As some of you might know, in a previous life, I was a Coaching Instructor. I worked with soccer Coaches of all shapes, sizes and flavors. It was a passion for me. I also Coached many youth teams, worked camps, served as State Staff, and worked with the Olympic Development Program. It is a wonderful sport, when done right, as any sport is.

There was a condition that some players and even coaches would suffer in different settings. It might start out mild and then progress to a debilitating stage. My friend Karl Dewazien, State Director of Coaching for California Youth Soccer, taught me how to recognize this and how to limit it’s effect.

The condition is called “Paralysis through Overanalysis

This happens when a player, or coach, or anyone, is placed through so much scrutiny that they quit trying to perform. They operate under the false assumption that inaction is preferred over acting and making a mistake. Under the right conditions, mistakes produce a great deal of learning and a great starting point for understanding where to start a program of development.

I hold no degrees. I have a couple of National Coaching certificates and some years of experience seeing this play out. I can relate how I have dealt with it within myself, and with people I have come in contact with, and have had the privilege to train.

Here are some things I’ve leaned to help keeping your environment “Paralysis free”

  1. Create an environment that is safe to fail in. Not just in “lip service”, but in all meanings of the word.
  2. Create trust in what you say. You have to be consistent in your approach to critiquing. Is has to be fair, honest and non judgmental.
  3. Create integrity in who you are. Know that when you are “Coaching”, the same person shows up every day.
  4. Never demean or belittle. You have the same goals as the people you are training, honest effort and improvement.
  5. Trust that your “team” is trying their best.
  6. Establish a starting point. Determine where each team member is, personally, and develop a plan of improvement from that point. Don’t compare to others, it’s a personal plan.
  7. Keep the focus about improving their game.

I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Don Giannatti. He is a mentor and an inspiration. He is a commercial photographer, a designer, agency owner and teacher. He heads up www.project52.org. It’s a program for photographers to improve and pursue their dreams of becoming a full time photographer by doing weekly assignments and receiving weekly critiques. I have been involved in it for the last couple of years and have had a blast.

One thing that is truly unique to Don’s group is the spirit of the participants. They come from all backgrounds and ability levels. they are not afraid to ask questions. They all are sincere in their quest for self improvement and being helpful to others within the group. Don keeps the emphasis on improving their game.

I can go through an incredible amount of examples of encouragement and bonding that happen in this unique group. But I suggest you just go there and find out yourself.

So what if you find yourself in this situation personally? Step away from toxicity and negativity. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unattainable expectations. You can do your best. That’s all that is humanly possible. Try to compartmentalize your efforts/quest as one thing, and who you are as a person as another.

The big thing is to step back and minimize. As a photographer, put away gear and just use a point and shoot camera or your phone to discover your images. Being uncluttered means there will be less things to worry about going wrong.

But the biggest thing of all is to enjoy the journey and don’t look back.

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