Is it time to put the bumpers up?
What to do when you are gutter balling personally or professionally.
This article is all about what you can do when parts of your life aren’t going to plan, largely because your thoughts, actions and behaviours aren’t in line with who you are or who you consider yourself to be. I am going to use an analogy which has been fantastic for me in the past year for helping me to visualise a set of problems and then find solutions.
To start with though I want to share a great conversation I had with a friend recently about life as we saw it. About perception Vs. reality and about the importance of authenticity in finding some balance and calm. We called it the A side and the B side.
The A side and the B side.
Life is not all sunshine and puppy dogs. It’s not always smooth sailing and we will ALWAYS have to deal with setbacks and try to push through the other side as best we can.
Like the old cassette tapes, life has an A side and the B side, and you don’t always know what you are going to get on the B side. The A side is the fun, smiles, adventures, health, wealth and happiness, whereas the B side is how we often feel behind the scenes (or screens), such as anxious, alone, scared, depressed, confused and out of control. We often present the A side to the world, to our friends, family and most of all on social media. We generally hide from the B side, we don’t present it, embrace it or often deal with it particularly well.
I’m not too sure why we ignore the B side? Perhaps through fear of judgement, embarrassment that we aren’t all as hot as that influencer or as successful as our mates, or generally coping with what life throws at us particularly well. A lack of engagement with the B side though will often make it a bit overwhelming, and then our behaviours slip out of line with what is truly important to us as a person.
Some bumps are ahead if your behaviour isn’t in line with your personal values.
But what can we do about it?
Let’s use this analogy to open the dialogue here.
When we go to the bowling alley as a youngster, we quite often start with the bumpers up, this helps the ball to stay in the lane as it makes it way (usually slowly) towards the pins (your goals). Sometimes, we even start with the ramp which gives the ball direction, lines it up to the target and even gives some extra momentum from the steep ramp.
As we start to improve, we put the bumpers down, we’ll gutter ball a fair bit before we get the hang of things then generally, we can at least hit a couple of pins each bowl as we improve.
Much like life.
As youngsters, we learn a lot in a relatively safe environment with guidance (the ramp) and support (the bumpers), bit by bit we become more independent and go it alone. So, we stop using the ramp and we ditch the bumpers, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s guided discovery for you and growing up.
But what happens when you are continually gutter balling, and your behaviour or actions are no longer driving you towards your goals or making you happy? Gutter balling, we can say is personal and professional failures which have a significant impact on your well-being, these could include failed relationships, poor health/well-being habits or professional setbacks such as job losses, struggling to get hired or significant but avoidable mistakes.
Mistakes are an important part of learning in life, and I am a huge advocate for failing fast and failing often. But. There comes a time when consistent failure in the same areas needs to be addressed.
This could be the time to put the metaphorical bumpers back up and re-engage with what you are all about as a person and what you want in life.
Here enters your guiding principles which are a combination of your personal values and a life vision.
Your personal values and life vision are just like the bumpers at the bowling alley. They stop you gutter balling.
Establishing your personal values
A personal value is a belief or characteristic which motivates your behaviour. A lot of people don’t put the time and effort into establishing their personal values, there are literally thousands of ways to approach this exercise. But essentially a simple way to think about your values is…
A set of rules or beliefs which make your decisions and behaviours and hard yes or a hard no.
I can be quite helpful to frame this from a personal and professional perspective, whilst we cannot separate them completely, we are not what we do for a living, that is simply a job.
I want to be the type of person that…
- Ex1. Always makes time for my friends and family
- Ex2. Prioritises my own health and well-being over others
As a person, I want to be recognised and respected for…
- Ex1. Being an empathic and exceptional listener
- Ex2. Approaching life with a can-do/positive mindset
I want to be the type of practitioner that…
- Ex1. Gives energy in the workplace
- Ex2. Provides solutions and troubleshoots effectively and efficiently
As a practitioner, I want to be recognised and respected for…
- Ex1. Embracing learning by sharing successes and failure
- Ex2. Doing the basics savagely well and having robust systems which support athlete health and readiness
You can see there are some differences here, for some of you, your personal values will be well aligned to your professional values and that makes life easier. You just are who you are, and you just crack on. For others, there are differences which is completely normal. Either way, it is a great idea to figure yours out and then home in on them. Make them so strong and prominent for you that they become your lighthouse in rough seas when you can’t see the pathway forward.
Establishing a personal vision
This is the fun part. Your personal vision is a set of goals or targets which you would like to achieve at some point in the future. They can be both personally and professionally. It is fundamentally important that personal and professional go hand in hand. People often talk about their personal visions by saying ‘I would love to….’ or ‘I really want to….’ You may even want to think of some of them as bucket list items.
They are really useful as guidance for you if you do not know where you want to be professionally in 1-3-5 years time, but you do have some ideas of the type of things you might like to achieve.
Our non-exhaustive list below will help you to establish your personal vision if you aren’t sure.
Earn x amount of money Work under a mentor Not living month to month Learn a language
Buy a home Mentor people Work abroad Prioritise travel
Manage a team Prioritised family time Pay off my mortgage, Health over wealth
The bumpers analogy frames the whole discussion of going back to basics and nailing those down. There are times in the last year or two when getting more than 3 hours sleep or eating a proper meal once in a day would be a win. That for me was truly going back to basics.
I like the ramp example, but when we move that into life as a performance practitioner we can shift that to pretty much the exact role of a mentor. To point you in the right direct, give you some momentum, ease the burden of coping with so many variables and ultimately keeping you on the straight and narrow towards your goals.
In summary, your values and life vision are your bumpers. They nudge you back towards your goals and how you want to live your life, this can be invaluable when you have big decisions to make or your behaviour isn’t as you want it to be. Putting the bumpers back up is simply reconnecting with who you are and what you want, if where you are right now isn’t in line with either of those things then re-engage, reconnect and then move forward again.
We are practitioner vision so we get sport and training. Think of things going wrong in your life as an athlete getting injured. They have to go back to basics and build back up again, we are no different. Sometimes this is a sprain or strain, but sometimes it is a full-blown ACL reconstruction which requires you to go through extensive rehab with highly qualified staff. That is normal too.
I hope you got some value from this article. It should have been an easy read framed by an analogy we all know and can visualise, for me that visualisation brings it to life and makes it actually quite implementable.
What’s coming next?
The Reflective Practitioners Journal is now live on Amazon and available to purchase worldwide. In the next few months, a fantastic and novel career mapping tool created in collaboration with Dan Howells of Collaborate Sports will be available. It is going to be a complete game-changer so stay tuned for that!
The Career Decision-Making manual which was put together with performance specialist John Noonan is now live and available for purchase HERE. We guide you through, how to create a career path for yourself full of opportunity, fulfilment and wealth.
For those of you not signed up to the Performance Practitioner Well-being Facebook community, you can do so HERE. A place where over 600 practitioners from 5 different disciplines share ideas, discuss, and engage with wellness-related content without judgement or expectation.
A lot coming down the pipe in 2022, so it is great to have you on board the practitioner wellness journey.
This big practitioner well-being rock isn’t shifting itself, so let’s all get pushing together.
The Practitioner Wellness Guy