"We should win every game next season"
That's what one of our stronger minded players said to me the other day. And I disagreed totally. Of course, I agree that winning every game would be a brilliant outcome. The problem is that reality is rarely so kind as to follow the most desirable course of events.
What if we get a couple of key injuries, feel rusty and play below our best in the first game of the season and lose? That's the entire plan for the year out of the window in April.
Let's go the other way and say we win the first eight matches. We are on top of our game. We are steam-rollering everyone. Then we come up against a pro who is on fire. We play hard, fight toe to toe and are vanquished in the last over in a game of incredibly high standards.
The plan to win every game is gone again. This time, through no lack of effort or ability from West, but an epic battle that went all the way.
For me, it's the word "should" that is the problem.
As soon as we say "should" we compare ourselves to other team's talents.
Comparison based on talent is a fixed mindset. We expect to win because we are better. Any loss is down to your innate ability as a cricket team.
And even a moment of thought about this makes you realise that is not how the world works.
The best team doesn't always win the match.
Worse than that, failure hits you hard. Really hard.
You can't understand why you lost (because you "should" have won) so you start making excuses. You blame yourself and look to change clubs or quit the game. You blame others and start pointing fingers. You blame the weather, the pitch, the outfield or the time of year. Anything, as long as it's not that you are not as good as you thought you were.
So, I want to say,
"Remember, when we strive to play our best we always succeed."
The achievement might well be the same (winnning every game) but this is not just rephrasing the same sentiment. It's a totally different mindset and team culture.
In this culture, winning is important but it's not the ultimate indicator of success. Winning or losing is not the direct result of how good a team is. So why set yourself a goal that you don't control?
The better aim is to work as hard as possible to improve and be as good as you can.
That means doing things within your control to be your best. It means focusing on the things you can control. It means admitting what went wrong if you lose and learning from to come back stronger.
It means focusing on improving, not proving.
We know from research that team cultures based on personal and team growth increase the chance of success over cultures based on fixed mindsets. So even if your only aim is to win every game, doing it from a growth culture is still more effective.
It's a no-brainer.
Drop the "should" and focus on things that work: effort, determination, focus and constant improvement.