The Role of Mental Strength in Sport Performance

The Role of Mental Strength in Sport Performance

How important is personal mindset in sports performance relative to physical training and skill building?

 

1/3 of the total sport performance pie?  More?  Less?


 

What percentage of your performance preparation time do you spend on your mindset, attitudes,
and mental skills such as visualisation, resilience, perseverance, focus, confidence and managing pressure? Do you train your mind on how to most effectively handle coming in 2nd place, recovering from an injury, or failing at a fitness goal?

Most athletes spend very little time on mental skills for sports performance, even though most realise how important their mind is in succeeding in their sport. (Psychology Today)

Would you expect to perform at your best, if you trained inconsistently and lacked programming and sport specific skill training?  Probably not!  So, without mental training, how can we expect to use our minds effectively to help drive our performance?

 

 Why isn’t mental training a regular, consistent part of sports performance training?

 

Here are 3 possible reasons:

1. Mental training is not traditionally part of training in most sports, and its taking a long time to become ingrained. It is often still used inconsistently and sometimes ineffectively so the potential to drive performance is not well known or well documented.

2. There are athletes that are very successful without formal mental training. They have learned mental skills through experience, competing, and trial and error. As Jim Taylor, Ph.D, suggests in the Psychology Today article, “for every successful athlete who develops mental toughness on their own, there are one or more who are equally talented and motivated to become successful, but need help in developing their mental capabilities.” Unfortunately, while some athletes learn these skills on their own, many others fail and end up leaving a sport without reaching their potential.

3. Mental training done inconsistently without a professional, lacks the ability to demonstrate concrete results. Often there is no baseline established, no measurements recorded, and therefore no results shown. By engaging a professional coach or a sports psychologist, it is possible to demonstrate progress and results.

The biggest factor that I hear from coaching clients is that they do not know where to go for resources, information and advice. Here is  a starting point:


 

Components of Mental Strength:

 

 1. Confidence     2. Visualisation    3. Focus    4. Adaptability    5. Optimism

6. Resiliency    7. Ethics    8. Motivation    9. Goal Setting

3 steps to improve your mental strength:
  1. Assess your current mental strength level in each of the 9 components here.
  2. Use your results to determine which components need the most development.
  3. Decide what works best for you: partnering with a coach, working with a sports psychologist, or tackling it on your own!

 

Values

Values

“Integrity is the foundation upon which all other values are built” – Brian Tracy

At leadership conference, we were given 50 values to pick our top 10 from.  If that wasn’t hard enough, we then had to narrow it down to our top 5!

My top 5 values, in order are:

1. love 2. adventure 3. integrity 4. nature 5. fun

Then we looked for discrepancies between our top values and how we are choosing to live our lives.  I had discrepancies with a few of my values.

Love – Love includes my friends and family, so is definitely my #1 value.  I am choosing to express my love for my friends and family more often and share more of myself with them.

Adventure –  Adventure is excitement, challenge and makes me feel alive.  I am choosing more adventure in my life; more surf trips, more travel and more experiences that I have never had before.

Integrity – As Brian says, integrity is foundational in creating a life I love.  Without integrity, my declarations don’t have power.  I continuously become aware of ways to build integrity and power – honouring my word and every commitment I make, and cleaning up any messes I create.

Nature – Whether its sitting on the grass, walking in the sand, or playing in the ocean – nature is my therapy.  It relaxes, rejuvenates and energises me.  I am buying more plants for my current home, and looking into building on a large, treed block in southwest WA.

Fun – I’m happy to share that fun is a daily occurrence.  I love to laugh and connect with others!

Its so good to revisit my values and I’m committed to using them to guide my decision making.

Being

Being

I’ve recently started reading Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle,  which is a practical application for the ideas in the Power of Now and A New Earth.   While I’ve read both these books previously, the amount of information and intensity of the ideas made it difficult to put into action in my life.  This time, I’m reading a condensed version of the material, and will  discuss each idea as I read it and reflect on how it can be implemented in my life.

Eckhart Tolle describes Being, as who we are at our core and our connection to everything.  This connection is immeasurable and indestructible.  Being encompasses beyond ourselves and deep within.  Our being can only be felt or known when the mind is still, free of thought and present.

Have you felt your being before?

If you sit very still and clear your mind.  I feel my being as an energy, which is deep within my chest and vibrates through me.

