Some ego is a good thing – it can be the catalyst that pushes you further when you need to.
It can also be a huge limiting factor, overriding rational decision making and thought.
Everyone has an ego – what varies from athlete to athlete isn’t the amount of ego. The difference really lies in an individuals ability to control their ego when it becomes inflated and uncontrollable, and when it requires the right amount of nurture and resistance.
It’s a delicate balancing act, but when perfected, it is a great tool to use.
So when do you need to tame that ego? When do you need to control it?
When it starts affecting your, otherwise intuitive, judgement.
Possibly the most prevalent time for out-of-control ego’s is in the final few weeks before a race. You get excited – it’s a big deal. There is an awesome cocktail of self-confidence, nervous energy, doubt, mixing around with the hormonal changes that happen as your body goes through the final preparations.
Maybe you have been hitting your sessions well, and everything seems to just mesh….so you decide to push more (for some, this is ok to do), and it works so you push a bit more, and then more again.
Pretty soon you are pushing your body way beyond what is sustainable for your your racing ability and the sessions lose their relevance.
That’s the ego running rampant – time to tame that bad boy and get the feet back on the aground again.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you getting excited and filled with confidence as you get to the business end of your training. It’s an important aspect of your mental state; self-confidence is essential to success.
But when you start to make poor judgement decisions because you are letting your ego override you intuitions, well the you have an issue.
How many times have you gone into a race feeling amazing for the months/ weeks prior, yet turned up to transition on race morning and felt completely deflated, defeated and unprepared?
I sure have. the reason why is that whilst I was truly feeling amazing in the month before the race, I had let my ego run too far, for too long, and it led me down some pretty stupid pathways – errors in nutritional choices, tacking on extra training sessions, pushing my sleep later and later, making last minute rushed decisions about equipment.
These things are usually justified with the mindset of “it doesn’t matter” (for Australians, this is the classic “she’ll be right mate” attitude) because you feel incredible, even unstoppable, so a few little misgivings here and there won’t make a difference
They make a huge difference. Because the ego is driving the decision making process here – you ignore rational thought and follow the big, bold, all-conquering mask that is your ego.
When this happens, it is time for some serious intervention. It’s time for you to take a step back and honestly assess the environment you are in.
Are you pushing yourself because you want to be seen to be posting great ‘numbers”? Are you just looking for kudos from training partners?
Who are you trying to impress?
Sometimes as coaches, we see this. An athlete wants to impress the coach with how good they are right now. This is understandable – we all seek forms of praise and reverence from our peers from time to time. It can be a positive experience.
But “who” you are trying to impress should be yourself – with race day achievements, that align with the goals that you set for yourself in preparation for that event. If those “numbers” are good, then that’s fantastic – it is a sign of development and improved athletic ability.
But if those numbers are being met at the risk of relative race performances, then the ego is taking over.
Your (out-of-control) ego is erroneous. It creates false representations of your ability.
It switches off your ability to follow knowledgable advice, ignoring it for emotionally charged responses and decisions.
Managing your ego is like managing the rest of your training environments – you need the right balance.
There are times when your ego needs to be let out of the cage to run around (with a watchful eye). It serves a unique purpose.
Your ego can be used to lift your self-esteem when you are feeling the low-points of training or are getting far to attached to unrealistic expectations (and data).
When you put some distance between you and the ego, you start to see things differently. All of a sudden those impossibilities, become possible. You start to awaken and realise that “Hey, I can do this. It is going to happen.”
This is your ego working for you.
It can fill you with the confidence that you need to take on big challenges. For some this is simply getting to the start line of their first race, to others it might be the podium. It doesn’t matter what it is, but rather how you use the ego to push you forwards.
Want to know then best way to tame that ego?
STAY IN THE MOMENT.
When you stay focused on the here-and-now of things, you are controlling your ego. It is grounding and always a bit uncomfortable but it is so important to do. It stops your ego from taking over your decision making process.
There is an element of freedom attached to letting go of the controls that we put in place for ourselves – we can let the ego dictate too much – we want everything, and we want it now. Obsessing over data, or performance markers, losing sight of the big picture.
So it’s really important as you manage the balance between too much and too little ego, that you remain intuitive.
Are you letting your ego serve you, or are you serving it?
Is your ego creating distractions and steering you away from where you are going or are you just ignoring it complete;y?
Yes you need to learn how to control the ego, but you also need to become RESILIENT to it.
If you can learn to resist the ego, you will find far greater rewards in your training and racing. You still get the benefits of that ego driving you towards your success, but that resilience creates a much more grounded, observational environment to train in.
This means letting go of the strong desire to “prove” yourself to anybody and everybody – the time for that is race day! It means staying grounded with what you do in your training, building confidence through repetition.
And learning to be humble – little bit of humility can be a fantastic motivator.
There is nothing wrong with being performance driven and striving for great achievements, but be resilient towards your ego – don’t let it dictate your training. Learn to use it at the right time, for the right purposes.