has a great reputation as difficult to beat.

When asked how they were feeling about the upcoming game, I heard a lot of negativity from them. “Don’t think we’ll do too well against them”, “I think they’ll beat us by a few goals”, “they’re much more experienced than us”. It all sounded pretty pessimistic.

I started asking them a few questions about what they were going to do about it. Let me make it clear at this point, that I am no football coach, I barely understand the rules of the game, so this was a desperate question posed in the absence of any ability to offer any helpful advice!

They started to chat about where they might make some gains “we’ve just got to keep focused, even if they do score”, “We need to keep pushing forward”, “we’ll just play our best”.

What I realised was that in the initial conversation, the boys seemed to be hedging – putting in some reasons that would excuse a poor result before that poor result happened. Perhaps they were trying to protect themselves from disappointment before it happened too.

Once given permission to talk in more positive terms, to consider the positive response that they could have, they revealed that actually, they were pretty hopeful.

I wonder how often we do the same thing?

  • We talk in fatalistic terms about a likely outcome (just in case it goes wrong, then at least we won’t be disappointed)

  • We play down our skills and ability to respond to something challenging

  • We don’t want to sound as though we think we might actually be good at something

When we change our focus to one of action, and start to take control of the controllable, we can make good things happen. As a bonus point of learning, it also reminded me that I don’t need all the answers in order to help.

What was the end result? Our boys won.


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