I was half watching Germany v Ghana play in the second Group G match of the World Cup, when the legendary pundit John Giles said something that caught my attention; “Forwards expect the best to happen, Backs expect the worst”. It made me smile because some concepts are just universal. It doesn’t matter what field you apply them to, they are the same wherever you go. So Giles made it clear to me that a concept that frequently applies to coaching, can equally apply if we’re talking about Lionel Messi or Franz Beckenbauer.
When coaching, one of the problems many people struggle with is expectation. For example they might describe themselves as optimistic or pessimistic, similar to our Forward/Back analogy. And so their expectation of what they want to happen versus what they expect to happen can be at odds. This gap in outlook impacts how they make decisions. Without always realising it, their attitude or expectation have a big influence over what outcome they get. We know that what you focus your attention on grows, so if you focus on the negative outcome, well that’s more than likely what you’re going to get, even if it’s not what you say you want.
Expectation and language are inextricably linked. My mother is an absolute classic ‘catastrophe-iser’. Let me explain what I mean. I was visiting her the other day with my 2 year old daughter Kate, and my mom said “If Kate was able to reach the key in that door, and if she were strong enough to turn it and if you weren’t here, and if the other doors were locked, then we would be in big trouble”. I lost track of the number of ‘if statements’ in her sentence! And when I started to laugh and gently pointed out that none of that had actually happened, she said defensively ‘well it could’. Even though she will never admit it, she thrives on drama. Dramatic or catastrophic language is the norm for her, her latest comment being “if Kate doesn’t look where she’s going we’ll all be killed” (to give you the context Kate was peddling a toy car in wide open space, chances of a random killing were, let’s just say, slim). My mom is great, so my point is just to illustrate that our expectations and how we express them are everything. Language is powerful, far more powerful than we think. Using catastrophic language sounds funny to others, but to the person speaking, they may be living through the stress of imaging worse case scenarios all the time. These situations feel very real and can shape their choices. The risks that they see all around them, real or otherwise, cause them to live fearfully, cautiously. Their expectation that the worst will happen, regardless of the facts of the situation, hold them back.
Think about your own expectations. Are you are a ‘catastrophe-iser’? Can you hear yourself in what I’m saying about expectations and overly dramatic language? Observe your words and your expectations over the next few days. Are you doing yourself justice and focusing on the expectation you really want or do you need to make some changes?