Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The value of optimism - and realism

If you are an England cricket fan, like me, then you need to be an optimist.
If you are an England cricketer you probably need even more optimism.
Put yourself in the shoes of Stuart Broad, a young fast bowler brought on to try to keep the  attacking Indian batsman
Yuvraj Singh quiet in a key 20-20 World Cup match. The first ball goes for 6. These things can happen.
Never mind, try again. Same ball, same result.  In the end, all 6 balls of Broad's over went for 6 - a very unusual occurence,
especially chastening for a fast bowler.
Psychologists such as Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology, would argue that the important thing
here is how people like Stuart Broad, who have just suffered adversity, respond. Seligman urges us
to think in terms of three Ps and when adversity strikes get into the habit of thinking
"This bad thing isn't going to be bad forever- its not Permanent"
"This bad thing isn't all down to me - I'm not going to take it Personally"
"This bad thing isn't going to affect all aspects of my life - it's not Pervasive".
That way, you can shrug off adversity and persevere, your self-confidence intact.
So what did Broad do?
In a recent Evening Standard interview Broad looked back on this in a way that I think would have Seligman nodding in agreement.
It was the wind being against Broad that was to blame "Yuvraj  just had to get it up in the air and it would be going." suggests the young England fast bowler.
One objection to the Seligman approach is that sometimes we need to learn from our mistakes. Fortunately for England, it seems that Broad has done this as well.

The Standard interview continues
    " The wider lesson Broad learnt was "Don't ever bowl two balls the same in one-day cricket".
Two years later that unpredictability has helped him to become the fourth best one-day bowler in the world."

The conclusion I draw is that we should  maintain a careful balance between optimism and realism.
We should look for external factors that have contributed to adversity to maintain our self-belief and then think
about if there are any learning points for us.

In Broad's case his unpredictability has put him into the top 4 one-day bowlers. Now lets see how he does against South Africa!