I have also felt my being through my connection with nature.   When I am surrounded by trees or ocean, I know that I am connected to them  and whatever I do to them, I do to myself.  For example, I have a difficult time killing insects, no matter how small and insignificant they seem.  In fact, when I am present, I can’t do it.  I usually place them on a piece of paper or in a  cup and put them outside.  Or I ignore them and let them hang out in the house.

Some people experience their being through meditation and or yoga, which is based on clearing the mind for increasingly long periods of time.  The more you practice creating space of nothingness in your mind, the easier it becomes and the more access you have to knowing your being.  This is also the key to being able to stay present.

In yoga, by focusing on your breathe you can become very present and experience your being and feel the connection to those around you.

 

Visioning: Part II

Visioning: Part II

At lululemon athletica, we visualise, set goals and revise our goals regularly.

We follow a visioning and goal setting system with 6 core concepts:

 

 

  1. Possibility
  2. Vision
  3. Balance
  4. Audacity
  5. Format
  6. Integrity

I’d like to expand on the visioning here, in terms of an exercise.   If you would like more information onthe other core concepts, check them out on lululemon athletica’s blog here

Vision Meditation Exercise

When I first started vision meditation, I found it most effective to have a friend lead you through the process and ask questions to allow me to add more detail to my vision.  Once I had practiced visioning a few times, I found that I could take myself through the process.

To start, pair up with a friend who is supportive of your visioning & goal setting and take them through how you want them to led you.  Here is an example:

  • Choose a place that is quiet, comfortable and has no distractions.
  • Lie down or sit in a meditation position, so you are comfortable for 10-15 mins.
  • Focus on your breath, the sound the feeling and the rhythm.  This slows down your thought patterns and helps clear your mind.  It may take a few minutes.
  • Visualise  your life 10 years from now.  What are you doing?  Who are you with? Where are you? What does it feel like? Where do you live?
  • Have your friend ask you 10 more questions about your life in the future, pausing in between each one to allow you to explore them in your head. They can get creative here, and you choose which questions you incorporate into your vision.
  • Is there anything else you want to add into your vision that hasn’t been mentioned?
  • Time to slowly come out of your vision meditation.  A good way to transition back to the present is to refocus on your breathing, which brings you back into the present moment.  Start to move your fingers and toes, stretch if you need to, and slowly open your eyes.
  • Write down your vision in as much detail as you can remember.

The vision sets you up to be able to work backwards and determine your 10 year, 5 year and 1 year goals.  Go for it!

 

Visioning: Part I

Visioning: Part I

According to Brian Tracy, visioning is the most powerful capability humans have.  Visioning is the ability to hold a picture in your mind.

The business dictionary defines it as:

Mental process in which images of the desired future (goals, objectives, outcomes) are made intensely real and compelling to act as motivators for the present action.

Visioning is powerful and is used regularly by the top performing athletes in the world!

Two-time Olympic figure skater Randy Gardner  had to envision his partner landing the throw triple Salchow in his mind before they were able to complete it. “It worked almost instantaneously.  Once you see it in your head, you can do it.”

What does it do? It:

  • stimulates the power of the subconscious mind, which attracts possibilities and opportunities to you that are aligned to your vision
  • provides clarity in your mind about exactly what you want, and what it feels like to have it
  • gives motivation for you to get into action and progress towards your vision
  • focuses energy, prevents distraction from things that are not in your vision

For me, it gives me 3 things:

  1. Powerful Decision Making – When I decide where I want to focus my energy and which opportunities to take on, I think, “Will this bring me closer to my vision or will it bring me further away?”
  2. Drive – When I fail or run into obstacles, I use my vision to pick myself back up and try again.  Knowing what it will feel like to achieve my vision outweighs whatever failure I’m feeling in the moment.
  3. Connection – By sharing my vision with people I care about, and hearing about their vision, I feel deeply connected to them.  They can contribute to my develop and my vision, and hold me accountable to the person I am being today.  I can do the same for them.  Our conversations are about goals, failures, and support rather than other less important things.

I’ll post a visioning exercise in Visioning: Part 2

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms.  Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.” – Muhammad Ali

 

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

I recently read a great article in Psychology Today, called, “Stop Self-Sabotage by Conquering Your Inner Critic” by Lisa Firewall, Ph. D.

The article takes a new angle at explaining the difference between what you think and who you are.

You are not your thoughts or your mind!  Did you know that?

The mind spins thousands of stories, sayings and random thoughts every day all day.  These thoughts do not define you. Once you accept this, you have a choice.  Your choice is to give a thought meaning or let it fade away to nothing.

How do we give thoughts meaning?  We invest time and energy into thoughts – by repeating them over and over and behaving as if they are true.

