Sink or Swim

Sink or Swim

Do we throw people into the deep end to teach them to be mentally tough?

Sink or swim, throwing athletes into the deep end

Once upon a time we used to teach kids to swim by taking them to the end of a pier and throwing them in the water. Some of them figured out how to swim, some survive poorly but could function when thrown in again, and some just sank to the bottom and drowned. Mental toughness is like this. It’s sink or swim.

It seems that in sports today we do the same thing. We throw people into high pressure sports situations without teaching them mental toughness. We allow the same thing to happen. Those with grit make it to the top usually just based on athleticism. They get the experience to learn how to deal with pressure. They learn how to focus and they continued feedback that builds their confidence. What of the late developers then? They don’t get the experiences and if they aren’t real motivated at the time to overcome the effects of riding the pine (sitting on the bench) so they fail to develop the mental skills that others are developing through experiences. And it’s not just the late developers. Often times gifted athletes do not develop the right set of skills either, but because of their athleticism and success on the field they get to play. The problem hits them usually in transition to the next level. This can be JV to Varsity, high school to college and even college to the pro’s. I see it all of the time. It’s what keeps us busy as mental trainers®.

What if we change the model? What if we start teaching people to be mentally tough through mental skills training? What if teachers were trained in elementary school to help kids with mental skills? What if they we paid attention to how kids were developing their emotional intelligence? Let’s start programs for kids early on in middle school and high school teaching mental skills. Oh I know teachers do some things, but they are usually one shot experiences.

Today we no longer throw kids into the deep end. We start them out in the shallows where they can develop their swimming skills without fear. Don’t we owe it to people today to teach them mental toughness skills before they need them to survive? I see athletes every day who come in with what they consider issues. They can’t handle pressure or they lack confidence. When I ask them have they ever learned to relax they say sure I watch TV or listen to music. Myself I don’t find hip hop all that relaxing, but then I listen to AC/DC. OK well maybe over time I’ve added relaxing jazz to the mix to relax.

It’s up to us to change the way we bring athletes up. Those of us who are in the field or sport psychology, those who are teachers and coaches. Let’s stop throwing people into the deep end to see if they can sink or swim. Start out in the shallow end and help more people become successful in sports and life.

Learning to swim in the shallow end of the pool

Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist

Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist

Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist in sport and business

I am working with a number of perfectionist clients at the moment. All have different reasons for how they came to believe they needed to be this way. as you may know if you have read me over time I deal mostly in solutions rather than in causes. Yes understanding your cause with regard to perfectionism is helpful, it also takes a long time to understand. So I prefer to help people with solutions instead and this is where the idea of  Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist in sport and business comes to play.

Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist in sport and business We live in a digital age. The age of computers. Computer language is build on 00011100 coding. Ones and zeros, on verses off. Much like a light switch we are either perfect or we are un-perfect and if un-perfect it that it means something is unacceptable, then we are in a world of hurt.  This digital thinking leads to anxiety, loss of confidence and frequently a dismantling of the individual self concept of themselves. This of course leads them down the path were they become even more perfectionistic and at some point either give up or continue in the whirlpool of self incrimination.

I’ve written other posts here on how this cycle is triggered often by shame, but for now I want to focus on helping you change the cycle one step at a time. I want you to think analog. For some of you this can be hard as so much of our world is no digital.

 

 

I’d like you to think of change as a radio dial instead of a light switch. Change neam fm radioed not be on or off. Certainly athletic improvement is not on / off but gradual, and that is exactly how you need to think. This is analog thinking. Recognizing that improvement comes in stages and that being perfect may be the ultimate result, but accepting gradual improvement and momentary failure is simply part of the process. it’s like finding the right station on the radio dial. You start at one end of the spectrum and move in the direction of something you want. It could be a different station or it could be volume control. It is most definitely not just turning on the radio and expecting it to play the music you want at the right volume.

This is in fact what the entire journey is about. It is the pursuit of excellence that we are after. Mental Game training is all about preparing for your best performance. We know that when you are Calm, Confident, Motivated, Focused and Play Carefree that you are as close to playing your own perfect game. But if your focus is on just flipping a switch mentally Its harder to get there. 

