Rehearsing The Hard Things

Tossa del Mar, Catalunya, October, 2020 (Photo by Joe Jacobi)

It is tempting to fixate on feeling good at the finish line. To vividly imagine what the ideal outcome would feel like as if we are experiencing it in real time.

But if planning success happens only the basis of the plan going according to plan, then what happens when it doesn’t?

Many years ago, on the day that my canoe partner, Scott Strausbaugh, and I won our Olympic race, nearly everything seemed to go just right.

But, for everything that went well on that single day, exponentially more days — and weeks and months — were spent practicing the small details that could go wrong and throw us off of our game.

What kind of details? An extremely abbreviated list might include:

A delay at security
Unexpected bad weather
Waking up not feeling good
Forgetting a piece of competition gear
The canoe gets moved to a different boat rack
Interacting with an official who is having a difficult day
Reacting to an unsolicited and unexpected question from the media

Any of these incidents as a single occurrence can be challenging but also managed in the moment.

If they all happened within a few hours of each other, the force of imbalance strengthens.

If these foreseeable events had never been practiced and happened together in a high-pressure moment, such as the morning of the Olympic Games, the race could have ended before it began.

Small distractions add up. And over time, little details steal precious energy away from the actions and experiences that we desire the most.

Somewhere between optimism and the pursuit of an optimistic outcome is a practice that helps our response to an unexpected challenge feel a little more familiar.

The practice of anticipating and responding to challenge does not undercut the “feel-good” nature of visualizing success. However, ignoring the rehearsal of hard things reduces the likelihood of realizing better outcomes.

Recently, I joined my Valor Performance coaching colleague, Dr. Lauren S. Tashman, and her co-host, Dr. Kevin Harris, on The Path Distilled Podcast (Kevin’s creation) where we spoke at length about critical elements of performing your best under pressure including how to rehearse the hard things.

Listen HERE — and as the podcast is a little over an hour in length, feel free to listen at double speed.

With gratitude, — Joe

PS — You can also listen to a short review and summary of our podcast conversation by the podcast hosts by clicking HERE.

And, if you are among the many people who have already listened to the podcast, please consider sharing this post with someone that you feel might benefit from the message and conversation.

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5 With Joe Performance Coaching

I coach established and experienced professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.