Don’t Change Habits That Got You Here

On this podcast, Cary Kolat and Matt Dernlan discuss Chapter 9, “Build Habits”, from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. The episode kicks off with congratulations to Kolat and Campbell Wrestling winning their conference title and conference championships. Campbell qualified six wrestlers for the NCAA Championship in Pittsburgh. Kolat is getting his team prepared and peaked physically but mostly mentally. This chapter reminds Dernlan a lot about wrestling before championships. This week and next will test all the habits wrestlers have built up throughout the year. Both Kolat and Dernlan have seen many wrestlers that think it’s a good idea to break or change their habits a week before the NCAA tournament. People start to second guess themselves and their preparation. Kolat explains how to not let self-doubt creep into your psyche by organizing your goal into segments.

Environment is Crucial (5:10)

Throughout this book, the authors iterate the same beliefs in many different ways. Dernlan believes this is crucial for wrestling programs and for life in general. Environment reflects on performance by reinforcing or deterring habits. Kolat talks about how important it is to keep the wrestling room environment the same from regular season to prepping his team for the NCAA Championship. The whole team is not going but it is still important for those who made the cut, to see and feel the same environment in the training room. This goes back to building habits. Kolat didn’t have to tell those who didn’t qualify that they had to stick around and help the others whose seasons aren’t over. Expectations and habits are ingrained. Just because your season is over, there are still goals the entire team is trying to achieve.

Action Triggers (12:20)

Deciding to execute a certain action every time you’re proposed with a specific situation is called an action trigger. Kolat uses phrases that he repeats to his team to instill actions into their minds. For example, when Kolat calls out “Hesitation,” his wrestlers respond, “Will kill your career.” Hesitation can cost you a match. Kolat goes on to say, “You shoot to the finish, you don’t shoot to the leg”. Kolat had certain triggers for himself that signaled it was go time. Before getting on the mat, he would pull on the straps of his singlet and stomp his feet. In every sport, athletes use these verbal or non-verbal rituals to put their mind in the zone. They are repeatable patterns to create a gateway to get you to compete at your highest level.

Build Your Reputation (21:30)

Both winning and losing become habits. This doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t stick around without constant nurture. Successful programs replicate their success because they’re culturally established. When one generation graduates the next generation steps in believing they’re ready for it because of what they’ve witnessed from those before them. Growing up Dernlan saw his brothers winning state titles and believed he could easily do the same thing too. Kolat is building that mindset at Campbell. When you put on a Campbell singlet, you are expected to win. Dernlan speaks to how this isn’t done overnight and Kolat’s recent success is due to his 5 years at Campbell putting in the hard work.

Autopilot (34:09)

Dernlan talks about staying on autopilot. Stick to your habits and patterns you’ve created throughout the season. Trust that process and be confident in the outcome. After the end of the season, reflect and see what needs to be changed for next year.  

RUDIS Gear in this Episode

Cary is wearing a USA Merit Adult Full Zip Hoodie in Gray:

Matt is wearing a Sly Fox Quarter Zip in Black:

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