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Questions to Find the Silver Lining in the Storm

Mindset Made Simple Tip #186 - Watch or listen HERE.

It was a busy weekend!  I had a blast following my softball teams as most of them started the season and my basketball teams are in the stretch!  That means there was a lot of checking scores, watching ESPN and following wins and losses.

Some of my teams won…and won big!  Some of them didn’t.  That’s sport.  One team wins. One team loses.

Before the weekend started, I talked with three coaches about practices leading up to their upcoming competitions.  “Horrible” was the word used by both.  “We couldn’t catch or throw” and more!!

After each practice, a player from each group followed the “positive emotion is one of the biggest predictors of peak performance” mindset and said something like, “Let’s talk about what was good today.” 

And the coaches got even hotter than they were!

“Good?”  “We looked like the Bad News Bears.  What could be good?”

You’ve been there.  You have been inundated with an atmospheric river and while you are waist-deep in nasty water, someone is looking for the rainbow.

Not all bad, but still…frustrating.  The coach is hoping the players won’t settle for “horrible” and this player is looking for something to celebrate.

I believe one of the coaches said something good was that practice was over 😊!  Facts are facts!!

How do we handle “horrible?”  Is “horrible” worth it sometimes?  Like everything else, our response determines whether the “horrible” is helpful or hurtful. The chasm between the frustrated coach and the player looking for some inkling of "feel good" can be navigated with the right questions!

Let’s look at a few practices that can help us get the most out of “horrible”.

First, we need to remember failure is not the opposite of success.  Failure is a stepping stone to success…if we use it to our advantage.   

A horrible day at practice or a loss is less horrible if we come back the next day focused, ready and better. 

This takes awareness, vulnerability and accountability.  It also takes productive evaluation and being real about mistakes, both physical and mental!

Then it takes a behavior change!!!  This is the part we brush right over as we rehash the horrible! 

This takes making different and intentional choices!

Before we can change behavior, we need a good system of evaluation!  To change, we must first be aware!

Many of my teams use a “well, better, how?” framework.  But in “horrible” situations, even thinking about asking the "well" question makes us sick to our stomach so we may skip over it altogether and avoid the evaluation.

A better set of questions might include these.

What were our intended results/intentions?  What were our actual results?  What contributed to/caused our results? What will we do the same next time?  What will we do differently? How will we do this? What did we learn?

We can also ask if we stuck to our process.  If we did, what do we need to continue doing to ensure we continue to grow, how can we improve it?  If we didn’t, where did we get off course and what do we need to do to protect against this in the future?  What behaviors do we need to repeat and what behaviors do we need to change?

I hear a collective sigh.  Phew, none of this “what was good?” talk. 

The “there was nothing good in this” thought process is why I changed my 4 Ps of Peak Performance from Present, Positive, Posture, Process to Present, PRODUCTIVE, Posture, Process.

Things aren’t always rainbows and butterflies.  We don't feel positive and we don't see positive. Changing to PRODUCTIVE means we are acting in ways and seeing things to help us move forward, regardless of how we feel!

Instead of asking what made us feel good or bad types of questions, we are looking for questions to frame what was productive or not productive.

Sometimes we make choices that were well-intentioned and don’t work.  Sometimes we make choices that don’t meet the demands of what is necessary.  Sometimes we make choices that are not well-intentioned, and we face the consequences.  

The point is, that sometimes we don’t reach our potential, nor do we follow our intended process, which leads us away from any opportunity to get the results we desire. Identifying those choices is a start!

Whichever questions you choose, evaluating based on behavior choices (I added "choices" here because behavior is a choice and performance is a behavior) can help us make immediate improvements. 

Yes, we could not catch and throw, but what behaviors led to this breakdown?  Was it a lack of effort, focus, communication, positioning, following directions, responses to mistakes, etc.? 

Like our process-focused line of questioning, maybe a simple Stop – Start – Sustain is what you need.  What do we need to STOP doing?  What do we need to START doing?  What do we need to SUSTAIN? 

None of these are direct evaluations of the outcome (except for the first questions of intended and actual results to frame the remaining questions).  They are an evaluation of the cognitive and behavioral choices we are making that influence our results.

Dr. Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game of Tennis, suggests that acknowledging and accepting mistakes without judgment is the way to go for overcoming them and improving performance in the future.  In his approach, it wasn’t a “bad throw”, it was a throw.  To do it reach our desired outcome, we need to get out of the two-sided coin of good or bad and ask questions like “Why did the ball go that way?” or “What are you doing differently than you did the last time?” instead of “what did we do wrong”? 

These questions focus on development and get us talking about what we need to do instead of what we want to avoid.

Most importantly, Dr. Gallwey says that we must see what is, not what we think it should be.  Once we are aware of what we are doing we can move on to the next step – discussing and picturing the desired outcome!

As Dr. Carol Dweck aptly puts it, "The path to greatness is paved with failures that lead to growth."

There will always be someone looking to lessen the burden of perceived failure and frustration.  But instead of looking for “positives” in a storm that may seem shallow or induce eye-rolling, identifying the behaviors that led to “horrible” and immediately identifying the productive behaviors necessary to be who we want to be will move “horrible” to helpful.

As I said to one of my coaches this weekend, “You have prepared this group with the mindset to use every lesson learned as a down payment for future success.” 

“Horrible” will happen.  And if our players want to find the good in the knee-deep nasty water, remind them that it’s WHAT WE DO NEXT with what we learned and the choices available to us that determine whether there is any positive in it. 

The true worth of anything isn’t felt immediately.  It’s measured in the influence of our response to it!

I don’t wish “horrible” on you, but when it happens, an intentional evaluation may make it the most productive practice or game of the year!

Manage the mess and the moments!



P.S. Let's take your mental training to the next level. Reach out today to get started.  Shoot me a text at 234-206-0946 or an email at

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946 

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