Coach Tip Tuesday: Look for What You're Gaining Instead of for What You're Losing

Posted On:
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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A person sitting down visible from their neck down wearing an orange and white plaid shirt is writing in a red journal.

It’s Coach Tip Tuesday!

In 2020, I talked to a lot of people.  I also consumed some media (though the amount I consumed was likely below average, so I won’t say it was a lot).

Via those conversations and via that (relatively) limited media consumption, I observed a trend that was honestly disheartening for me: A lot of folks were focusing on (and therefore concerned about) what the circumstances in 2020 were taking from them.  I found this disheartening because focusing (and stressing ) about loss is very trying for folks, and it made me sad to watch people in such a state.

These observations lead me to today’s tip: Look for what you’re gaining instead of what you’re losing.

2020 was a hard year for many people, and I think it felt harder for so many people because people were constantly talking about how hard it was.  While sharing one’s feelings and emotions is certainly a healthy thing (we don’t ever want to deny what feelings we are feeling), I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if how hard things were was not the center point of a conversation, and what would happen if instead there was a switch to focus on what was good about the situation.

So, I conducted this experiment on myself. Was I always perfect in my execution? Absolutely not. But I made a deliberate, focused attempt to focus on what I was gaining from these circumstances instead of what I was losing.

Words have power. And so, the words that someone tells themselves are incredibly important. If one is constantly listing off all the things that they are missing, they probably don’t have enough bandwidth to see, let alone focus on, the things that they are gaining. So, it takes a ton of courage (remember last week’s conversation?) and self-awareness to do the hard thing and seek a different path.

I found that consistently listing off the things that I was gaining from the circumstances of 2020 greatly (and I mean greatly) reduced the amount of negative emotions that were free-floating around in my brain.  Sometimes, I’d need to list the good things every day, and they’d be the same things, but keeping the focus on what I was gaining, and not on what I was losing, helped me to cope and work through many situations in which circumstances were very much out of my control.

Journaling has long been heralded as a therapeutic exercise because it allows for one to reflect on one’s feelings and emotions.  As the athletes who I work with can tell you, I am often asking (ad nauseum for some of them, I’m sure :) ) for them to note at least one good thing that happened in a workout.  This is especially true if their notes are “predominantly negative” - meaning that I cannot detect anything that they feel good about from their notes when it comes to the workout.

Do you know what happens when I tell them that their next “assignment” is to find at least one good thing that happened in the workout? They usually are able to list at least two. And then - almost “magically” - they feel better about the entire experience of the workout.

This act of self-reflection and “writing” (I say “writing” since it’s really typing, but the effect is virtually the same whether it’s actually writing or typing) has never failed to help an athlete feel better after a “bad” workout.  And as I mentioned earlier, extrapolating this practice into a macro scale (such as for the entirety of the circumstances in a given year) really helped me personally.

So this week, I encourage you to take a slice of this experiment I conducted and conduct it on yourselves.  The next time you feel down about something, try this: list out (very tangibly on paper or on screen) what the situation may be adding to your life.  Redirecting this focus from what you are losing to what you are gaining might just turn your frown upside down. :)

About

Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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