You hear it all the time. Winners adjust!
It’s true. Winners adjust their attitudes, approach, tempo, game plan, perspective…I could go on and on.
Photo by Joshua Woroniecki
Just saying “winners adjust” as a coach is sometimes as helpful as telling someone to get their head out of their rear end. It’s like my advice (in jest) repeated advice to one of my former players at CSU “state the obvious and you’re never wrong”! 😊 We know we need to do it but we don’t know how…and if we did, we would do it on the double!
Even so, to win we must adjust!
Our ability to adapt to constantly changing variables in our sport can give us an advantage over any opponent! Our ability to take advantage of the information we often miss when we are so focused on how we think things should be going or worried about how they might go can give us technical and tactical advantages, even though the opponent may have physical ones!
In talking with one of my DI softball teams this past week, the athletes mentioned their desire to gather and use information that presents itself as the game goes on. They want (and need, in their opinion) to capitalize on what is in front of them. This “adjustment attitude” is a sure way to improve their ability to manage moments.
This seems so easy. Just think of all the things that can get in the way of us gathering simple, yet strategic information to put into play.
As performers in all walks of life, we operate in what the Army War College calls a VUCA environment (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). To gather information and use it to adjust we must be “available” to see what is in front of us, not as we think it should be, but how it is!
This is the hard part!
When looking for ways to help us make adjustments, it is always interesting to see what military leaders do, knowing their adjustments can make a difference in living or dying.
While working with fighter pilots and looking to increase the opportunity for success in VUCA environments, military strategist, John Boyd developed a simple 4-step approach to decision-making called the OODA Loop that can help us adjust as we perform. He concluded that regardless of which side has technical or physical advantages, being successful in competition is dependent upon our ability to adapt and make quick decisions in constantly changing environments.
Competition elicits pressure.
We drill, plan and prepare and often we find that most plans get us started but most do not survive the ever-changing dynamics of competition. Training for the unpredictability of the performance environment should include systems that help us think about the way we think as we face pressure situations.
Understanding that fighter pilots, much like athletes and business leaders (with much less daunting ramifications, of course), do not have time to go through a pros/cons list to make decisions, he laid out a simplified 4-step process to help winners adjust! The OODA Loop steps include Observation, Orientation, Decision, and Action steps.
This process is designed to help us filter available information and quickly put it into context, allowing us to make the most appropriate decision and quickly take action to counter our opponent’s approach. It helps us process and focus on what is going on around us and take advantage of changing data and dynamics. IT KEEPS US PRESENT!
We aren’t quantifying or qualifying. We are observing, orienting, deciding and acting!
So often, we find ourselves performing to survive instead of performing to scan and snipe. Our adjustment attitude must first observe the landscape and truly see what is happening around us.
Building this habit of OBSERVATION, this situational awareness skill/habit gets us on our way to intentional action. In this step, we are gathering information as quickly as possible, so we are prepared to decide with what we have observed. Even so, we must understand that everything we see may change and adapt as the game moves on, and so will we. We are looking for the key indicators that we can capitalize on to improve our performance. We are seeing things as they are, not how we thought they would be or how we think they should be!
What is affecting us? What is affecting our opponent? What factors exist that could affect either of us as the game moves on? How can we use the information in front of us to adjust and capitalize on the opportunities it shows us?
We must then position ourselves to respond or change our physical or mental ORIENTATION. Boyd said “orientation isn’t just a state you’re in; it’s a process. You’re always orienting.” It means connecting with what is going on around you and seeing it as it is instead of what we expected it to be. Think about how this state of observation can change the way you gather and process information. We must constantly be reorienting ourselves mentally and physically to ensure we are truly seeing what is, using this information to strategically plan and take advantage of opportunities to strike.
After we have gathered information and come to terms with how it can affect our situation, we must determine and DECIDE our course of action. What is one simple adjustment we can make that can change our position?
A decision changes nothing without ACTION, so making a move quickly and decisively with what we have at the moment is the final step of our adjustment. Winners adjust and they adjust quickly! Our reaction time matters! Uncertainty is minimized by action!
As we compete, we must often make decisions and act without time to gather every bit of information or thoroughly analyze it.
Things blow up. Our opponent adjusts to us. We see things differently than how we planned.
The count forces us to decide under duress or the clock is ticking. Our need to adjust often means something didn’t go as we had planned, and uncertainty exists. Or things are going so well that we can try a different approach that may help us in the future! We can make moves with the understanding that what we see in front of us in competition will always have information gaps, but we must execute anyway. Being agile and able to assess the ever-changing environment puts us at a distinct advantage. Performing under uncertain circumstances is unavoidable so we must operate with our eyes and focus open, keeping our overarching plan in sight, while adjusting our focus to filter information and maximize its power.
We “do what we can, with what we have, where we are.” Theodore Roosevelt
As we move through competition, we often get so focused on what we think should happen or what we thought would happen, we don’t see what can happen! We should never “should” on ourselves. We must take the attitude that we will adjust based on what we see and learn as we go.
The quicker we can observe, orient, decide and act, the quicker we can manage ourselves and the moment. And, we can thwart the attack of our opponent and attack the weaknesses they show us more quickly! We must always be scanning for these opportunities!
How can you implement the OODA Loop to help you respond to changing dynamics in competition and capitalize on available information?
This isn’t rocket science.
It’s something we do often in everyday situations. The trick is to move to this mode when we are under pressure or when we are in an ever-changing environment over which we have little control.
This is when it’s hard AND when we need it most.
For winners to adjust, our adjustment attitude starts with our ability to BE PRESENT and let go of what we think should happen. Remember, don't should on yourself :)!
Our assessment of information, our ability to re-orient ourselves to a position of power, our ability to decide because we TRUST our ability to follow this process, even though we may not have every single answer (thwarting perfectionism), and understanding that information acted upon is power can help us stay in the present moment and moving forward, building momentum as we keep our winners' adjustment attitude.
This is how we can get better as the game goes on. Things change. Our position changes. Our needs change. Our opportunities change.
The more information we have, the more opportunities we have. Be ready and willing to gather. Decide what to do quickly and DO IT!
Keep moving forward – do what you can, with what you have, where you are – and you remain a formidable opponent…no matter who you are facing!
Keep adjusting and managing the moments!
P.S. I’d love to help your team adjust their mental game! Let’s implement an adjustment attitude by changing perspectives and responses during competition! Contact me today at email@example.com or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s add this tool to your arsenal!
Mental Performance Coach
firstname.lastname@example.org • 234-206-0946