Chris approached the sport of wrestling with the tenacity of a lion on a hunt – under control, methodical, powerful, smart and strong. He was good and he knew it! He was never arrogant at the expense of his opponents, but channeled an inner confidence in his ability to perform on the wrestling mat. He knew what he was going to do before he went into each match because he was prepared. He studied his opponents and knew their tendencies. And, if the match did not go according to plan he adapted and modified his strategy to counter his opponent. He won a lot of matches. He pushed through injuries and trained for countless hours to hone his craft. Never, ever did he enter a match thinking he was going to get pinned.

Jeff was the quarterback for a highly competitive college football program. He was a magician with the football and made plays that caused other teams to begin to think he was not a mere mortal. His preparation before each game was meticulous. He studied film. He knew what the defenses were going to do before every snap and checked out plays that would not work. He was confident in his abilities and in those of his teammates. His confidence was based on his physical, emotional and mental preparation for each game. He never went into a game expecting to lose.  

When they left their respective colleges and entered the workforce some things were different. They were not superstar student athletes anymore. Although their work ethic at their respective jobs was solid there were still some challenges. Most of these challenges were caused by negative unproductive messages playing in their heads that were drowning out most of the positive messages that had made them successful as athletes and as students. 

Transitions can be challenging at any age. Whether you are a successful college athlete or played in a band or can not walk and chew gum at the same time – we all can have negative unproductive thoughts going through our minds that limit us in some way usually centered around a narrative that says, “I am not good enough”.

Thought – Feeling – Action

If Jeff or Chris faced an opponent with the thought that they were going to fail, then they would never have achieved success in their chosen sports. Chris and Jeff were having unproductive thoughts about their jobs. Thoughts like:

“I don’t want to ask for help”

“I don’t want to bother my boss with questions” 

“I suck at this”

Their thoughts were limiting them because those thoughts led to emotions that made both of them feel some version of – Bad. Feeling bad made them not want to do any of the things that might help them become leaders in their workplaces, and advance their careers. They did not do the things that had made them successful student athletes.

What would happen if they flipped the narrative on those thoughts to ones that would serve them better and drive them to action? What if they were in that zone and were competing at the height of their abilities? How would that feel? What would happen if they could tap into a thought that led to that emotion? 

They would be super prepared for meetings and sales calls. 

They would be known as problem solvers. 

They would put in the extra effort to be known as experts at their jobs. 

They would adapt to changing conditions and pivot when the first attempt did not work.

They would learn from their experiences and become even stronger. 

They would never give up! 

Just like having coaches over many years in multiple sports made a difference in Chris’ and Jeff’s performance as athletes, engaging a leadership coach helped both of them navigate their transitions into the workplace. Coaching helped them become superstars on the job just like they were in their respective sports. The changes all started with them making decisions about how they wanted to show up each and every day!

What are the thoughts that are going on in your mind that are limiting you in some way? How are those thoughts and emotions serving you? What would happen if you had the mindset of an athlete? The athlete mindset says I am going to do my absolute best every day and that everything I do is an opportunity to evaluate and learn. I can not fail!

Wes Becton is the Co-founder and CEO of George Washington Street Partners which is an executive leadership, career, and performance coaching and consulting company. Wes is a former Infantry Officer and graduate of the Army’s Ranger School. Wes has extensive executive leadership and governance experience in a wide range of industries including banking, education and healthcare. Wes is the former Board Chair of Northeastern Illinois University and currently serves on the Boards of Elmhurst College and Pan American Bank. Wes earned degrees from George Washington University (BA International Affairs) and Lewis University (MBA Health Care Administration). Wes is also a member of the International Coach Federation. Wes is a frequent speaker and lecturer on the topics of leadership and diversity.