Stay Coachable

January 18, 2022

Would you consider yourself coachable? There is a great short story in the book, The Champion's Mind, by Jim Afremow, about a professor and Zen master. This book is a staple in the AME sports psychology library, highly recommended for anyone interested or growing in this space.

In this story, the professor went to see the Zen master. While the professor spoke about Zen, the master poured him a cup of tea. As the professor was speaking, the master poured the cup full and continued so the cup was overflowing. After a few moments, the professor could no longer restrain himself and shouted "Stop! No more will go in!" The master said to the professor, "You are like this cup. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

This story provides a great example of being able to let go of what we know to always stay coachable, staying open to learning and growth. This story serves as a great reminder that it can be easy, once we have reached a certain educational marker or achieved certain mile markers or feats, to fall into a headspace where we think we know it all or the words of another may not hold value. Our ego grows and we become less coachable, less apt for growth and development and less likely to see or be approached with opportunity. This holds true in the endurance arena and every other area of your life.

Think back to when you were a kid playing on a sports team all the way to present day. Were you then, and are you now, able to keep an open mind and take "correction" without talking back (out loud or in your head), giving excuses, changing your body language or feeling hurt? This is a mental toughness skill that is not easily learned and must be done with intention and consistent practice. Correction and feedback is not personal, it's meant to nurture growth. It's someone recognizing your potential, the opportunity in front of you and helping to guide the way from their point of view. The very best athletes are those who are not only driven and dedicated to reaching their highest potential, but also coachable and continuously stay open to learning the best techniques and advancing their skill sets.

Take time and consider this topic for every aspect of your life. More than likely, you will be able to easily point out where this may hold true for you. Once you identify your areas of opportunity for growth in this space, be intentional in practicing an open mind when these situations arise. From our own personal vantage points, it can be easy to miss what others may see. Take some steps this week to grow in this space and remember to be present in the process, focusing less on the destination and more on the journey getting there.

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