Todd is an elite performance and mental toughness coach that has worked with tons of professional and olympic athletes to bring out their best and transform them into champions.
He does this through the creation of an alter ego.
The premise of the alter ego is the following.
When we read or watch stories, we get to walk in the footsteps of the main characters of these stories for a few hours. Feel what they feel, experience what they experience. See life from their perspective.
But have you ever considered what it would be like to be able to slip into a particular character or persona’s head space in your own life?
You feel like the character feels. You experience what the character experiences.
As I was reading this book I couldn’t help but get excited to share this concept with lacrosse goalies because Todd has successfully implemented it with athletes of all types as well as singers, actors, entrepreneurs and families.
With the alter ego effect you, in a sense, “become someone else,”, someone more capable of battling the intense challenges you’re facing.
Thus stuff really works for athletes and especially will work with lacrosse goalies.
Explaining the Alter Ego Effect
The problem as goalies in lacrosse is that when we’re faced with a high-stakes situation our unconscious mind takes over.
We get anxious. How many goalies can relate to being extremely nervous before a big game or heading into overtime?
We get overwhelmed. Feeling like making saves and managing the defense is just too much. Feeling too much pressure to carry the team.
We get angry. Slamming our stick against the pipe after a goal.
And no amount of logical thinking or reasoning will get us away from those feelings.
Unconscious problems don’t have rational solutions. But that doesn’t mean a solution doesn’t exist.
Todd Herman’s solution is the alter ego.
If you think about it, we already show up differently in many “fields of play”.
How you act and behave at home, in sports, with friends, in your job, working your hobby – might all differ in some way. We’re showing up as different versions of ourselves all the time. This is natural, and it’s human.
So why not craft the best version of yourself that you want to show up on the lacrosse field?
Instead of trying to take the long road of changing, just step into alter ego that possesses the traits you desire.
People are more driven by gut feelings than thoughts. Unconscious ideas and emotions drive action.
And therein lies the power and reasoning of the alter ego effect.
Create your Alter Ego
Now it’s time to create your alter ego.
First Todd Herman recommends some serious thinking and thought exercises to get super clear.
To get clear about your goals, what would you like to:
Continue experiencing, achieving, getting as a result?
Experience more of, achieve more of?
Start experiencing, or start getting?
Try to focus on things you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell.
If you look, there are already positives you can continue developing. Now you want to add to that. What do you want to:
If you’re struggling with this exercise, think about the traits holding you back and go with their opposites.
This should help us create a list of adjectives to describe how our alter ego shows up to a lacrosse game or practice. We don’t need a list of 20 traits – 3 or 4 will suffice.
Now we’re going to create an alter ego that posses those traits.
In the book, Todd proposes many ways to do this.
You could think of a character (fictional or real) who represents those values. Think of fictional heroes, historical figures, literary characters, celebrities, family members, people you know, animals, objects (race car, robots, gadgets, etc), athletes, etc.
You could also creatively build an alter ego. Herman created an alter ego called “Geronimo” by mixing together Walter Payton, Ronnie Lott, and a tribe of Native American warriors.
Some people choose ancestors, or living relatives and teachers as their alter egos.
Regardless of how you create your alter ego, the best ones will be those with whom you have the deepest emotional connection with.
Give that alter ego a name. Make that alter ego as real as possible.
Example of an Alter Ego
Let’s assume I’m a 16 year old high school goalie – Damon – who just started playing lacrosse. I’m the only goalie on the team so I’m the starter.
Leading up the game I’m filled with nerves. I feel like I’ll let my team down if I give up goals. Each goal that goes in makes me more nervous.
That’s how Damon is.
Now I have my alter ego – Big D.
Big D is a badass. Big D is brave. Big D is energetic.
Damon is nervous. Big D loves the spotlight. Hearing the crowd, seeing the lights. Big D loves when the opposing offense has the ball so he can make a save.
Damon is shy to speak to his team. Big D oozes with passion for lacrosse and confidence in his abilities.
The Totem to Release Your Alter Ego
In the book Todd Herman suggests using something physical in the real world as a method to you step into the alter ego character.
Having a symbol allows you to envelop yourself in the traits rather than trying to think about what the traits are and how you are supposed to create them in yourself (too much brain work)
He calls this a totem and its meant to call forth your alter ego.
Totems are things you can touch and feel. Your imagination is powerful but it’s not the same as experiencing it in the physical world.
When Todd played football his totem was football cards that he would put into his pads that allowed him to become his alter ego.
The activation event is uniting your alter ego, the totem, and the lacrosse game or practice.
Imagine your alter ego living inside the totem. The moment you slip it on, it’s activated.
He gives the example of Anthony, a basketball player who chose Black Panther as his alter ego.
Anthony would activate it the alter ego by wiping his face with a towel then springing from his chair like a panther. Others may put on their shoes and give one stomp, or tap their heels.
Keep the event simple and easy to remember. It must be a physical action though.
Your alter ego isn’t on 24/7 duty. The activation event triggers it.
Scientific Proof of The Alter Ego effect
The fact that the Alter Ego can have a positive effect on your performance is actually backed by science.
Researchers conducted a study where they gave kids a set of keys to open a box. The trick was none of the keys worked.
The first group was not given an alter ego.
The second group was given an alter ego – pretend your Batman.
Guess which group worked longer on the task and with more enthusiasm and less stress?
That’s right – the alter ego crew.
One kid even said – Batman doesn’t give up!
Transforming into an alter ego works.
Alter egos and their impact on sports performance is pretty powerful stuff.
Todd Herman in his book the Alter Ego Effect does a great job of introducing this idea and then providing practical guidance on how an athlete can implement it.
The beauty of the alter ego is that in can be used in different arenas besides sports.
Ever heard of Sasha Fierce? That’s Beyonce’s alter ego. Sasha loves getting up on stage and performing.
Works in business or with your family too.
When you start to take control how you show up, the results you can get can be extraordinary.
The alter ego is pretty powerful stuff and I recommend all lacrosse goalies give it a try.
I’ve just condensed a 272 page book into 1400 words so you can imagine I’ve left out a ton and tried to summarize as much as possible. The full book is worth a read for any athlete:
Plus get free access to my entire lacrosse goalie toolkit!
About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.