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Times are Changing, Whether You Asked For It Or Not!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #200 – Watch or listen HERE.

Change.  The word makes us shudder.  But it’s that time of year for spring sports and we are inching closer to the end of the fiscal year for a lot of you in business as well. 

Fall and winter sport coaches already took a ride on the coaching carousel that starts to twirl at the end of every season.   In Coaching Better Every Season, author Wade Gilbert says there are three types of coaches: one who just got hired, one who just got fired and one on the hot seat!

Just this morning I read about two coaches who were let go, both with winning records.  As Dave Beckman, former CSU Assistant AD and NFL Scout told me when I got my first head coaching job at 25, “Coaches are hired to be fired.”  I hadn’t even stepped out of the building after being given the job!  What a welcome to the club!

If you don’t win it all, you're on the hot seat these days. And since only one coach can win the conference (maybe two if the conference winner doesn’t win the tournament), that means there are a bunch of people with warm backsides!

But change isn’t just about those who find themselves on the outs.  Change is coming for everyone!  From the coach who graduates 6 seniors to the coach who loses her all-conference player to the portal.  Change is on the horizon. Every season brings something new.  No two teams are the same.   Sure, some of you are applauding the turnover of your roster, but even so, uncertainty abounds!

Change.  Change.  Change.

Change is an inevitable part of life, and for coaches and leaders, it's a constant companion. Whether it’s a change we choose or a change that chooses us, change brings both challenges and opportunities. Yet, managing change effectively requires understanding how our brains react to it.  Even if, and maybe more importantly if we didn’t invite change, harnessing productive thoughts and habits, and planning strategically can help us better navigate the discomfort and uncertainty ahead.

Our brain doesn’t like change.  Think about asking someone you lead to do something different.  How many times do you meet resistance?  It may not be overt, but you can feel them hanging on to the old way of doing things, even if it isn’t producing results.  Our disdain for change is one of the frustrating features of our amazing brain. 

Put simply, we don’t like change, even if it will make us better!

Why? Because our brain’s #1 job is to keep us safe.  It is wired to seek stability and predictability. According to Dr. David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, the brain perceives change as a threat because it disrupts our sense of certainty and control. This can trigger a stress response, making us feel anxious and resistant.

"Change lights up the same areas of the brain that light up during physical pain," explains Dr. Rock. "It’s no wonder people often try to avoid it."   We know we aren’t physically hurt, but the areas of our brain that feel pain can’t decipher the difference between emotional pain and getting hit by a hammer.  Think about all you do to avoid physical pain.  You do the same emotionally but may not chalk it up to pain avoidance!

To navigate change successfully, we must first manage our mindset. This starts with shifting from a fixed mindset, which views change as a threat, to a growth mindset, which sees it as an opportunity for learning and development.

Losing a job is a huge threat, not only to our ego but to our bank account, too.  This added pressure brings even more uncertainty.  This is what makes it unsettling when people cheer the firing of a coach.  They are obviously not thinking about what would happen if they lost their job today…even if they were “winning”!

Through change, we must remember that sometimes there is not a lot we can do immediately to make things better, but there are a ton of things we can do to make things worse!  We can’t change or erase the past, so what’s next?  It all comes back to how we think because that affects how we feel and act!  

Choosing our mindset matters.  If there is ever a time to embrace Dr. Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, the end of a season or job is one of them!  Dr. Dweck suggests focusing on what can be learned from each change rather than fearing the unknown. “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”   Despite the challenges we face, the toughest and most complex obstacle in front of us is managing our mind!

A growth mindset may not bring back your .400 hitter or put food on the table, but it is the only place to start.   How can you look at the obstacles you will face next year or next week as opportunities?  As someone once told me, “Sometimes God moves you when you won’t move yourself!”  Where and how are you being moved?  You can only see this if you are willing to believe you can change and grow!  Because the brain’s first job is to protect us, we often have trouble moving beyond protection and defense. We can’t see what’s possible or how the change might make our team or lives better! 

The next must in change the newfound situations down into manageable steps.  We can’t restructure our teams or our lives in an instant.  Small steps help us keep our brain from freaking out! 

Think about it.  Even Jesus started small with 12 average guys that eventually changed the world.  What can we do today to move forward toward what we need?  What can we control?  What can we influence?  Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, reminds us that focusing on the circle of influence—things you can control—rather than the circle of concern—things outside your control - reduces stress and increases effectiveness.

To tie back to managing our mindset, we can keep that simple, too.  As author Robert Mauer says in One Small Step Can Change Your Life and Tony Robbins suggests in Awaken the Giant Within, we can ask simple, quality questions.  Questions put our brains on alert for solutions.  Questions keep us out of a victim’s mentality and move us toward action and options.  Dr. Maurer says “Small questions create a mental environment that welcomes unabashed creativity and playfulness. When you ask small questions of others, you channel that creative force toward team goals. By asking small questions of yourself, you lay the groundwork for a personalized program for change.”  

He says, “When life gets scary and difficult, we tend to look for solutions in places where it is easy or at least familiar to do so, and not in the dark, uncomfortable places where real solutions might lie.”  The only way to find the light is to move around carefully so as not to trip, and questions keep our eyes wide open and get us moving! 

We aren’t asking “why” questions.  Those are aimed at understanding our emotions and can put us into a reactive mode.  We are asking “what” and “how” questions.   These lead us to strategic solutions.

Three good questions to ask as you look to ahead to your future team or position are what do I need to STOP doing (or do less of)?  What do I need to START doing (or do more of)?  And what do I need to SUSTAIN? (There is always something you need to continue to do, one change does not mean everything needs to change!)

Finally, dive into the common business practice and conduct a SWOT Analysis.  Evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats associated with next year’s team, the situation and the things that have changed. This comprehensive assessment helps us make informed decisions.  It also keeps us from making unnecessary adjustments and reacting to an emotionally charged environment based on facts, not worry or feelings.

You aren't responsible for everything that happens to you, around you or because of you in life, but you ARE responsible for your mindset and choosing to find opportunities in all that lies around and in front of you! You decide your next step, no one or nothing but you!

The only constant in life is change.  And every season brings new changes and challenges.  No matter how uncomfortable or how, we must remember, that change is not the enemy—it's the path to growth. As leadership expert John Maxwell says, "Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." Choose growth and lead yourself and your team through change with confidence and resilience.

Manage change mindset by mindset and moment by moment!!



P.S. Is it time for you to change your approach to training the mental game?  I can help! Text me at 234-206-0946 or email me at and get scheduled today!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946 

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