Do we coach what we see, or what we think we want to see?

I recently listened to a couple of Ryan Holiday audiobooks, Ego is the Enemy and The Obstacle is the Way and throughly enjoyed them both. I admit that I am not really much of an audiobook or Kindle person as I prefer reading books rather than listening on my headphones or looking at a screen.

In the Obstacle is the Way holiday talks about practising objectivity rather than perception, this chapter made me think a lot about coaching and coaching practices.

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The phrase “This happened and it is bad” is made up of two impressions, the first “this happened” is objective, the second “it is bad” is subjective.

Anything that is Objective is based upon facts, and anything subjective is based upon personal belief. For example text books would be objective and a blog would be subjective. One based on facts, one based on opinion or belief.

Objective decision is making a decision based on observable measures, facts or hard calculated information. Subjective is making the same decision based on emotions or beliefs. A good example is making a decision to invest in business. Would you invest with facts or would you invest with emotion?

In the Book of Five Rings by Japanese swordsman Minamoto Musashi, Holiday notes that Mushashi explains how the perceiving eye is weak and the observing eye is strong – something vital for a swordsman. The observing eye can only see what is there, whereas the perceiving eye will see more than what is there. The observing eye will only see events, and will be clear of distractions, exaggerations and misconceptions, the perceiving eye will see setbacks, obstacles and issues.

We talk in football how we can only control the controllable, we cannot control the weather, the pitch, the crowd – these are external to our performance, beyond our control. But, how many times do we apply judgement to things we cant control as if we are trying to morph them into the way we feel it is supposed to be (in our opinion!)?

How often do we see through rose tinted glasses (or maybe darker ones for some!) what we think is there or what should be happening instead of what activity is actually happening?

It’s something I have seen with novice coaches , perceiving a situation, a training drill, an exercise for what they think it should be rather than actually what it is. Picking out coaching points for something they have made a judgement on, but in reality didn’t actually occur, this then leads to mis-information and over-coaching (in my opinion!). There is nothing worse than hearing a coach warble on giving out information to a player about something in a drill that didn’t actually occur, but because it’s in the coaches notes he is now doing his best to perceive any little error as wrong or bad in a rush to get his point across with the perceiving eye, rather than actually look at what occurred or what the facts where.

Observe, analyse, refine and/or correct. Hold back the emotion and see things how they really eye with the observing eye. Using the perceptive eye can become a problem, they give us the information that we don’t need when we should be focussing of what is in front of us.

That for me is true of coaching, coach what you see not what you think you want to see. What actually occurred? Think. Perceive. Act? Does it require long winded statements to get a coaching point across? Or does it require that step back, that analysis, that gathering of facts and then the refinement or correction?

As humans our nature is too gain an impulse, and make irrational decisions based on what we have perceived as maybe a threat, or against our nature. Wouldn’t it be easier to recognise the impulse, question it & override it before we act? Would this lead to a better coach? A greater judgement of what is actually going on rather than what we have perceived to be going on within a session?

Marcus Aurelius would put things into context as to what the actually were to gain perspective and see things how they really were, roasted meat was an old dead animal and vintage wine was old fermented grapes.

It is better to see things how the are, how the actually are not as we have made them in our minds.

Practising objectivity means that we remove the YOU – the subjective part of the equation.

For me this is true of coaching.

Give yourself clarity and practise objectivity. Its an exercise so it means it will take a lot of repetition to acquire this skill, but its one that will serve you well.

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