Updated: Mar 8
“Empathy is really important…. Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our full potential.” - Jane Goodall
Part 1 of developing empathy and becoming a better athlete.
If you are going to develop mastery and be your best self, it takes time, focus, and a selfish obsession. Because the pursuit of mastery is rooted in having a selfish obsession, it can often cause athletes to become too focused on themselves or too egocentric. Over time, if left unchecked, they will show less empathy for others and be less considerate of others opinions and feelings. This behavior can be detrimental to an athlete’s performance. The reason being, it can make them feel isolate and anxious.
Because the pursuit of mastery is rooted in having a selfish obsession, it can often cause athletes to become too focused on themselves or too egocentric. Over time, if left unchecked, they will show less empathy for others and be less considerate of others opinions and feelings. This behavior can be detrimental to an athlete’s performance. The reason being, it can make them feel isolate and anxious.
One source of anxiety and isolation stems from egocentric thoughts, “An egocentric person may believe that all eyes are on them and that every move or decision they make is noticed by others (Clarke, 2019).” This type of thinking is defined as cognitive bias.
Here are some cognitive biases that can distort thinking; and influence beliefs, decisions, and judgments: (Cherry, 2021)
a. The Confirmation Bias is when a person listens, more often, to information that confirms their existing beliefs. E.g., only noticing the bad calls that a referee makes in a game.
b. The Hindsight Bias involves seeing events, including random events, as more predictable than they are. E.g., believing you knew all along that you were going to win the game, once the game has ended.
c. The Anchoring Bias, to be overly influenced by the first piece of information that is heard. E.g., a high school basketball coach tells Jonny he is the best player on the team. As a result, Jonny feels like he needs to live up to this by scoring the most points every game and by shutting down his opponent every time he plays defense.
d. The Misinformation Effect is where memories are heavily influenced by things that happened after the actual event. E.g., an athlete thinks she performed really well in the game, only to be told that her performance was subpar by the coach. She quickly goes from being proud to feeling upset by the way she performed.
e. The Actor Observer Bias is when you attribute your actions to external influences and other people’s actions to internal ones. E.g., external and personal actions, an athlete blames her poor performance on the opponent because they were cheating. Internal and other people’s actions, when you say a teammate performed poorly because you think she sucks and isn’t athletic, not because the other team was cheating.
f. The Self-Serving Bias is when an athlete gives herself/himself credit for success, yet lay the blame for failure on outside causes. E.g.. an athlete believes he made the starting lineup because he works the hardest and is the most dedicated member of the team; if he doesn’t end up on the starting line up, it’s because the coach doesn’t like him.
It’s easy to let cognitive biases influence your thoughts and actions. When left unchecked, your egocentric mindset clouds your judgement and decision making. It’s in these moments you feel like all eyes are on you and you think that people are being critical of your every move. In reality, it’s likely all in your head.
Tips For Curbing Your Egocentric Thoughts: (Clarke, 2019)
a. Take a timeout and slow things down, “Slowing down can help you to clarify what it is that needs to be decided, considering how your decision may impact those around you.”
b. Look up and see the world around you. When you get too focused on what you want to accomplish, you literally put your blinders on and hard charge the direction you want to go. It’s important to just stop and take a moment to look up. When you stop and look up, you are able to reflect and appreciate the progress you’ve made. It also gives you an opportunity to check in with your team of support for insights.
c. Take a chance and be willing to put faith in others. When you stop and reflect, take a moment to identify all the people who are standing by to help and support you. Examine whether your egocentric behaviors caused you to lose faith in them. “As you look around and notice who is standing by you, take a chance to let someone show you what they can do. Not only are you practicing walking through your fears but allowing someone who cares about you to get close.”
d. Be present. “All of us want to live well and it never feels comfortable when others see our mistakes. Staying present allows us to practice navigating uncomfortable situations, learning that we can move through them and still be okay.” When we are able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities and shortcomings, we are able to move past them.
Remember, even though you have a selfish passion for something, life can’t always be about you! If you are truly going to develop and excel, you not only need your team of support, you also need to be available to support your team as well.
Stay tune for the next blog on strengthening your empathy for others.
Cherry, K. (2021, January 20). Types of Cognitive Biases That Distort How You Think. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/cognitive-biases-distort-thinking-2794763
Jodi Clarke, M. (2019, June 29). Do You Have an Egocentric Person in Your Life? Look for These Signs. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-egocentric-4164279
MeQuilibrium. (2014, April 01). Looking For More Purpose? Look Beyond Yourself. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/mindfulness-practice_b_4683073