Why is it necessary to hit only 9 home runs?
This is a question I asked a professional baseball client as he described his last few seasons during one of our first meetings.
Since college he hit about 9 home runs every season, so he wasn’t worried about hitting home runs. Sometimes he would hit 3 home runs in the first month of the season, other times he finished strong with 4 home runs in the last month of the season–always ending with about 9 home runs total.
From his description, I felt that he was limiting himself from hitting more home runs. It struck me as a potential pattern, and since part of my job is to help clients discover patterns of thoughts and behavior, my mind grabbed onto this for further discussion. We needed to dig further to discover if this was a physical limit or if it was a mental/emotional limit to his performance. It was time for us to start the discovery process.
By helping the player put words to his experience, we began to increase his self-awareness and improve his performance. First, we worked to create awareness around any self-limiting beliefs. Then, with an understanding of the “what”, we dug deeper to understand the function of the belief. In other words, why he held this belief, and if it served to increase or decrease performance? We then worked to create the opportunity for a different mental/emotional experience. In this case, the goal was to see how many home runs were possible.
After our first couple of appointments, it became clear that he had the physical ability to hit more home runs—the ceiling wasn’t a physical limit. Once this became clear, we began putting words around possible reasons for the mental/emotional limit.
Was it a self-image problem?
“Am I just not a home run hitter?”
Was it a safety or comfort issue?
“Am I ok if I hit 9 home runs because once that is accomplished life becomes less stressful?”
Once we put some words around the above questions, we were able to go to the next step, understanding. In this case, the understanding was that, yes, it was a self-limiting belief that capped his performance. By being curious about how many home runs he could hit and asking, “Why not a few more?”, our work together helped push him beyond the comfortable number/his self-imposed home run ceiling.
The final step in breaking through his self-imposed limit involved becoming curious, open, and honest with himself and me as his coach. We worked to balance expectations with acceptance, trying to dig deeper when thoughts or ideas came up that took away from the mindset of “Why not more”? This mindset shift helped this player to expand his mental/emotional potential to the point where it now leads his physical potential rather than lags it.
He worked very diligently, consistently, and openly with me and was the same with himself throughout the last season. We spoke about all aspects of his game, thought process, and interactions with other players and coaches, but rarely spoke directly about hitting home runs. Oftentimes, overcoming mental/emotional blocks takes an indirect path. We focus on the thoughts and emotional processes surrounding the block rather than directly on the result we are working to change.
Through this consistent hard work, he ended the season with 21 home runs. By listening to the truth of the player’s point of view it was possible to clarify what part of the process needed to be changed, which improved the slope of performance.
In the end, my client achieved his level of optimal performance. With his consistency and openness to a potential self-limiting belief, this player was able to make an amazing jump in performance. -JPB