Releasing High Potential

By: Dr. Richard Young

Kurt Lewin pictured above

Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) was a psychologist who studied group behaviour and change. He was convinced that exhibiting or not exhibiting desirable behaviour was the result of two kinds of forces in every situation: driving forces and restraining forces.

A driving force can be the goal and the restraining forces can be your other obligations.  To achieve a change the harder-slower way is to increase the driving forces (more push) and the smarter-faster way is to decrease the restraining forces (more pull). Adding or subtracting. Fixing or creating.

We know there is a difference in performance between those focusing on driving forces and those focusing on restraining forces. Often unnoticed forces. The inspirational talk from the leader or head coach on what we need to do, what needs to happen and why often raises the thought of restraining forces (why we can’t) in the team when the system is tuned mostly to driving forces. Optimized systems balance push and pull.

Rob Steckley when coaching Lucie Safarova – Roland Garros 2015, photo courtesy of Peter Figura

Although it has a positive frame ‘we have a lot of potential’, it could also be an excuse for not knowing what the obstacles are that we need to remove. Life feels harder. We feel surrounded by unknowns. Progress is slower. And there is a system that is behind this struggle that needs tuning. And some remain here, untuned for a long while.

To move to high performance the restraining forces are minimized to uncover the performance buried within the potential. High performance is not a driving force problem. Listen to any athlete interview before or after a Games and you will hear the clear driving forces in their world! ‘I came to win’; ‘It all came together for me today’; ‘It did not happen today but training starts tomorrow for the next Games’….

Restraining forces happen not only at the top, they are visible throughout the athletes journey. When these are recognized and subtracted performance accelerates. We are seeing more athletes move from novice to medalist within a 4 year cycle. And it is not because of talent; great talent can be buried like great performance. 

Potential is converted to performance with active reduction of restraining forces.  Knowing what to add AND what to subtract and when is the art of great coaching and leadership.

Are you pushing more driving force into performance or pulling more restraining force off performance? Adding conceals. Subtracting reveals.

Dr.Richard Young, Contributing Editor for ONcourt and Founder of Simplify2Perform

For more from Dr Richard Young, visit

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