Re-read Book Series: On Becoming a Person

Title: On Becoming a Person
Author: Carl Rogers, psychologist
Date Published: 1961 (although first read in the 1980s as an undergraduate student )

Carl Rogers wrote, On Becoming a Person (OBAP), without an intended target audience in the hopes that the book would found find its own audience. As the founder of Client-Centered Psychotherapy and Counselling, the work of Rogers not only impacted psychology, it influenced other fields involving human relationships, such as, administration, personnel, and education.

Some background on Rogers work, he found there to be a “self” (the person I am) and an “ideal self” or as he referred in this book a “potential self” (the person I want to be). Rodgers observed that it is best when there is similarity or “congruence” between the two. From my vantage point, while sports is not mentioned in OBAP, it provides a perfect venue for putting to the test the congruence between the self and ideal self. Athletic training programs are based on the idea of that by training, an athlete will perform at a higher level (or ideal) in the future. For example, the University of Oregon track program developed a training system in which some runs take place at “date pace” (pace where you’re at on that day) and other runs at “goal pace” (goal race pace) with the idea that, using this mix, the runner will perform at a higher level in the future. In a different sport, a practice in strength training is do the last set to failure and/or needing some degree of assistance from spotters, with the idea being that this lays the foundation for future strength gains.

When clients begin to set goals and make plans for change, they are getting a glimpse of their “ideal self” or “potential self”, according to Rogers. With this considered, I wonder what the impact of meeting (or not meeting) a training or racing goal has on our self-concept? (After all this is supposed to be fun!)  In OBAP Rogers reported his clients made successful changes and reached goals when there is an increasing “openness to experience”. When clients demonstrate an openness to experience, they accept feedback without defensiveness and, instead, treat feedback like a new experience, according to Rogers. As athletes, we all know too well the experience when we test our fitness and it’s the same even though we’ve trained for weeks! From my observations of successful self-coached athletes most accept negative or neutral feedback (openness to experience) and quickly move on from it. Sort of like, “Oh well, I guess I’ve got to be more consistent in my training. How about you. How did you do?”

This observation of self-coached athletes also illustrates another feature of achieving goals; according to Rogers, successful changes and achieving goals involves self acceptance. Rogers wrote (using the masculine pronoun), “The client not only accepts himself - a phrase which may carry the connotation of a grudging and reluctant acceptance of the inevitable - he actually comes to like himself. This is not bragging or self-assertive liking; it is a quiet pleasure in being one’s self.”

Another feature of successful change and reaching goals, Rogers observed that his clients needed to be inwardly free to move in any direction and this move has a certain “universality” to it. This feature is very apropo for self-coached athletes; who need to be open for trying something new in training and competition. In this framework, the self-coached athlete needs trust and be inwardly free to make a change in training and competition.

Thanks for reading. Do you think sports is a venue for describing and putting to the test our self experiences? In future posts, I’ll be writing more about the inner game of sport.



Experiment of One Coaching covers topics ranging from running, strength training, health & wellness, sports nutrition to travel.