By Dr. Russ,
Wednesday is “Just One Thing Day;” the day I offer up the Optimism Tip of the Week.
Once Upon a Time I Played Baseball
I was playing right field on the Junior High baseball team. I really wanted to play 1st base. According to the coach, my talent level qualified me for right field only, at least on that day.
To his credit, he had tried me at 1st, but I now had three strikes against me: 1) I am right handed (left handed first basemen can make a quicker throw to second for a double play), 2) I was a tad slow (not unusual for first base), and 3) I had made some errors recently at that position.
Nevertheless, my ego was feeling a little bruised for being placed in right field. I thought to myself, "right field is for the poorest player on the field." I also told myself that I should be grateful to have started and to be playing all.
The Game Action
The opposing team’s first two batters had gotten on base. Suddenly a fly ball was coming my way. I thought, “I can catch that.” “Just get under it, keep your eye on it and squeeze when it gets inside your glove.” Sure enough, the ball entered my mitt and I held on. My first thought was: “Wow, I made the catch, I am good, I am pleased with myself!” Then I heard teammates yelling at me: “throw the ball, throw the ball.”
Too late, the players on 1st and 2nd had already “tagged-up” and advanced to 2nd and 3rd. I threw the ball to the second baseman to hold off further advancement. I could see the coach shaking his head. My good feeling disappeared into one of; “I messed up again.”
After the opposing side was retired, the coach came up to me and said it was clear I was congratulating myself for the catch and not thinking about the next action that had to be taken, i.e., throw the ball to the infield to hold the runner’s at 1st and 2nd.
The coach was right. I was amazed that he could tell what I was thinking. To do well in any position in baseball, the coach told me I need to think through all possibilities of what could happen if and what I will do next before it happens: “If this happens, then I do this next.” No time for self congratulations until the play is completely over or it is the end of the inning or game.
As I reflect back on this situation, I realize that my self-congratulations was born of low self esteem, a bruised ego over the “right field” assignment, and clearly it interfered with the proper execution of the task.
Optimism Tip of the Week
- Self praise to boost the ego is born of pessimism, self praise to boost task focus and accomplishment is born of optimism.
Task focused self-praise is external and detached from the self. Had I been task focused, I might have said something like this to myself: "I caught the fly ball and immediately threw to 2nd base to hold the runners; nice to see the runners on 1st and 2nd rather than 2nd and 3rd."
Notice how the praise is externally focused towards the task result and not internally towards the ego’s need for self-aggrandizement.