I see perfectionism as a terrible waste of energy. It is often brought on from feelings of shame. shame is a tool that others in our past used to control us. It has no place in your head. We can work on that again at a later date, but for now, if you would, think analog and your progress will be enhanced and you’ll enjoy the journey much more.

 

perfection of the mental game

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Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist in sport and business

I am working with a number of perfectionist clients at the moment. All have different reasons for how they came to believe they needed to be this way. as you may know if you have read me over time I deal mostly in solutions rather than in causes. Yes understanding your cause with regard to perfectionism is helpful, it also takes a long time to understand. So I prefer to help people with solutions instead and this is where the idea of Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist in sport and business comes to play.

Digital vs Analog thinking: an issue for perfectionist in sport and business We live in a digital age. The age of computers. Computer language is build on 00011100 coding. Ones and zeros, on verses off. Much like a light switch we are either perfect or we are un-perfect and if un-perfect it that it means something is unacceptable, then we are in a world of hurt. This digital thinking leads to anxiety, loss of confidence and frequently a dismantling of the individual self concept of themselves. This of course leads them down the path were they become even more perfectionistic and at some point either give up or continue in the whirlpool of self incrimination.

I’ve written other posts here on how this cycle is triggered often by shame, but for now I want to focus on helping you change the cycle one step at a time. I want you to think analog. For some of you this can be hard as so much of our world is no digital.

I’d like you to think of change as a radio dial instead of a light switch. Change neam fm radioed not be on or off. Certainly athletic improvement is not on / off but gradual, and that is exactly how you need to think. This is analog thinking. Recognizing that improvement comes in stages and that being perfect may be the ultimate result, but accepting gradual improvement and momentary failure is simply part of the process. it’s like finding the right station on the radio dial. You start at one end of the spectrum and move in the direction of something you want. It could be a different station or it could be volume control. It is most definitely not just turning on the radio and expecting it to play the music you want at the right volume.

This is in fact what the entire journey is about. It is the pursuit of excellence that we are after. Mental Game training is all about preparing for your best performance. We know that when you are Calm, Confident, Motivated, Focused and Play Carefree that you are as close to playing your own perfect game. But if your focus is on just flipping a switch mentally Its harder to get there.

I see perfectionism as a terrible waste of energy. It is often brought on from feelings of shame. shame is a tool that others in our past used to control us. It has no place in your head. We can work on that again at a later date, but for now, if you would, think analog and your progress will be enhanced and you’ll enjoy the journey much more.

perfection of the mental game

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RIP Robin Williams

RIP Robin Williams

RIP Robin WilliamsRIP Robin Williams

It’s been a hard few days for me. A lot goes on in life. Client needs, family needs and of course business needs, so the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life hit me hard. I am not one to follow celebrity. I rarely watch the news. I am too involved in the present. Too involved with Shifting the Paradigm of Sport Psychology & Mental Training to  something that everyone will see as important and use to watch what goes on outside my little window of life. I work with people who are normal to exceptional. I understand genius on the field and off, it has been my life work. How to bring people to the next level. So I look for it in others, not just in sports, not just in business, but where it exists. So I have watched the genius who was Robin Williams intently. RIP Robin Williams.

I’m old enough to have watched Mork from Ork. To have seen him play-off with Jonathan Winters. To have seen him in roles like Popeye and wondered how things would go from there. Good Morning Vietnam was eye opening. Yes there was comedy, the riffs as he was playing the DJ role, but there was much more there, wasn’t there? He could act. He was no longer Mork. Not the stand-up comic, but an actor. Eye opening. RIP Robin Williams.

Then came roles like Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting and the depth of his abilities grew more. He moved me in ways I couldn’t understand at the time. From comic to Soldier DJ to Teacher and to Psychologist (naturally this one hits home) he was remarkable. His family movies came out when I was raising my sons. Their first thoughts of him were from Aladdin and Jumanji. He touched all of the buttons. He played some disturbing roles as well like pervert killers. He played every man and he played villains and comics. There are great actors and he was one. RIP Robin Williams.

