Finding the Flow
I recently faced an intriguing dilemma. It was the kind of dilemma I love, because it sat right in my wheelhouse: I had to find that one special something that would give a client the edge he needed to reach the top step of the podium. Not just any podium – he was targeting a National Championship. The biggest event in his life to date. If he won, it would change the course of his life.
He had a great shot at winning, but there was a catch: so did three other guys.
All four athletes had the goods to take gold. All four were blessed with similar levels of ability and talent. All four had a champion’s work ethic. Without that, they wouldn’t have been contenders in the first place.
In this situation, most coaches tell athletes to do what’s obvious. Train harder, drill down on the details, ratchet up the level of commitment, and find that small gain that gives them the competitive edge they need to win.
That was my dilemma.
I knew that’s exactly what they were going to do. I also knew that more training, a more intense attitude, and obsession over details was a recipe for overtraining, burnout, and poor performance. I also knew one more thing: my athlete was at his limit. This kid had already turned himself inside-out physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The risk of overtraining was clear and present.
My athlete needed something different.
A Creative Solution (Literally)
I remembered something he’d told me early on in our coach-athlete relationship: he’d played the violin pretty seriously up until he was ten years old. He loved it, he was good at it. But he hadn’t played in about ten years. Athletics had taken over his life. I remember the little spark I saw in his eyes when he talked about the violin. For a split second, I saw a carefree and relaxed kid – not a serious and committed athlete.
That, I thought, is what this kid needs.
So instead of adding more intervals, new training techniques, or another wrinkle on visualizing success – I told him to dust off that violin and play a little every day. I told him it would open up that old, creative part of his personality. It would give him that extra bit of natural flow he needed to take gold, with absolutely no risk of overtraining.
He was a little skeptical. But he trusted me, so he did it.
And guess what?