Topmind Blogs

How hungry are you?

How hungry are you?




Bart Vriends is a 25-year-old professional soccer player. For the past three years he has played for Go Ahead Eagles, and was twice jointly responsible for his team’s promotion. He was the captain of the team for two years and the absolute favourite of the very loyal and fanatical Eagles’ fans.



Although various other national and international clubs were also interested in him, Bart recently made the transfer to Sparta Rotterdam. The last two years have been very fruitful for Bart, to a great extent in the mental development he has achieved.



We met about two years ago after a short workshop that I gave for the board, sponsors and some players of his former club. He called me the day after to ask if I would like to work with him.



The distance between Deventer and Haarlem is 130 km or 1½ hours by car, and he was prepared to show up once a week for months on end to undergo the TopMind training sessions. And last but not least he was even prepared to pay the training fee out of his own pocket. The fact that he was willing to make all these sacrifices showed his enormous commitment to get better.



Can you predict your own or others’ personal growth?


After ten years working with professional athletes, entrepreneurs and managers I’m quite accurate at assessing in advance whether progress will be made. This case with Bart was certainly set for success. What were the reasons specifically? And how can you predict your own or others’ personal growth?





The chance of success can be assessed with a very simple formula that I learned from one of my teachers, Martin Appelo. He wrote a book that I can recommend you read: “Waarom veranderen (meestal) niet lukt” (Why change (often) does not happen). In this book Martin introduces a very simple formula that predicts the chances of positive and lasting change.



The formula is as follows: Sustained change = (1) Distress x (2) Internal attribution x (3) Self Discipline



Ad 1. ‘Distress’ the first variable, is the perceived discomfort one experiences from a situation or problem in combination with the awareness of the opportunities for a realistic alternative. So BOTH discomfort and seeing a realistic positive outcome is what is meant here.



Ad 2. ‘Internal attribution’ the second variable, is the ability to attribute the reasons for a solution to it to within yourself. This is the opposite of blaming others or blaming something outside your own control. Are you able to attribute the situation and the causes to yourself?



Ad 3. ‘Self-discipline’ the third variable,  I explain as the intrinsic motivation to get to know yourself. Self-discipline often causes a certain resistance or discomfort owing to the erroneous notion that it is something unpleasant, difficult to attain, and which requires a lot of effort and sacrifice.





But actually when you see where the word ‘Discipline’ comes from it gains a totally different connotation. Discipline comes form the Latin word ‘disciplina’ which literally means ‘instruction, or knowledge’. The word ‘Disciple’ comes from the Latin word ‘discipulus, which means ‘to learn’. Or some say it comes from ’dispicere, which means ‘to grasp intellectually, analyse thoroughly’.



Self-discipline has in this context not so much to do with willpower, pain or wilful striving but it says something about your willingness to learn about yourself.



As with all multiplications, when one variable of the formula equals zero the outcome equals zero. So if ‘distress,’ ‘internal attribution’ and ‘self-discipline’ exceed zero, sustained positive change will be realized.






Let’s see this in the practical context of Bart.





Bart felt uncomfortable because some games went well and some did not, and he didn’t understand where this came from. Somehow he felt he didn’t have influence on his own performance. In front of a very critical audience of thousands, being the public favourite, you can imagine that it is an uncomfortable situation. On top of that he was at a ‘make or break’ point in his career. The previous period with FC Utrecht was less successful and this was the moment he had to prove that he was ‘major league material’.



Moreover after the TopMind workshop he saw an upside in the possibility to improve mentally through deliberate training just like he already does for the physical and technical aspects. So the factor distress, being the discomfort he felt and the awareness of a realistic alternative clearly exceeded zero.



Internal attribution


As becomes clear in the video, the variations in his performance and a possible solution to it he attributed to himself and not to his teammates, coach or other outside factors.



Self discipline


Last but not least Bart was very motivated to learn about himself about his own behaviour and thinking patterns. Because of this he was willing to drive 260 km a week for months in a row, pay for the training himself and do the practice that needed to be done in order to advance.



All factors of the formula were significantly greater that zero, which resulted in a enormous gain in growth, as can be seen from his performance in recent years.



He made a big step and so can you … and the only relevant question here is:



How HUNGRY are you to get better?






But in the meantime, like Bart does, keep your eye on the ball!