The bike race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road could serve as a metaphor for many coaching topics - goal setting, commitment, and performance gaps (see last blog post), to name a few. With an average grade of 12%, this race pushes riders at all levels to their physical and mental limits. It's uncomfortable at this edge, and that's when our mind gets loud. I have found this to be true whether in an athletic competition, or when facing an important life change such as taking on a new job or role at work, beginning a relationship, or becoming a new parent, as examples.
What emerged within the first mile of the race were two conflicting commentators [see table] that we all have; 1)The Protector, whose job is to keep us safe - to avoid failure, embarrassment, and physical or emotional harm (voice: "Slow down!"), and 2)The Competitor, whose job is to achieve results - to work hard, push us beyond our limits, and out of our comfort zone (voice:"Go faster!"). Each has equally important responsibilities and functions depending on our circumstances. However, it's impossible to completely satisfy both and the arguing is distracting. It's like watching a sporting event on television with two annoying commentators - to enjoy the match, you may have to mute the sound, or at least lower the volume...
Just past the finish line, The Competitor was disappointed, critical, and looking for excuses. The Protector was annoyed, but happy to be done. Neither side was gratified - the impact being that it was hard to find fulfillment or a sense of accomplishment from the experience both during and immediately afterwards. This is the unfortunate cost of this conflict, even when we give our best effort. A coach is able to provide an outside perspective and can therefore more easily identify the commentators, their intentions, and impact, and act as referee. The conflicting parts are identified and heard, allowing for integration, negotiation, and ultimately a quieter, more peaceful ride. To put this into practice, identify an area of your work or personal life where you are currently challenged or feeling uncomfortable:
- Identify The Protector and The Competitor. What do they want for you? Acknowledge each for their diligent efforts.
- What impact is each is having on YOU? On the result? On your experience?
- Is there room for negotiation between the two? How would a referee intervene? What would compromise look like?
- As you think about what's most important for you in this endeavor, which part will serve you best? How can you better leverage that part?
Looking back, I am grateful for The Competitor that urged me to the top, and for The Protector, who got me there safely. And when I "mute" them both, I can fully take in the satisfaction and thrill of the experience. As you may find, bringing awareness to the commentators can be tricky, that's why CEO's, pro athletes, and coaches have a coach - not just to be better at their craft, but to compete with less noise and greater fulfillment. Next to winning, that's the best possible outcome.