A Lesson from Little League Baseball: Kick the Critic OUT!

[really_simple_share]I’ve noticed lately how sometimes I can bring a lot of angst into my work. Especially when things seem important, all of a sudden every detail becomes critical, and then I feel a lot of stress about getting it done, and doing it right. I’ve been wondering, how helpful is this angst and stress to our performance and results?

Thinking about this reminded me of Little League baseball when I was a kid. Have you ever been to a Little League game? Can you picture one now?  Well picture this with me:

Two kids are on a baseball field. The first kid is having a great time, playing well, and clearly loving the game. The second kid is struggling—is anxious and concerned, dissatisfied and unhappy with how he is doing.

Notice in the stands, a parent is yelling. It’s a non-stop, loud barrage of “suggestions,” criticisms, and dissatisfaction. You don’t have to guess to know which kid belongs to this demanding, critical parent. It’s very obvious—how could that kid possibly enjoy the game while listening to that type of critical voice?

Some days, that parent isn’t even in the stands—but the parent’s voice sure didn’t miss the game! The voice still rambles on within the kid’s head—still loudly critical, unsatisfied, and disappointed. Still keeping up the pressure to perform and to excel. And still wrecking the game for the kid. He still hears the criticism, even over the shouts of encouragements from coaches, teammates and other parents.

The funny thing is, with all that pressure, that kid is never the star performer. All that criticism does not help his game one bit! The other kid, who is enjoying the game, however, is probably called a “natural.” But is it really natural talent that makes him a better player? Or is it just that his sense of ease about the game simultaneously makes the game fun and allows him to keep his head in the game?

Clearly, angst does not aid performance. But enjoying the game does seem to make quite a difference! And when that critical parent is not in the stands, or when everyone learns to tune him/her out—the whole team seems to do a bit better, and certainly enjoy themselves more.

Fast forward a few decades: you’re sitting at your desk at work, doing your job, and you still hear that critical parental voice, as if it were hovering over you in a grandstand a few feet away. The voice might not be as loud as it once was, but it’s still there, making you anxious and making it impossible to “enjoy the game.” This voice has become your “inner critic.” If you listen to it, it can keep you from finding and experiencing joy and ease in whatever you’re doing.

Take a lesson from Little League: send that annoying parent packing! Tune out that inner critic. We do a lot better, and have much better experiences, when we don’t bring a lot of angst and self criticism to our work. Angst doesn’t add anything to our performance or our results. It simply keeps us from enjoying what we’re doing!

In reality, there is no grandstand. While there are likely others paying attention to the results of your work, no one is really watching your every move, being as critical, and keeping score the way you do! It’s mostly just you, and your own critical voice. It’s time to make a choice: do you want to meet the unrealistic expectations to which you’re still holding yourself? Or do you want to enjoy your life? Remember, the expectations, criticism, and dissatisfaction don’t help your performance or results one bit!

It’s time to choose to banish that critical parental voice from your own personal grandstand. Give yourself a break. Start “playing the game” of whatever you are doing, just for the love of the game.

5 Responses to “A Lesson from Little League Baseball: Kick the Critic OUT!”

  1. Another great article, Rich! I really enjoy the “attitude of abundance” you mention in your previous article – more young attorneys need to read that and practice it early and often. As for this one, I think anyone can relate to being their own critic – managing that takes practice and focus. I used to play semi-professional tennis and many of the lessons I learned from tournaments have carried over quite well into my own practice. I didn’t realize this at the time I was competing but I was, in all honesty, my own best and worst enemy on the court, regardless of who was on the other side of the net.

    • rich says:

      Thank you Leila!
      I agree. In the moment, people rarely see that the ‘critic’ is a separate voice. It just feels like ‘their thoughts’. But once a person gains awareness of the never-ending, insatiable, and joy-killing nature of the critical voice, they also gain more choice to whether to listen to it. And once you realize that all of that angst doesn’t help performance, there is good reason to strive to tune it out!

  2. Gerry B says:

    Awesome article Rich! Now if we could just get this message to all the desk jockeys that seem to come to life in the bleachers at Little League games.

  3. Rich,

    What a great article! I work as a paralegal (and the stress along with it) and also umpire baseball games. I know exactly what you are speaking of with the grandstanding parents/critics – I see it and hear it every game and just watch the tension increase on a players face and his shoulders slump down. If there is a scene, it affects all players from both teams, suddenly no one is into the game. Terrible.
    But I do bring angst to work too, worrying about making sure it’s correct and on-time and scrambling to get the documents prepared and out. So I need to tune my own critic out at work. At games I tune those critics out unless they are making a mockery of the game….I concentrate on the game and joke around with players etc., so they stay happy and light hearded – and it does work. I’m asked to umpire a lot of games from a lot of parents and A LOT of kids, because I relax, call the game and don’t act like a big-shot umpire. So I have one more critic to work on and that is myself!

  4. Gerry B says:

    This just adds to the message in your post. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXLUncbZKbs

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