What does it mean when someone says, “You’ve changed my life?” How does it make one feel to hear this? I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about life-changing events, how they happen, and what it means to me. Spending time with youth sports organizations allows me to see and hear the ebbs and flows of emotions that coaches, players, and parents experience. Each one of these entities is looking to accomplish a goal, whether written down or not. In a sense, they have a dream of achieving something that has always been a focus point, although they do not always have an understanding of the best way to accomplish it.
During many baseball clinics that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, I’ve had a chance to witness someone going through a “life-changing event.” I’d like to first start off with a phrase that we use in the business world. We call the first piece of it an “AH-HA moment.” This is where something that you’ve been searching for in your mind finally becomes visible. You see it clearly, it makes sense, and you can now understand its purpose. When you watch a young baseball player look at you with amazement and say, “Oh my, I had no idea this was possible!” When that same player shares this emotion with a teammate, a coach and then his parents is when you know he’s had that “AH-HA moment.”
The next element of this life-changing transformation comes in the form of “emotional connection.” This means a person has now internalized the AH-HA moment as real and something that he or she wants to own and fully incorporate into their life. In this second step, a person begins to make the necessary changes to their behavior as it pertains to what they’ve learned. This change has a “positive reinforcement” behind it and helps with self-motivation and enthusiasm for the change. Now, those around this individual will begin to see the change and make comments that will also reinforce and validate the behavioral adjustment.
I’d like to share with you an event that took place near Portland during one of the baseball clinics where I was a guest presenter. During my presentation on the first day, I touched on the differences between Introverts and Extroverts but didn’t fully elaborate their meanings and how to identify these behavior characteristics. I was setting the stage for the next day when we would deep dive into the differences and help these athletes understand how to better communicate with those different from themselves. During this brief discussion, I noticed one young man sitting in front of me about 3 rows back shying away from the discussion. Now it’s not unusual for this to happen, but what made this encounter a bit different was what he did. He tilted his head down and slightly peeked up at me. Almost to say, “Please don’t look my way or encourage me to participate.” His look said, “I’d like to climb into a shell and hide right now.” As we well know, non-verbal communication is as effective as verbal in many instances, and I believed he wanted no part of this conversation.
After my presentation was finished, I decided to hang around for a bit and watch the players’ workout. During the workout, I’d engage a few of them to see how things were going, encourage them to work hard and elicit feedback on the material covered so far. Well, this same young man with the non-verbal communication message earlier walked up with one of his teammates. While his teammate asked a question, he just looked at me. This wasn’t a normal look. This was a look that said, “Please don’t engage me in a conversation. I’m not interested in anything that you are selling.” I answered the other young man’s question and stepped back. What I took away from a second non-verbal encounter with this young man was he didn’t want to be bothered with anyone unless it was on his terms.
During the rest of the day, I’d float from exercise to exercise chatting with players and coaches. Being someone that likes to observe and engage, I found a coach hanging around the batting cages and began chatting with him about his team, his players and his view of the clinic. During our conversation, guess who wanders over? Yes, my good friend the Introvert. This time around, I didn’t even make eye contact with him. I respected this young man’s space to allow him the time he needed to engage with his coach. However, being someone that believes all things happen for a reason, the coach began to share with this young man how he was being observed during the clinic and it had nothing to do with my personal viewpoint.
The observations by the coach were communicated to the young man. The coach shared with the young man how his visible non-verbal communication and body language gave an appearance that could interfere with future opportunities. Not by accident, I was standing there. Mind you, the coach and I didn’t have any discussion about my interaction with this young man until that very moment. The coach asked me to interject and I shared with him my opinion on what I saw earlier. Now this is where the “AH-HA moment” comes in. This young man stood there with a very warm and inviting look on his face after I shared my thoughts and education on personality traits and characteristics. He embraced the education that he received and then preceded to follow through on an exercise that I challenged him to try.
The next morning was where I understood the value of what this young athlete had learned. He walked in with his head held high, his shoulders back, and a smile that would have lit the world. He had come to recognize who he was and what he could become with CHANGE. He was so happy with what he learned that he shared it with his dad, who immediately thanked me with sincere appreciation. What this young man and parent didn’t know was how it changed MY life. It validated my position in life with being a teacher of people. This was a beautiful day with AH-HAs all the way around. Be open and observant for the AH-HA moments in your environment, and the positive emotional connections and constructive change that will follow.