Perception is Reality but It’s Not Usually 20/20: The Positives and Negatives of Performance Perception Drift

Posted on Aug 10, 2016 in blog, featured

Perception is Reality but It’s Not Usually 20/20: The Positives and Negatives of Performance Perception Drift

Part #2 – The Under-Estimator

Last week dove into the concept of performance perception drift (PPD) and discussed the pros and cons of being an Over-Estimator. This week’s newsletter will look at the cautious cousin, the under-estimator and is brought to you by four of at least five of our favorite related quotes:



“Discretion is the better part of valor.”


“He that fights and runs away, may turn and fight another day; but he that is in battle slain, will never rise to fight again.”


“Better safe than sorry.”


“The slowest way to go is fast in the wrong direction.”
-Coach Tom


As a coach, I reference these all the time with my athletes. Contrary to popular belief it is just as hard, if not harder in some cases, to get many of my athletes to take a step back to rest, recover, and well…. live to race and train another day.

As I mentioned last week, having an external resource (coach, friend, spouse) to provide you with feedback on how you are doing can be critical to managing PPD. This goes for both the over and under estimator.

All of the quotes listed above have their place no matter where you fall in the athletic spectrum and speak to the pros that go with being an under estimator.


  • You stay within your limits and are less likely to experience injury, burnout, and overtraining. Because of this, you are able to train more consistently and make steadier progress towards your goals. Remember that during the season you have a long time to train but a short time to recover from injury.
  • You avoid setting yourself up for many discouraging situations that are made even more awkward when teammates are involved.

What about the 5th quote you say?

“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either
proven right or pleasantly surprised.”
-George Will

You say: But Tom! There is a difference between being a realist and a pessimist
I say: You are correct……but perception is reality. Is yours 20/20?
You say: Touché. But everyone has that issue. What’s your solution?
I say: Get a coach…and shamelessly point you in the direction of or the site of another qualitfied coach I know.

Cons – The dark side of playing it safe…too safe:

  • A continuous underestimation of your abilities can keep you from performing up to your current potential. We all have biological limits. The distance between them and our psychological limits is more of a “won’t” than a “can’t”.
  • In older adults fear of falling and injury, while warranted, can lead to a type of virtual paralysis when combined with a fear of dependency, failure and a strong desire to avoid all forms of potential embarrassment. Enter self fulfilling prophecy stage left. Your body is designed to flourish under the right amount of stress. No challenge, no change. In the worse case scenarios you accelerate the aging process because:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” -George Bernard Shaw

You say: You promised us answers, Coach Tom.
I say: Well Goldilocks, try some of both the over and under-estimator approaches. Everyone is different, so the wisdom that you seek comes from first recognizing which camp you favor and secondly through the process of trial and error/success and failure.

Staying consistent with your training helps too. Just saying.

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