It is tough to be in a slump. The Jays know. Painfully well. I think of a slump as not performing to one’s regular capacity. The Jays are thickly mired in a slump. Collectively and individually.
I understand slumps all too well. I have been in the middle of a writing slump for several weeks now. I’ve sat down to write my blog post and then have walked away, for three weeks now, without a blog post. When I settled into my chair at Starbucks tonight, I encountered the same barrier that I have faced for the past few weeks. Ideas came to mind, but then as I started to develop an article, a very critical voice started questioning how I had the authority to write about these ideas. It suggested that people will think poor things about me as they read the post. It asked me if maybe I would rather read a book or go shopping. For the past three weeks, I chose to do something in response to that voice. I decided to cut myself some slack. Tonight, I feared that I was sliding into a deeper hole. Then Dr. Harvey Skinner’s voice popped into my head. (Let’s not spend too much time on the fact that I am contending with so many voices in my head.) When I worked with Dr. Skinner at York University’s Faculty of Health, he regularly asked, “Are we men or are we mice?” This has been a tried and true slump buster for me over the years. I need to get into a mice-enough like state to warrant it, but when I hear it, I snap to attention. Sidestepping the sexist element of men/mice, I know that I do not want to be a mouse. I want to be powerful. I want to achieve. I want to be productive. Fuelled by the reminder of what I want and who I am, I started to type. I knew that it was better to type than not type. That whatever I wrote would be enough. That’s because another voice that is regularly in my head is Brene Brown’s. She tells me that shame is rooted in the thoughts “I’m not good enough” and “Who do you think you are?” I don’t want to be blocked with shame. So, here I am – still writing. Slump broken.
I don’t know why slumps happen, but I do know that they ultimately serve me. The kind of thinking that is required to move out of a slump is thinking that helps me perform at my highest levels. It’s the thinking that leads me to dig in rather than shop or read. It’s the thinking that leads me to understand that extra effort is required and that the extra effort will make a measurable difference. There is not a lot of thinking that serves me more than this strain. So, I’ll take the slump and reap the benefits for the next while.
What can the Blue Jays take from this? Because, really, it’s all well and good that I’m writing my blog post, but what I would love the most is to give the Jays the help that they need. I don’t pretend to be a sports psychologist, but I am a dedicated Blue Jay fan. So, I will try to break the Jays’ slump and do my best to hit it out of the park (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Three Steps for the Jays to get Over Their Early Season Slump
- Think back to how you got out of a slump before – as individual players and as a team. What strategies worked? Know yourself. Know what works.
- Think of your best self. Spend some time visualizing what it feels like – as an individual and as a team. How do you think about yourself contributing? Think about your technical strengths as well as your character strengths. Are you an optimist? Are you tenacious? Build this picture of yourself. Think about it as much as you can. The more you practice thinking about it, the greater power it will have for you on the field.
- Support each other. As much as you can and then some more. The power of what you can do together as a team is tremendous. Barbara Fredrickson’s research has found that negative emotions narrow our outlook and positive emotions broaden our outlook. There are few actions as powerful as helping someone to generate positive emotions. A towering stack of research demonstrates that we perform at our best when we feel positive emotions. So, support each other so you can all feel good and perform at your best.
I fear this might be the most presumptuous blog post I’ve written, but desperate times call for desperate measures – both from the perspective of breaking the Jays’ slump and crushing my own. Really, the worst that can happen is that people think I’m really silly. The best that can happen is that someone from the Blue Jays reads this, my method works and the Blue Jays hire me to help with thought management. That has been my coaching dream from Day One, so this seems like as good a time to pursue it as any other. Gibby, if you’re reading this, I’m happy to start working with the team as soon as you call.