Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Work Backwards

I was preparing notes for a new student I'll be starting with tomorrow, thinking about what he needs this minute of his career. He's an elite 17 year old golfer, who's headed for the college life next year, but also has a great chance at the professional level. He's as physically talented as they come for his age, but is in need of some detailed mental tools. 

As I continued to prepare his session, focusing on specific concepts he can bring to the course right away, it dawned on me that he's a "mental rookie," meaning we haven't talked much about his long term plan. He wants techniques that will help him become emotionally tougher tomorrow... but this can't, and won't happen before the more important picture is painted. 

Why does he need help? How is he going to use these tools? Why work so hard in the first place... what's he striving for? Before any of these questions can be answered, we must first sketch his long term motivations and goals.

We have to work backwards!

What does he specifically see for himself in 6 months, 2 years, 5 years? 

This is a great lesson for all of us. Before we can put anything into action, we need to see the "finish line" first, then work backwards to the present. This technique will cause our path to be clear in our mind's eye, and also make the action needed very definite. If we say we want to achieve (X), and then begin today, we're more apt to zig-zag through the process, not having as clear of a picture. 

I used this tool for preparing for tennis tournaments. For example, if my starting time was 11 am in Los Angeles, two hours away... I would begin there, and work backwards in order to figure out my wake up and departure time. 
  • 11:00 start
  • 10:00 warmup 
  • Two hour drive - leave at 8
  • 30 minute morning warmup - start at 7:30
  • 15 minute drive to court - leave house at 7:10
  • 30 minute breakfast - begin at 6:35
  • 15 minute shower - 6:15
  • Wake up time: 6:10
This technique made my tournament days so much easier on my emotions and stress level. 

The same can be used for long term goals in our daily lives. What do we see for ourselves in 1 year? What must happen in order to achieve those goals? How are we going to make that blueprint manifest? "Go."

If we look ahead to that 1 year goal, then bounce all the way back to the present, we consequently ignore the most important part of the process... the action needed to achieve. 

So, back to my 17 year old golfer... tomorrow, he'll instinctively want answers that will immediately create a stronger, more effective mental game. Unfortunately, before any of these techniques can be revealed, he has to paint a clear, detailed picture of what he sees for himself in the long term... then work backwards!


Andrea said...


Gem said...

You always keep me focused! Which I often need, more university wise than anything else. Thanks!
I've always had where I want to be every year of my academic career firmly planted in my head, and I know what steps I need to take to get there. All my friends ask how I manage to be so focused! This is great advice :)

spldbch said...

Good point. We often get so caught up in the details that we fail to see the big picture.

Enz said...

This is an excellent post and reminder.

Enz said...

This is an excellent post and reminder.