By Ken Reed
Chicago Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, is constantly talking about focusing on the process and staying in the present moment. He spends his energy on the controllables and in doing so he remains relatively calm under pressure.
Maddon’s Cubs scored four runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday to eliminate the San Francisco Giants in the divisional series. They now move on to the National League Championship Series in their quest to win the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908.
A few hours before the Cubs-Giants game, I was working on themes and messages for the upcoming youth basketball season. I am a long-time youth sports coach and this year I’m coaching an 8th grade basketball team. Before every season, I like to talk to the team about some big ideas that I will refer back to during the season.
So, as a result of reflecting on Maddon’s philosophy, the Cubs’ dramatic win, and my upcoming chat with my basketball team, I wrote the following short essay about focusing on controlling the controllables — in sports and in life.
Controlling the Controllables: The Two Circles
In order to be the best we can be, we must use our energy on that which is within our control. Realize that ultimately we only have control of ourselves. External factors are beyond our control.
However, we can control how we respond to the things beyond our control, as this quote points out:
“We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”
When you focus on what you can control and surrender what you can’t, you have greater control over your emotions (anxiety, fears, anger, etc.), and you feel more calm and confident.
There are three steps to excellence (being the best you can be):
Draw a circle. Ask yourself, “What can I control?” Place those things inside the circle. This is the Circle of Control. (E.g., attitude, effort, preparation, diet, response to things beyond your control, the process, perspective on things).
a. For example, you can’t control rush-hour traffic but you can control how you respond. You can control whether you allow it to ruin the rest of your day or not. You can also control leaving earlier or later, when there’s less traffic. In addition, you can control how you spend time in traffic. For example, listening to books on tape.
Now, ask yourself, “What is beyond my control?” Place those things outside the circle. (E.g., weather, other people: competitors, teammates, friends/family, judges/bosses, etc.)
Finally, draw one more circle. Ask yourself, “What things beyond my control can I influence?” Place those things in the second circle.. This is the Circle of Influence.
a. For example, how you communicate with someone might influence how he or she responds to you.
Personal Excellence is about using our energy to “control the controllables” by staying inside the Circles of Control and Influence. “Controlling the controllables” is the process and the process is more important than the goal or outcome because you can control the process. You can’t control the outcome or whether or not you reach your goal. The process is what you can do in the present, on a day-to-day basis (e.g., training), to increase your chances of success, however you define that.
The ultimate illusion of the human experience is trying to control the uncontrollables. It’s trying to control outcomes. When you surrender the outcome, you are freed up to be at your best, to be in the moment, and to trust your process. It is the person who has surrendered the outcome who ironically has the greatest chance of success. It is the person who has surrendered to the fact that he/she could fail, lose, and make mistakes, who has the greatest likelihood of not failing, losing, and making mistakes.
Until you surrender the outcome, you will always be your greatest enemy.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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