Which Wolf do you feed after a 'bad' performance
There is a story called “the tale of two wolves,” attributed to the Native American Cherokee tribe that goes like this..
A simple example of feeding the wrong wolf is how we speak and treat our self after particularly bad match or performance. Immediately after a bad performance, we flood our self with regret, disappointment, shame and even self-loathing. But why? As athletes, we have a deep-rooted belief that if we perform well, we get to feel great about this accomplishment but if we perform poorly, we are expected to punish ourselves, to feel shame or at the very minimum to be guilt ridden of such a performance.
This can go on for minutes, hours, days, if not weeks! If we prepared well and compete with our best effort, then why should we feed the wolf with regret, self-pity and guilt? (it’s not always going to go our way!) Instead, we can feed the other wolf with hope, kindness and compassion for one-self, shifting our thoughts to “it just needs work,” “that’s not like me,” “I can learn so much from this match.” Once the game is over, it’s up to use to have awareness and mindfulness in how we want to proceed; do we want to leave the gym debilitated and ashamed, or can we leave empowered and determined to learn from our performance.
As athletes, we seem almost hard wired to unconsciously feed the wrong emotional wolf and as a result those traits grow stronger. Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, founder and co-director of the Quality of Life Research Center (QLRC) notes “The human mind is programmed to turn to threats, to unfinished business, to failures and unfulfilled desires when it has nothing else more urgent to do, when attention is left free to wander. Without task to focus our attention most of us find ourselves getting progressively depressed. In flow there is no room for such rumination.”
Your task now becomes - how quickly can you surrender to 'what has already happened' - to learn from it and to re-frame your 'lose' towards next week's intention. George Mumford, who teamed up with Phil Jackson during the championship runs by both the Bulls and Lakers suggests that the more we practice mindfulness, getting quit and staying in that calm center space between stimulus and response, the more keenly we’re able to observe our wolves with non-attachment. The challenge arises in our desire to move forward in life while letting go of our attachment to feeling good. Wanting to feel good is the seductive part – that’s what attracts us and pulls us; it’s what triggers the grasping and the holding on. The deeper we are able to observe, the better we are at releasing the charge they have on our lives.