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Earlier this week I worked a meet for my daughter's swim team. I had a ringside seat to the action recording their times. Standing beside the swimmers as they stepped up to the block, I watched kids of all levels from the youngest dog paddlers to a few seniors who were headed to college on scholarships.
And I noticed something.
The moments right before the horn greatly influence how well they perform. For some swimmers, it was obvious their fears, uncertainties and doubts were dominating their minds.
So I tried a little experiment with a few of them.
I simply looked them in the eye as they were standing beside me and told them with no hint of doubt I thought they were going to swim a personal best today. Every swimmer on a team is taught to go after their personal best. But it's something that apparently gets squeezed out of their heads when they squeeze into their swim caps in those final moments before the horn.
I didn’t know if they would win the heat or come in dead last. Didn't really care. I really had no idea if they would actually swim a personal best. But I did know this.
They had done it before. They could do it again.
In that moment I simply gave them an alternative to the negative, unhelpful, unproductive, unlikely, uncharacteristic and distracting thoughts that would impede their swim so as to free their minds and muscles to do what they had proven before they could do.
Want to know how many of those kids actually did swim their personal best when I did this?
Every. Single. One.
It’s something a mentor taught me. It’s not what you think, but what you think about that so often determines the trajectory of our life and work. And it's something that my analytical mind can struggle with to this day.
So much of our personal success is related to the things we think about - both in times of work and in times of rest.
It’s makes a huge difference in our work, our families, our businesses and communities. And it's worth the little effort required to focus our minds on those things that are helpful and hopeful. Things that bring honor into our work and excellence to our tasks. Things that you’ve seen in yourself and others that are model thoughts and behaviors, that reflect a purity of purpose, and that you’ve likely learned in practice are reliably true and commendably effective.
What are your personal bests?
Maybe it’s to beat your sales activity goal. Or to complete that project on time or on budget. Or to take the high road in a conflict. Or to make that difficult call or have that difficult conversation. Or write that letter. Or reach out to a lonely soul. Or balance that checkbook. Or exercise four days a week.
Whatever it is. You've done it before. You can do it again.
But just remember - it really doesn't matter what you think. But matters a great deal what you think about.