My friend Kate is a pilot. Actually, she’s my dentist and she is a pilot...COOL! I had the good fortune of having brunch with her yesterday and at one point, our conversation came around to focus. Since I am always searching for the next Tip topic, I knew we were on to something!
She began telling a story of when she was earning her pilot’s license. “During one lesson,” she said, “a fly was buzzing around the cockpit.” The fly was annoying. Since the cockpit is a small space and you can’t just upon the window and shoo the fly out, it is hard to ignore.
As the fly did what flies do, Kate did what humans do when a fly is near. Kate's instructor, with his life was in the hands of his student, finally said “Kate, you’ve been distracted by this fly for more than 30 seconds. It’s time to forget about the fly and fly this plane!”
He went on to say something that had changed the way Kate does everything since that moment.
He said, “distractions are mission killers.”
Kate immediately brought her attention back to flying the plane and keeping their lives much safer than they were 60 seconds earlier.
Think about the accidents that happen when we are distracted. I don’t have to list the stats related to texting and driving here to convince you of this!
But when you stop and think about a pilot swatting at a fly…or just being annoyed and distracted by a fly and unable to look at the gazillion gauges in front of her…we think…” that’s serious.
Get that fly out of there!”
I loved the instructor’s direct statement. “Distractions are mission killers.” As she retold the story, Kate said, “I don’t want to seem dramatic, but it is true!” They are both right.
Just 24 hours before this conversation with Kate, I was talking with one of my high school soccer athletes and she was filling me in on her team and their struggles to communicate on the pitch. She was dealing with “mission killers”, some that surrounded her teammates and their propensity to not be in the right place at the right time and/or their communication strategies. Others are in her head related to her ability to complete or overthink the mission.
As we talked through controllables and what she could do to respond differently in this environment, knowing we may not control what is going on around us, but we can adjust how we respond to make it better, I gave her a job for her games Saturday evening.
We started simple…because Rome isn’t built in a day and because we must first understand our tendencies before we can change them. She was to TAKE NOTE (mentally, of course) each time “mission killers” crept in. Regardless of whether these “mission killers” were internal or external, she needed to start noticing when she was focused on something other than what she needed to do.
Keeping with the 4Ps of peak performance, we are working on coming back to PRESENT each time we are faced with a “mission killer” and using this refocus in a POSITIVE way by "W.I.N.ning" as we come back to the here and now. We can always “W.I.N.” by returning to What’s Important Now!
Stacking up these W.I.N. moments builds momentum. We feel in control. It keeps us moving on our mission. It helps us get back to the controls and fly the plane…even when the fly is still in the cockpit.
Here’s a news flash. We will be distracted. Our mind is built this way. Research shows that we are mind wandering 47% of the time.
Who needs a distraction to not be present if this is the case?
If we are prone to mind wandering almost 50% of the time, factor in distractions, and how often are we present?
The simple answer is - NOT ENOUGH TO BE OUR BEST! (It's amazing we can do much of anything if you really think about it :)!
If we know that distractions are mission killers, what is our plan to mitigate them?
For Kate, the fly was still in there. She has taken this “mission killer” theory to her dental practice and knows that distractions matter in her important role as well. I am certain that is why her office runs like a well-oiled machine. No detail is too small!
Unfortunately, flies aren’t our only “mission killers.” The mission she plays out day in and day out as a dentist can be killed by the internal distraction of the comfort of routine or confidence. I’m sure you have said, “I’ve done this so many times I can do it with my eyes closed” about something in your life. That may be true, and I am certain it would be done better with your eyes open...and focused!
“Mission killers” come in all forms and can only be combated by being aware of how they affect our ability to perform and aware of what things take us out of the moment.
My soccer player has a plan. She will begin to notice what might kill her mission and then find or respond with her W.I.N.
Kate, the pilot and the dentist, has checks and balances in place to ensure she is watching her gauges in the sky and the office.
What is your plan for mitigating your “mission killers”?
Maybe I should back up one question. What are those that commonly strike and what are those that could? Then what do you need to do to W.I.N.?
Maybe it’s just thinking about the fly-in-the-cockpit story and understanding that something so tiny could be your demise will help you keep your mission clear. As John Wooden said, “little things make big things happen”.
And that's a two-sided coin!
Mission killers, like cancer, start with a single rogue cell, but if we catch it early, we will WIN (my life is a testament to that fact!).
Managing the moments and your mission killers!
P.S. I’d love to help your team adjust their mental game! Contact me today at email@example.com or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s set up a session or a plan for your program!
Mental Performance Coach
firstname.lastname@example.org • 234-206-0946