The article speaks specifically about the self-criticising thoughts that appear in our heads.  The “You can’t do that” or “You are not good enough” or “You don’t deserve this”.  Or if the mind is tricky, it will use the word “I” to convince you that you are your thoughts.  It tells you, “I can’t do that” or “I am not good enough” or “I don’t deserve this.”  The trouble with self-criticising thoughts, is that they do not serve you.  There are no positives that comes from criticising yourself or anyone else.

The cool thing is, as soon as you are aware of the distinction between your thoughts and you, your thoughts lose all power and you get to decide whether to give them power or not.  You have the power and you can choose to let self-criticising thoughts fade out of your head, and replace them with positive and encouraging thoughts instead.

If you want to read the article from Psychology Today, click here.

 

Sublime Pie

Sublime Pie

A friend of mine and artist that I follow, Prina Shah, wrote in her blog about Sublime this week.  The first thing I thought of, was Sublime Pie (recipe by Raw Food Karen Bartz)! It’s a raw food version of Key Lime Pie that I often make for friends and family and have them guess what’s in it.  Of course, she wasn’t talking about food. 

In Search of Sublime   by: Prina Shah (blog)

This week I had brunch with a Canadian friend who told me about her trip back home. It was great to hear her stories! Driving through Tofino, in B.C, she said that she was struck by awe at the sight of the huge 250+ foot cedar trees towering over her along the roadside. She said it made her feel tiny and in wonder at such beauty. It got me questioning what it is about nature and the sublime that we seek so much in our lives…

For most of us our day is structured. A standard day for most would consist of the basic acts of; waking up, eating breakfast, working, eating lunch, finishing work, eating dinner and sleeping. Also not to mention the constant barrage of technological notifications whether it be emails, text messages or the time we spend faffing around on social media sites. This would generally be recipe for one’s week, give or take a few activities here and there.

When we imagine a ‘free’ life, free of the above listed daily grind and the drudgery of it all, free from the limitations of these time imposed activities, we dream of going away to somewhere tropical or to the countryside, a different scene, somewhere to relax and to soak in the entire world around us. We seek to watch a sunset, climb a mountain, go hiking – be at one with nature and to appreciate the sublime.

So what is the sublime? Alain de Botton says “The sublime is a feeling provoked by certain kinds of landscape that are very large, very impressive and dangerous. Places like the wide-open oceans, the high mountains, the polar caps. The Sinai Desert, the Grand Canyon. These places do all sorts of things to us. It’s interesting that around the end of the 18th century, people started to say that the feeling that these places provoke in us is a recognizable one and universal one — and a good one. This feeling was described as the feeling of the sublime. There are all sorts of theories about what exactly is needed to have the experience of the sublime. But gathering them all together, essentially what lies at the center of the experience is a feeling of smallness. You are very small and something else is very big… You are very vulnerable in the face of something else.”

These places are non threatening, they assert grandness over us and are breath taking.Viewing the sublime is a stark reminder of our fragility and morality and reminds us how little all that we think matters really does matter in the wider scheme of things.

I am lucky to be living in such a stunning place as Western Australia which is full of the sublime; being five minutes away from the Indian Ocean and having the most striking sunsets most evenings. Getting away from it all can be as simple as keeping my eyes open to all that is around me and  taking everything in. Some people find such a feeling from gardening, surfing, running.

Artist Andy Goldsworthy works with and within the natural environment. He uses natural materials and creates ephemeral sculptures to highlight the ever evolving facets of nature and the eco systems around us. His work is simple, yet detailed and contains elements of the sublime in every piece he works on. He aims for his ‘touch’ to look into the heart of nature; he says “I take the opportunity each day offers: if it is snowing, I work in snow, [in autumn] it will be leaves; a blown over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches.”

How do you get your fix of the sublime? Are you from Western Australia? Do you know of any such grand places to go visit? Do you feel that it is necessary to have a dose of the sublime in your life?

[link to original article to comment: click here ]

For me, I need it. It makes me a better person and informs my work – whether it be my artwork and whatever else I produce. It reminds me of a poem I am very fond of titled Leisure by William Henry Davies which discusses care as in the old meaning being worries and time as a limitation to our lives.

Here is Leisure by William Henry Davies:

Leisure by W.H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

What’s your story?

What’s your story?

Growing up as children with wild imaginations, we create stories of everything that happens to us.  Every event is stretched, pulled, multiplied & magnified into something quite different to what actually happened.

Now, do not tell this to the 5 year old version of yourself, because they will be convinced that they are telling the absolute truth about what happened!

