The Illusion of Choice
If you’ve been reading along the past few weeks, I hope you have noticed a theme focused on goal-setting, accountability, and choice. The transition to outdoor track leaves us with about 10-11 weeks left of the spring semester. Still plenty of time to address goals, decision-making, and time management strategies for our outdoor season. Hold this thought for a moment.
Last week I purchased Getting to Neutral by Trevor Moawad. A couple of years ago he released his best selling book It Takes What It Takes. In Trevor’s new book, he shares stories of how coaches have implemented his teachings around the topic of remaining neutral in moments of stress, anxiety, happiness, and joy. On page 30 of Getting to Neutral Trevor included a section about the illusion of choice. Essentially we have choices and decisions to make all throughout the day. In some instances, however, it seems as though we have the illusion of choice.
In any endeavor we find value in pursuing, there will be decisions to make along the way. Decisions that on the surface may seem inconsequential in the moment, but that may lead us down a path away from the goal we ultimately aspire to achieve. The illusion of choice.
I shared this concept with one of my throwers this week. Along with a couple of snippets from Trevor’s Instagram page where he discusses this illusion of choice with Division I football and basketball players. The response I received back from my athlete was, “Coach, I’ve never thought about it that way before.”
Autonomy is something I share quite a bit of with the throwers I coach. We have a specific schedule in place with regards to throwing and weight room times. The events we emphasize during each throwing session might vary based on the physical and mental condition the throwers come to practice in. I believe that flexibility is very important. It allows each thrower to be accountable for their session based on how they feel, whether they will be late because they are coming from a class, leaving early to go to class, etc.
Autonomy, in essence, is about choice. Allowing others to dictate the direction (in this case throwing) they want to head down. But sometimes there is the illusion of choice. Something I’ve never really discussed with all my athletes before, but with a few that had higher aspirations of throwing compared to their peers.
In the goal-setting process, when thinking about outcome and process goals, process goals offer a great deal of autonomy to our athletes. Winning those individual moments (process goal items) will give us a better opportunity towards ultimately achieving our outcome goal. There is a choice. But the illusion of choice.
Oftentimes in order to achieve our goals we really aren’t afforded many choices. You aren’t going to throw far (your definition of far) by not throwing. It’ll be much more difficult to finish an Ironman Triathlon race if we just show up one day without having trained to swim for 2.1 miles, ride our bikes for 116 miles, and run 26.2 miles all in the same day with time limits. We can say to ourselves that everything will be ok and work out alright, but will it?
Getting back to our throwing example, there are certain habits and routines that the very best of the best throwers prioritize in their day-to-day lives. They have a choice to either complete them or not, but not doing so would put them behind their competitors who are going above and beyond to be the best, too! So, when you say you want to be the best, the choice is yours. Or is it.
Dr. Charles Infurna
Charles Infurna, Ed.D., is the owner and lead coach of Forza Athletics Track Club. Dr. Infurna has coached National Record Holders, National Champions, All-Americans, and Conference Champions at the Post-Collegiate, Collegiate, and High School level.