Fiero, or Pride, and Why Every Coach Must Prioritize Milestones & Memories

The fiero of milestones

Fiero need not be reserved for those brief seconds after a successful shot or goal, nor the beginning or end of a game.

As Jesper Juuel ponders,

“It seems that the more time we invest into overcoming a challenge (be it completing a game, or simply overcoming a small subtask), the bigger the sense of loss when failing and the bigger the sense of triumph we feel when succeeding” (101).

Running with Juul’s notion, fiero can be any celebration, goal, or milestone achieved along the way, with a cumulatively-compounded emotional bank account as time is invested.

Therefore reaching goals big and small have fiero moments too.

Like games previously, goal research is a massive topic. In brief, setting and reaching goals, or milestones, is essential to an autotelic experience (102). Goals instantly boost motivation, especially when they are public (103–104). Committed goal pursuit gives us (105–106):

  • Purpose and control
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • Structure and meaning
  • Chance to set and meet big goals and small goals over time
  • Ability to cope during a crisis
  • Connection and engagement with others

The caveat is these goals must be of a positive nature: intrinsic, authentic, approachable, harmonious, and/or flexible and appropriate .

Along the way, seeing progress increases positive emotion, generating an upward spiral that is not only consciously rewarding, but as fiero after fiero, milestone after milestone build up, future success becomes all the more likely (107).

Even more important is recognizing milestones of fiero big and small.

“Full appreciation of work done” is one of the top two motivators across a 46-year study done by Carolyn Wiley (108).

Small progress on action goals boosts hope and optimism, self-efficacy, and good outcomes, allowing us to build skills over time (109–110). Nearly any domain can apply these principles. Both the Couch to 5K (C25K) and karate belt systems, for example, gradually reward athletes level by level, with intentional celebrations for each day or belt achieved respectively (111–112).

While designed for ecstatic practices, Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler’s “hedonic calendar” in Stealing Fire provides a worthy structure for milestones in sport (113).

As a player, team, or coach, what milestones are achieved each day, week, month, season, year?

No matter the structure, no matter the marks (met or unmet), athletic coaches have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact in their athletes’ lives by simply setting and celebrating milestones.

“And yet,” Chip and Dan Heath lament in The Power of Moments, “we have not encountered a single coach who has had the instinct to mint this moment of pride for their players” (114).

Last but not least, accomplishment and mastery are pillars of positive psychology and motivation, and with a system of micro fiero, athletes can flourish (115–116).

Fiero’s cumulative pride with milestones can also be applied to memories, and the science of meaningful moments is clear: we remember the extraordinary.

The fiero of memories

The fiero of memories functions the same as Juul’s notion for milestones: the more energy and emotion in the system, the likelier we are to remember it.

According to the von Restorff effect, participants remember the one word that was very different from the others compared to the rest of the list (117).

What stands out then in our collective memories?

Meik Wiking and the Happiness Research Institute conducted a global study of happy memories in 2018 with over 1,000 answers in the largest collection of happy memories assembled thus far (118). They found eight notable patterns, each highlighted briefly. Memories collected were:

  • Novel and extraordinary — 23% of memories were novel; firsts were especially potent as 73% of vivid memories were first-time experience, activating the “reminiscence effect” that highlights memories between the ages 15–30 proving novelty ensures durability
  • Multisensory — deep embodiment matters and it’s a flow trigger too; 62% of memories were multisensory: taste follows the madeleine moment which triggers spontaneous and vivid memories, vision is a “brain rule” that trumps other senses and in studies where participants were shown pictures, visual memory holds remarkably well, smell connects to the memory and emotion of the limbic system, and hearing, especially music, transports us back to specific moments in time.
  • Attention — full, peak engagement in the now, or flow, contributed to 100% of the memories submitted
  • Meaningful — 37% of memories were the milestones achieved the underlying pride and celebration of them
  • Emotional — 56% of the memories consisted of peak emotions — both “good” and “bad”
  • Peak and struggle — 22% followed the “peak-end” rule of Daniel Kahneman where the most extreme point (peak or struggle) and the end stand out (pg166 AoMM & Moments); we love the peak because of the struggle and the climb, not in spite of it
  • Storytelling- 36% of memories were stories and anecdotes, especially those of bad-turned-good redemption stories (p189)
  • Outsourcing — 7% of submissions were memories captured in some fashion, particularly photos, which are the top thing people would save from a burning building

Clearly, memories are a dynamic mix of emotions.

Is there an emotion so vast and so big that stands out from the rest? A peak of peaks?

The research is young, but one of the most overwhelming self-transcendent experiences is that of awe. These moments are exemplified by vastness (literal or perceived) and a need for accommodation, or an adjustment of perspective or understanding of self or the world due to the experience (119).

In awe, we physiologically feel “goosebumps” and reduced inflammation, psychologically we see our sense of self diminish accompanied by an increased sense of time available, critical thinking, positive mood, and connectedness, and socially we become more generous and kind (120–124).

Though further research is needed, “flavors” and/or elicitors of awe include: threat-based awe, beauty/nature-based awe, ability-based awe, virtue-based awe, and supernatural causality/spiritual/religious-basd awe (125).

Awe can be positive or negative, and negative memories, the bittersweet moments, stand out as well.

References to the above can be found here.



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Kevin Votaw

Kevin Votaw

Flow Coach. Applying flow in school, sports, and life: ❌ Flow x Fiero ♦️North of Happy ⚾ The Pitching DJ 🧠