Yesterday, to celebrate finals week at OSU, I gave the Grapplers a BTL test at the start of practice 13. Everybody grabbed their iPhone and answered 48 questions with the answer that sounded most like them. Thanks to Dr. Seligman’s team and research, we didn’t have to wait long to calculate our explanatory style. Your explanatory style is very powerful, it’s the way you explain events both good and bad to yourself. Most humans go through their entire life without understanding their own way of explaining events much less their teams. OSU grapplers are not most people – their Coach is giving them quite a gift. They are learning more than just technical skills, they are learning life skills. Good.
So, a team of grapplers took a test together yesterday. They learned their default explanatory style and why it matters. You see, when a wrestler gets reversed late in a match and goes from winning to losing, it matters how he explains this event to himself. The resilient ones, remember, are hard on themselves without defeating themselves. They explain a reversal as situational, controllable, and limited in scope. “I made a mistake, he took advantage of it and I didn’t react quickly enough. I can fix this through technique changes and practice. Keep working.” The not so resilient ones, explain the same event more pessimistically. “I can’t beat anybody, I suck the last minute of everything, I’m just not the wrestler I thought I was.”
You are either learning optimism, friend, or learning helplessness. Your brain is either beginning to believe or beginning to give up. You choose. The elite are not much different than the above average. The biggest differentiation is around effort – sustained effort, over time and through adversity. The elite explain events to themselves as situational, controllable, and limited in scope. They keep working. The normal survivor kinda person explains events more negatively as permanent, pervasive, and very personal. They stop working as hard and eventually mail it in or stop altogether. This is the road to learned helplessness.
Want to improve your capacity for good work? Learn to change the way you explain events to you. Learned optimism is the option you want. Choose to keep working, friend. Keep working…