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Distracted By Winning (And Not Winning)

“To get in the zone you have to stay in the present and you have to focus on your process goals.”

– Paul Flynn, winner of six All-Irelands with Dublin in Gaelic football and four consecutive All-Stars.

“I can’t be happy until I achieve this outcome.”

A version of this has been said to me many, many times or if it hasn’t, it’s usually lurking in the back of client’s minds – they just aren’t aware of it. I’m extra aware of this because I did it to myself for so long.

When we put so much importance onto winning (i.e. achieving an outcome) and indeed the consequences of not winning, it has a detrimental effect on our performance and indeed, the likely outcome.

The solution is to train our minds to keep coming back to the moment, keep coming back to doing the actions in front of us to the very best of our ability.

There are examples of it happening everywhere.

The golfer Patrick Cantlay referred to it in his post Fed Ex Cup win last week, when he emphasised that his approach was to ‘keep his focus on the present’, which meant taking the final round shot by shot, getting his set up right and executing a good strike.

He used this technique to prevent him thinking about the potential outcome of winning and the distraction of the €15 million prize. (That’s a pretty big distraction!!)

If you’re Irish and into sport, you’ll probably be aware that Tyrone won the All-Ireland gaelic football final over the weekend, by beating Mayo.

Everyone outside Tyrone was rooting for Mayo because they have never won an All-Ireland, despite having many chances.

I read an interesting article by Paul Flynn that morning where he predicted that Mayo would lose – because they were too focused on winning and also the consequences of not winning. He made the point that they would have been better off playing the final as if it wasn’t a final.

Both mental paradigms create tension, which hinders the potential of players and the team.

The solution, in essence, it’s about thinking less about winning the game and focusing more on the performance or the process that will give you the best chance of winning.

Think about yourself this week in relation to this:

  • Where are you more focused on the outcome than focusing on the actions to improve your performance?
  • What about the people around you or the teams you lead or are part of?

Turns out there’s a big difference in the impact of focusing on performance or focusing on winning.



PS – My podcast this week explores the above deeper if you’re interested and is titled “Is Tension Good Or Bad For Performance?”. Listen on my website or on all major podcast platforms.

Do you know someone who would benefit from reading this? Feel free to share it with them. To make this super simple, I’ve included some share buttons a little further down this page.

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