Merriam-Webster’s definition of Growth:
- the process of growing
- progressive development
Merriam-Webster’s definition of Achievement:
- the act of achieving something
- a result gained by effort
I highlighted the two definitions because they specifically talk to the points I am going to make in this newsletter; growth is about personal development and progression, not perfection while achievement is about attaining a specific result.
A lot of people, athletes, in particular, learn to associate growth and improvement with specific achievements. For hockey players like me, maybe it’s goals or assists in a season, the number of wins, time on ice, shutouts,…the list goes on. Rarely are we ever taught to look for growth in ourselves? Despite the fact that myself, and the athletes I work with, could list a long list of specific external results or achievements as proof of growth, the list is always much shorter for individually specific, internally based progression.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal? Are you thinking, “Well, at least they have some type of goals set”? Here’s why it is a big deal: that entire long list of external goals and achievements is completely out of the athlete’s control. This means that, at the end of the day, even if the athlete put everything they had into training, into focusing on that external achievement they set their eyes on, and gave their very best to achieve… it could still not work out. Whether or not you score 50 goals a season has just as much to do with you and your efforts as it does with the other teams you play, with your coaches, with your teammates. What happens if you miss that achievement by a small margin? Oftentimes, it gets viewed as a failure.
The athlete learns to chalk up that failure as a result of them; something they did or did not do and they focus on the 5, 10, or 15 goals they didn’t get instead of the 35, 40, or 45 goals they did get. Objectively, I know to say, “Wow, 35, 40, and 45 goals in one season is AMAZING.” But the athlete doesn’t. So, the subjective result that the athlete interprets is a major failure, a lack of ability on their part to reach their goals. They lose sight of all of the other positive things they accomplished during the season. Because they didn’t get that one achievement, everything else is a write-off. As athletes who are constantly trying to improve, this perfectionist, all-or-nothing thinking is toxic to our performance.
That is the main issue with focusing on externally based achievements. We, essentially, leave our success up to chance because we cannot control the outcomes. Learning how to recognize and focus on internally based growth instead, sets athletes up for success, and sets them up on a pathway designed to capitalize on the small victories they have every training session, practice, and game. With an internal, growth-based perspective, athletes are set up to improve and THRIVE.