I was never a big “gamer”, but I was at one time a boy, so yes, I did go through a period of playing video games. One of the games I best remember, and most enjoyed, playing was Madden NFL. But I recently recalled that no matter how I good I got, I never achieved the ultimate goal—winning the Super Bowl. And the reason is this: I would always restart the season if I lost a game. I’m not talking about too many games. I mean a game. One! In my quest for perfection I never achieved THE goal.
If real life teams, coaches, and players took this approach—continuing to play if only they could keep a perfect record—you know how many teams would have won the Super Bowl? Answer: one. The 1972 Miami Dolphins. There have now been 51 Super Bowls played and only one team has been “perfect”. That means 50 teams have achieved the acme (thank you, Mr. Coyle, for that word) of their sport by being imperfect.
I did a little research. The four teams that have won the most Super Bowls, collectively, have a .833 winning percentage in the seasons they won the Super Bowl. (Not perfect.) The two times Tom Brady (a.k.a. the GOAT) lost the Super Bowl was (or is it were?) to the New York Giants, who had a 10-6 and 9-7 regular-season record, respectively. (Not stellar.) The same season Peyton Manning won his second and final Super Bowl, he was statistically, well, awful (it feels wrong just saying that).
I wanna be careful to not make this post about football, but I want you to understand something. You don’t have to be perfect to win. You can “lose”—sometimes a lot—and still achieve your goal.
When it comes to fitness and nutrition, we often take an all-or-noting approach. We strive for perfection, resulting in us never achieving our goal. Here’s what I’ve observed from “champions” that have achieved their goal.
1.) Winning is about, well, winning.
Although you don’t have to be perfect, wins and losses do matter. And even though some not-so-good teams have won the Super Bowl, no team with a losing record has. Champions win.
I take a habit-based approach to coaching. A habit may be to eat more protein or get enough fruits and vegetables. If at day’s end you ate more protein—win! You ate five servings of fruits and veggies? Win! A client records these “wins”. Enough wins and behaviors change. When behaviors change, outcomes are achieved.
Winning teams are credited with having a winning mindset. A winning mindset is created not only by winning, but by believing you’ll win. You must track—and celebrate—your wins, no matter how small.
2.) Champions keep track of statistics.
Keeping stats helps champions see who or what is working well, who or what needs to improve, and what adjustments need to be made.
I love data. Whether it’s weight, circumference, blood pressure, race time, or restful sleep, I wanna know what the data says. Behaviors dictate outcomes (heard that before?). If you’re not moving toward your goal, I’m quite certain a record of your behavior would show why.
If a client with the goal of weight loss steps on the scale and the number hasn’t budged in a few weeks, I know that a.) my program’s not working, b.) they’re not working the program, or c.) I’m not coaching them the way they best learn. Regardless, adjustments need to be made. And it’s because we took measurements that I know this.
3.) Imperfect practice makes champions.
Championship coaches and coordinators don’t implement new plays without first practicing them. And when players first execute a new play, they seldom get it right. And even if they do the first time, there’s a good chance they may not the next time. And if they don’t execute the first time, they don’t say the play won’t ever work, they keep trying. It’s through repetition—of running the play again and again, imperfectly—that successful outcomes are produced, e.g., positive yardage, first downs, and touchdowns.
Changing your behaviors and building new habits is a lot like running new plays. You can’t expect to get it right the first time you try it. And even if you do, there’s no guarantee you’ll do it “right” the next time. You must continue to practice them over and over and over. Speaking metaphorically, you’ll miss blocking assignments, run the wrong route, and drop passes. But through repetition, you’ll begin to do these things less and less.
4.) Champions focus on the most immediate “next”.
If ever asked about an event, game, etc. in the distant future, champions will [almost] always say, “We’re not thinking about that right now. We’re gonna celebrate this win and then come Monday, focus on next week’s game.
Champions don’t think about the future. They think about, and focus on, the now, or the next play. They can’t control the outcome, but they can control the play designed to achieve the outcome. Focus on the next play you can run that will get you positive yardage, even if just one.
5.) Champions plan . . . and then adjust.
Championship coaches script their team’s first 15 to 20 plays to see how the opposing team reacts and responds. If something isn’t working as they’d planned, they adjust their plan. They don’t quit because the other team’s making things difficult for them.
I strongly encourage you to begin your “game” with a scripted plan. But I also expect it to not work out perfectly . . . EVER. You may script the “perfect” plan, but Team Life will make things difficult for you, and eventually you’ll need to either quit (which is what non-champions do) or make some “in-game” adjustments.
Question: What’s been your approach to fitness and nutrition in the past? Do you approach it like a squeaky-voiced, prepubescent, teenager that’s constantly hitting the power button when things aren’t perfect, or like a world-beating champion that plans and adjusts to whatever’s thrown (both figuratively and literally) their way, accepting that even when things aren’t perfect, winning’s still possible?