Do you want to improve your life?
Maybe you want to get better at paddling, boost your confidence, make healthier food choices, or be a more effective agent for change.
The first step is to know and understand what isn’t working.
As an Instructor Trainer in paddling, I coach instructors to develop a strong critical eye so they can point out blind spots to their students.
But, it’s not just about helping students improve. The most important thing an instructor can do is turn their critical eye toward themselves.
In fact, it’s the most important thing any of us can do if we’re truly committed to being and doing better in our own lives, and especially in the larger conversation we’re having about race, diversity, justice and equality.
Here are 3 strategies for developing a critical eye and seeing your blind spots:
I always find it interesting when folks in my trainings reply to constructive feedback for improvement with excuses and explanations as to why they do it their way. Their defensiveness keeps them from actually getting value out of a course that they’ve paid for.
Wouldn’t it pay off to get curious? Why do I do it that way? Would doing it differently be better, more fun and more beneficial? Why was I taught that way or why did I think that was good for me and others?
Admitting you don’t know, you’ve been ineffective or you can do better doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you’ve had a blind spot keeping you from being your best and most effective self.
Don’t be afraid to be curious and ask questions of yourself and others. Trying something new or looking at something in a new context may be the best thing you ever do for yourself. The bottom line is you’ll never know until you try.
Words, Actions, Thoughts
In paddling I ask my instructor candidates to focus on the ‘3 Bs’ when developing a critical eye. The 3 Bs are boat/board, body and blade. Observing one or all three help you determine what the student can improve in their paddling.
Off the water observing our words, actions and thoughts give us clues to determine how we can be and do better in any area.
Are the words you’re speaking to yourself and others in alignment with your goals and who you say you are?
Are your actions both in private and in the public sphere in alignment with your goals and who you say you are?
Are your thoughts about yourself and others in alignment with your goals and who you say you are?
If you’re feeling an inner conflict about something it may mean that you’re out of integrity with who you say you are. Go back to the first strategy and get curious as to how you can align your words, actions and thoughts with who you say you are AND who you say you want to become.
And remember, we’re going for progress not perfection!
Stick to the Facts
As an instructor it’s not enough to see the areas for improvement. An effective instructor/coach is able to also communicate how to improve effectively.
One of the keys to effective feedback is to stick to the facts. Don’t make it personal. Someone’s paddling ability is not a reflection of their self-worth. It’s also true that your misalignments, pitfalls and failures are not a reflection of your self-worth.
You’re going to make mistakes. That’s OK. Clean them up.
Don’t resist your mistakes and don’t make excuses for them.
If I flip over or take a swim on the river because I missed my boof stroke, or wasn’t in the right place I don’t blame the river for being too harsh on me. I don’t say that because I had good intentions of making my line the river should have spared me from flipping. That would be ridiculous.
Facts are facts. I missed my line and I flipped. What’s there to do? Learn from it, stay humble and do better next time. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible paddler and should never try to paddle again. Or that everyone I paddle with thinks I’m terrible (that’s their business if they do), or that no one wants to paddle with me again.
When turning your critical eye on yourself and giving yourself feedback remember to stick to the facts. Drop the story, roll up and keep going!
I feel deeply that this is an important time for all of us to take a critical look at ourselves, and the society and institutions that we’ve inherited. This is not the time to be afraid. You have what it takes. I have what it takes. To sit with discomfort, listen and get curious about what this moment is asking of us. One thing I do know for sure, the more we resist and cling to old excuses and ways of being, the more suffering we will experience.
It’s time for change and anyone who has spent time improving their paddling skills knows that it’s uncomfortable, feels awkward and frustrating sometimes. Yet the results are worth it.
I invite you to try on a critical eye. How does it feel and how is it challenging you? I’m here to support you in the discomfort. I’m just an email away.