Mindset of an Observer: How it Helps and Tips for Putting it into Practice

Observing as a Coach

When I became a high school head football coach in 2015, one of the first and most noticeable changes for me was taking a step back during practice and observing. For portions of practice, I had no specific coaching responsibility, so I just observed the coaches and the players. I was surprised to notice the different styles in the coaches and the differences between the players.

As much as I wish I had started out as a head coach with my philosophy and core values completely nailed down, in some ways I was really just starting to create it. I had never taken a step back and just observed practice like this before. Through this process, I learned a ton about myself and the program that I wanted to create.

One example was recognizing how much I loved watching a player who is always showing maximum effort, regardless of their skill level. This might seem obvious to anyone who has ever coached but what jumped out at me was how excited I would get to watch a player go all out. It was more than any other time during practice. I could feel the excitement and energy go through my blood. On the flip side, I also found myself very frustrated when I saw a player not giving full effort. This process helped me realize just how important this was to me and became one of my most important values that I would communicate to players.

My point is that observation helped me identify what was truly important to me. This translates directly to our lives. We all catch ourselves on auto-pilot, living through our habits and routines and reacting impulsively.

Benefits to Observing:

When we take a step back to observe, the goal is not to judge the other people in our lives – players, family members, co-workers. It’s to observe how we react and feel about the situations that are presented to us. We can then identify those things that get us really excited or really frustrated. We can take these things we learn about ourselves and use them to develop our core values and principles.

Observe to Learn About Yourself:

~ Translating your experience as an observer into creating your core values takes some time and reflection. It is not something that happens one time. If you have never created your own philosophy or core value/principles, try to pick just one thing that you notice coming up consistently. See how you can use this as guide for your decisions.

Failing at Observing is Helpful, so Sign Me Up!

~ If you are like me, then when you first try to be an observer, you will feel like you “failed.” Instead of sitting back and observing, you may get caught up in a moment and pulled into whatever is going on. Immediately afterword thinking to yourself, “oh yeah, I was supposed to be an observer.”

You may feel in that moment like you failed, but it is important to remember that it’s not a failure - it’s the point of the exercise. The key is to take time to reflect on what got you off your intended path. Then pay attention to how this plays out in other areas of your life.

Develop a Mindfulness Routine and Observation Becomes a Huge Advantage

~ The most helpful way to develop this observation mindset is through mindfulness meditation. The science behind meditation is what intrigued me to start this practice in my life. A short, daily mindfulness practice has huge benefits for our brains.

To explain it simply, one benefit to meditating is that it slows down the brainwaves that have become automatic in your brain, like impulsive decision making. It also strengthens and opens up the brainwaves to the reasoning parts of our brain. Increasing the likelihood of making a well thought out decision. (This article the explains the science more of this in detail.)

By spending 5 to 10 minutes a day training your brain, you greatly increase your chances of making conscious decisions that align with your core values and/or help you reach your goals. In addition, you reduce the chances of making impulsive, auto-pilot decisions that may not align with your core values or helping you reach your goals.

I don’t believe there is a good reason, not to try this out. You will see surprisingly helpful results within a week of this mental training.

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