Have you ever stopped to consider how much we can learn from nature and the animal kingdom? They both teach us about the importance of patience, perseverance, consistency, and repetition. Furthermore, these traits are vital for all growth and improvement. When we embrace these traits into our lives, we have magnificent keys to improve and perform at our best. A dive into the world of dolphin training reveals great lessons for helping us achieve more of what we want.
Dolphin training includes rewarding small and consistent wins
To train a dolphin requires several skills. First up, a large amount of curiosity and patience is required by the trainer. Add to this repetitive tasks, time and rewards. Lastly, a focus on minute, continuous incremental improvements. For example, when a dolphin is presented with a floating buoy mounted on a stick, she will circle it cautiously and emit sonar sweeps to ascertain if it’s dangerous. When she is satisfied, she will approach the buoy. As she approaches, the trainer reinforces this behaviour by blowing a whistle and then rewarding the dolphin with a fish. Gradually, over time, the trainer throws the fish nearer and nearer the buoy until she is rewarded only when her nose tip touches the target.
Over time dolphins can be trained to do many things, as we witness at spectacular dolphin shows. One much loved trick is to watch dolphins jump through hoops that are gradually moved higher and higher. The dolphin is meticulously trained to achieve this and the trainer focuses on gradually moving the hoop higher. Each time the dolphin is successful in jumping through the raised hoop she gets another fish. Consistent wins are the aim. If the dolphin misses the target the trainer lowers the bar to where the dolphin was achieving. This helps increase the dolphin’s ability to adapt to her training environment and consistently jump higher.
The concept of incremental gains has been widely adopted in sports to improve performance
Consistent wins and repetition to achieve great performances are vital to all success. Another great example of incremental wins is seen in the sporting world. Specifically in the phenomenal results of Team Sky, the British Cycling Team. Under the directorship of Sir David Brailsford, they achieved this goal in 2012. Both David Brailsford and Bradley Wiggins were knighted for their efforts. Furthermore, they have continued their success and have currently won five Tour de France races.
One of the methods David Brailsford used was the concept he refers to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” David explains it as the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do. His belief is that if you improve every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, those small gains add up to remarkable improvement. He looked at everything, from gear, massage oils, sleeping patterns as well as training methodologies. Minute and consistent wins in all areas created magnificent results for the team. Furthermore, incremental improvements, reflection and feedback are an integral part of a mindset for success.
The aggregate of marginal gains is similar to consistent wins in dolphin training
Here’s how to use this methodology to achieve more of what you want.
- First, pick a goal. Decide what you want to achieve and why.
- Next, imagine yourself having achieved it. See, hear and feel what is going on. Be there with all your senses.
- Now, create a plan. In the planning phase, reverse engineer and write down the steps required to achieve the goal.
- Create milestones along the way and decide what the first few steps are.
- Schedule the actions and tasks in your diary.
- Consider your commitment and consider the things you can control. These include, how you show up, what you think, the stories you tell yourself about the goal. Will it be hard or easy? Fun or boring? A healthy challenge or a scary big one?
- These are the parameters to review and continually improve. If you hear yourself saying how hard it is, change your thought to a better one. Such as, every day it is getting easier.
When it comes down to the action steps, if you miss your target, slip up or fall, remember what dolphin trainers do when dolphins miss the target? They lower the target. Go back a step or maintain the current rate of progress until it becomes familiar. Habits are crucial foundations for all success. Furthermore, consistency and commitment are essential ingredients. Instead of looking for the large and dramatic improvement, consider the compounding effect of small 1% improvements in habits and decisions.
Rewards for small successes are important in the overall success
Dolphins are given rewards in the way of fish. Reward yourself, especially your consistent wins. Of course, food may not be the best reward, so instead simply hi five yourself, tick off the win and have a small celebration with yourself. The achievement of completing a task creates an inner joy that energies you to keep working towards the larger goal.
Celebrating and rewarding also helps guard the brain’s natural tendency to be pessimistic. Furthermore, to prevent you from falling into negative stories or a negative mindset of how hard it is, how you aren’t good enough, and then giving up. Moreover, tiny actions and small wins lead to great accomplishments. Consistent actions taken despite your mood or the environment create habits and habits are something all champions cultivate. As habits are stored in your subconscious mind, which is the part that drives the majority of your behaviours, good habits will help you take the right actions.
You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you show up. What you do, what you think and what you say. Programming yourself correctly determines how you show up on the day. Roger Bannister, who was the first person to break the four-minute mile says:
‘It’s so important not to fall prey to the thought that today is not the day.’
Self Belief is a critical part of all success
On the day Roger Bannister attempted to break the four minute mile, the weather wasn’t the best. However, he refused to let this influence his race. He had trained consistently in all areas, spending hours physically training, visualising and working on his mindset; his attitude and beliefs. He had a total belief that he could achieve his goal, despite what other people thought.
An important part of a winning strategy is to remember to focus on actions not outcomes. Furthermore, this helps avoid quitting or feeling despondent. What I call, falling into the gap. The gap is that immense void that lies between where you are now and where you want to be. We need to cultivate patience and allow time to achieve our goals. However, we prefer instant rewards. We are generally impatient which means sticking to our routine or regime is hard. Moreover, achieving great things requires delaying gratification.
Focus on creating essential keystone habits
By focusing on daily and weekly actions you help establish keystone habits which become essential to your success. Recording consistent wins and slowing down, going back a step and repeating until successful is important. When you do this, you focus on the behaviours required to achieve success. These are identity based behaviours. Focusing on what is required to be the person you desire to be to achieve the success you desire.
Finally, remember, there is no growth in your comfort zone, yet it’s where we prefer to sit. Potential is fulfilled and results gained only when we live outside this zone.
Next time you watch a flawless dolphin show, a cycling race or running race, remember the training required and the ingredients necessary. Persistence, patience, reflection, feedback and belief. Rewards, reviewing progress and altering if the desired results are not gained. This is how to ultimately build consistent wins to achieve your desired results.
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