Thursday, February 25, 2016

Feeding the Positive Dog

Today's blog was written by Keenan Bailey, a current Notre Dame senior and a student in the Social Foundations of Coaching course taught by Play Like a Champion Founding Director Professor Clark Power and Program Director Kristin Sheehan. Keenan is majoring in American Studies and is from Pompano Beach, FL. He works as a Recruiting Analyst with Notre Dame Football.

Master Your StressThere was once a troubled young boy who traveled from his village deep into the forest to speak with a wise old man. After traveling deep into the forest, the boy found the wise old man and said to him, “I have a problem: I feel like there are two dogs inside of me. One dog is positive, loving and optimistic, but the other dog is negative, angry and pessimistic. I feel like these two dogs are constantly fighting inside of me. I don’t know which dog will win, so I came to seek your advice.” The wise old man laughed and replied, “Boy, the answer to your question is obvious. You say that these two dogs fight inside you, but that you do not know which will win? I know which dog will win…the one you feed the most. So feed the positive dog”.

The American Institute of Stress recently publicized a study revealing that 75% of doctor’s visits are stress-related, that 40% of stressed Americans have less healthy diets than unstressed Americans, and that nearly half of those stressed Americans lose sleep every night. Whether it be unhappiness or unhealthy habits within daily life, or the crippling effect it has on athletic teams, stress is a major debilitating aspect of modern American life. Luckily there is a cure for the daunting epidemic that is stress, and it doesn’t cost a dime! By feeding the positive dog each day, we cultivate the trait of positive energy, which is kryptonite to stress.

Every day we have a choice to feed the negative dog orthe positive dog. It is easy to feed the negative dog, it requires almost no effort at all and is the far more convenient option. On the other hand, consistently feeding the positive dog requires sacrifice and commitment, but the effects of feeding the positive dog reveal that the sacrifices to do so are far overshadowed by the benefits of cultivating positive energy.

In her landmark research, University of North Carolina psychologist Dr. Barbara Fredrickson tested the effect of negative and positive thoughts on the human brain, and her findings revealed extraordinary results! After hundreds of experiments, Fredrickson discovered that positive thought expands the brain and broadens cognition. Ultimately her research highlighted the benefit of positive thought in providing a competitive advantage, as the broader perspectives granted by positive thought promote more efficient and productive performance in decision making.

When coaches feed the positive dog, they cultivate positive thought and subsequently eliminate the negative effects that stress would otherwise inflict. These positive coaches experience expanded cognition and are more effective decision makers, which results in more victories. Further, if coaches instill this same choice, to feed the positive dog each day, within his team then the result is one cohesive group of stressless, effective decision makers.

Feeding the positive dog at the start of training camp, when the possibilities of a new season are abundant, is easy. So is feeding the positive dog when the team is winning. However, feeding the positive dog after a difficult loss, or in the middle of a sloppy practice is much harder to do. In the end, feeding the positive dog in every instance will benefit not only the coach, but the team that he or she oversees. When compared to the power of positive energy, the hindrance of stress appears to be nothing but a small temptation, so I challenge you to make a commitment to yourself, to your team, to a stressless lifestyle and to positive thought.

Which dog will win the fight? That’s simple. Whichever dog you feed more. 

Feed the Positive Dog.

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