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An ongoing series about psychology in the world of sport.

The answer is remarkably simple: modifications keep athletes from achieving peak performance! The direct relationship between personality modification and performance is evident. From a psychological point of view, it is imperative that we accept our own personality traits because this leads to the happiest, most successful life. The reason for this is clear: if we are busy forcing characteristics or personality traits on ourselves that are not originally associated with our personality type, then we must work awfully hard. This work is extremely taxing because we focus on something that doesn’t come naturally. Some years ago, some questionable psychologists believed that one could only develop themselves by acquiring new personality traits. They forgot one crucial thing: when we focus on acquiring new personality traits, we suppress our existing traits. These traits become dull because they no longer represent value for us, as we want to be different. This is even truer for those personality characteristics that are further from our innate characteristics. Here is a straightforward example: creativity vs precision. Creativity comes from the free-flowing mind. The more you break away from tradition, the ordinary, and the expected, the more creative things you can produce. Creativity does not work under deadlines; we cannot limit it, but if we try, we weaken it. A genuinely creative personality cannot be highly precise. Freedom and flight of the mind are far from perfect execution and precision. Of course, I know there are always people who think they are the exception and can meet both expectations. They really believe it! Yet that’s not the reality. One can be creative only to a certain extent while being precise, and I would not consider that level of creativity to be true creativity. So, what happens, if we heavily encourage a fundamentally creative person to cultivate precision? We are motivating — or forcing — them to stifle the creative process in favour of perfect execution. The creative mind responds by saying “good, then I’ll start being more precise”, but they still won’t be able to achieve true precision in the long run, and they realise that soaring beyond perfect execution is not an expectation. This will result in a stressed-out person who can produce perfect work, but sooner or later, they will become someone who produces work, and the creative initiative will die, the ideas will fade, and after a while, they will run out of ideas. I have witnessed this process hundreds of times during our organisational development projects. But isn’t a precise person good? Of course they are! So are the people who change! The problem arises in a situation when an unexpected, critical change occurs in the life of the person who self-modified to be precise; the predictable work goes out the window, and unprecedented chaos takes over. That is, big changes make modified people unpredictable. If a modification lasts for years, then not even the modified person will know who they really are.

What does this process look like for athletes? Let us return to some previous examples. There is a Ruler player who is known for his dominance. He is selfish and has never lived his life as a team player, but when playing for a small-town club, he picks up a Supporter personality modification. He becomes likeable, empathetic, and focussed on the team. But during a critical match for the club, after the tactics have been prepared and the team spirit has been elevated, the Ruler player behaves selfishly in critical situations; he does not pay attention to his coach or teammates. If this player is considered an important member from a strategic perspective, then the team tactics will not work because the Ruler player will not cooperate in decisive situations. This is one of the problems with personality modifications. The other is that we can’t use the main advantages of this player. For example, Rulers get the best out of themselves during major crises, but they struggle in supplemental roles. Even if a Ruler plays awfully throughout a game, they can still come up clutch at a crucial moment. Of course, if we plan for the Ruler player to be an average member of the team, then we won’t even realise that we should bring them to the forefront in decisive moments. In other words, we have either turned a player into a ticking timebomb, or on the other hand, we have lost a vital option for our team. Personality modification is a raw deal, isn’t it?

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Castles by Ants – Episode 3: CRISIS IN SPORT

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Castles by Ants – Episode 5: THE IDOL PERSONALITY