 

I would like to introduce you to the concept that nothing has changed since you were 5! You are still telling stories to yourself & everyone around you about what happens to you!  By creating a Story of what happened, you add Meaning to what happened, so your brain can Understand it & use it to make more meaning of events in the future.  Have you ever witnessed something that happened with a friend and they recall it totally differently to what you saw?

We make meaning of events, so what?  The danger only comes when you believe your story IS what happened, rather than a story you made up of what happened.

So, what I’m saying is, your story of what happened is separate to the event.  At best, your story of what happened, is a skewed, biased, clouded interpretation of the event!  Arguments, debates, fights & wars result from individuals believing that their story is the Right one, and the only right one!

Making meaning from events is something that everyone does all the time and not only does everyone create meaning of what happened, they also create a meaning of themselves related to their story.  Let me give you an example:

Event – You are running down the street and a car pulls out of a driveway and nearly hits you.

Your Story of what happened – City drivers are dangerous and totally inconsiderate of runners!

Meaning of self – I need to be cautious all the time.

In believing that your story is right (or true), you create limitations of who you are & what is possible.  Imagine that you’ve created dozens of stories that you have terrible luck, and in turn, you interpret events in the future through this belief that you have terrible luck.  Chances are that you are going to prove yourself right!

So what now? 

If you get that your story is not the event, but your interpretation of the event, you no longer need to be attached to it. You have freedom to choose how you want to to respond or behave instead of reacting to your story to prove it right!

Here is an Exercise to Play with:

The next time you are struggling with a situation or another person, draw yourself three big circles! In one write down the event (what actually happened), in the second write down what your story is about the event, and in the third write down what you made it mean about yourself.  Now, can you see that your story is just a story you made up about the event? And what you made it mean about yourself, is also just a story?

Consider these questions:

  1. How can you choose to respond to the event, rather than getting caught up in your story?
  2. What opportunities or possibilities exist now that didn’t when you were attached to your story?
  3. What response is going to serve you best going forward?
6 Hallmarks of Being Your Authentic Self

6 Hallmarks of Being Your Authentic Self

I first read  the Hallmarks of Being Yourself in my Coach School Semester 1 course material from the Winding Staircase. (http://www.windingstaircase.com.au/ for more info)

I want to share them with you, because I think they encompass what it is to be Authentic & I believe they applied to Anyone!

Read them slowly so you have time to digest each one!

1. Authenticity & Congruence: outer behaviour reflects inner beliefs and values.

2. Responsibility & Spontaneity: acceptance of life, make spontaneous & conscious decisions.

3. Assertiveness: showing respect for yourself.

4. Integrity: live to values and own standards, through wise decisions.

5. Grace & Joy: at ease with self and others, lack worry, fear, and distraction.

6. Character: naturally make a unique impression on the world.

These are great to review when reflecting.  Ask yourself, are you being authentic? congruent? responsible? spontaneous? assertive? living to your values? graceful? joyous? your unique self?

 

Life Coaching for Athletic Performance

Life Coaching for Athletic Performance

Many people have heard about coaching (executive coaching, business coaching, life coaching) over the last few years as it has gained popularity.  Some have even experienced a session or two themselves.

Few, however, know how Life Coaching can be used to boost athletic performance, increase consistency of athletic performance, or improve your life outside of your sport.

(by the way, my definition of an athlete is anyone with an active lifestyle, looking to improve their performance and their life – including professional, amateur and junior athletes, weekend warriors, fit parents, yogis, surfers, triathletes, rock climbers, whatever!)

So, what is Life Coaching for Athletes?

Life Coaching for Athletes is using Coaching Tools & Techniquesto help you reflect on where your athletic performance is at currently & how to move forward.

It enables you to observe how you show up in a situation (race, event, tournament, training session, fitness class, etc.) and how this way of being is supporting or inhibiting your performance.  It guides you to observe your way of being both in and out of your sport, gain awareness of what is working for you and what is not, and insight into moving forward both as an individual and as an athlete.

There are 2 ways to use Coaching for Athletic Performance:

  1. Life Coaching Sessions with a Life Coach
  2. Self Coach (which means you are your own coach!)

In my experience and the feedback I’ve had from clients, there is no replacement for a face to face session with a coach that you trust and work well with.  The value of these face-to-face sessions is incredible!

However, for those of you that do not have access to a Life Coach, or want to do some work in between sessions, I am developing my Self Coaching section of my website.  I will be uploading tons of tools and resources, so feel free to check it out!