There was the other side of him as well. Well documented by the media. He talked about it himself. Battles with drugs, with alcohol, depression.  When I have looked at genius and tried to understand it, I am always in awe. It can be the genius of a Tiger Woods, Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway or Albert Einstein, it doesn’t matter what their field happens to be. The apparent effortlessness of mind and body. It is what I try to teach after all to those I work with. Not with all geniuses of course, but a disturbing number have suffered from mental illness ( Don’t start, I am not implying anything with woods or the others) as did Williams. RIP Robin Williams.

Here is one thing I know and mental illness is not something I work with, but have a bit of insight with. It has to be worse when you are a genius. When you are aware of every thought, every feeling. When you measure yourself not against other normal people but against the greats. Can you see how hard it is when you are depressed and you know you are in control, that you are the smartest person in the room and you can’t pull yourself out. The highs and lows of Robin Williams life are of what dreams may come. It is hard to go quietly into the night. It is difficult to watch yourself be chased by demons and not be able to remove yourself from the path. I wish to all that is holy that Robin Williams had found another way. RIP Robin Williams.

He was for me not just another actor or comedian. He was genius. He was what I want others to find within themselves. What I want to find within myself. To know you are at another level. This is where greatness comes from. It is a terrible thing to be so smart, to be so aware that you see all and to see the importance of life slipping away from you. I wish to hell he’d have found another way for all of us. To have found a funny way to say good bye instead of what I know he believed as the only way out of the pain. Robin Williams died this week. I will not criticize his way out. I will honor him by remembering his roles and what he gave me in laughter and experience. RIP Robin Williams.

RIP Robin WilliamsThose who condemn his actions as a selfish act need to walk in his shoes. It would be different I think for me if he was the 20 something Mork who had taken his own life. Then it was the waste of what might have been. He was a few years older than me. He had fought these feelings most of his life. The things that made it better (Drugs and Alcohol) really made life worse. Were there other ways out. Of course there were. There are always options. But sometimes people get tired of the good fight. I am sorry he is gone. I will miss what might still have been. Go not silently into the good night, my friend. RIP Robin Williams. Nanu Nanu!

Build your company using the athlete within you

Build your company using the athlete within you

Build your company using the athlete within you

Build your company using the athlete within youI get this question a lot during presentations to companies or associations, so I thought I would dedicate some time to it. I get asked or told, depending on the person asking the question. Why sport psychology and what does it have to do with business? Now generally I answer with a series of metaphors like making a big sale is hitting one out of the park or you know that question is a real curve ball. Mostly people get that our business language and sports language often dovetail. That’s when we can focus on how to build your company using the athlete within you

Sometimes I talk to them about working with their customers especially after a big NFL or college game. What used to be talk around the water cooler now takes place there, on Facebook and any place people communicate with each other.

After I have done this we proceed to talk about the Mental Game and how it will help them. Right now however I want to go a different route, a more direct route if you will. If you don’t understand why sport psychology works for you in your business world, please ask this of yourself. Why wouldn’t you want to be an athlete? Train like an athlete and succeed like an elite athlete? You see, elite athletes are your best example of who you want to be like.

Let’s try this for logic. If you looked at your job as if it were a sport, what would change? Certainly it would be more fun. You would want to win the Super Bowl or World Series every year. You would prepare for everything with passion (The Fury). You would prepare for each meeting and there would be no question that you would strive to be the best.

Work ethic would be great. You would train for success. Mental preparation and even physical preparation would be critical to your success. Right now I am doing some work with a training company, reviewing their business mental toughness program. I review the online test answers their students are giving. I am somewhat shocked how many of their employees see this course work as meaningless because all they want to do is sell like they have been doing for years. They don’t want to prepare, they don’t want to learn anything new. An athlete would be shocked by their attitude.Coaching

Great athletes are always in the game. They are focused and don’t get distracted. The best of them handle stress and even use competition to bring out the best in themselves. They also practice a lot. They practice everything they do that occurs in a game or might transpire in a game. How about you? Do you prepare for your presentation like a champion? How about sales calls or negotiations? Do you rehearse until it is perfect or just good enough and then wing it? Athletes are the best prepared individuals I know.
I’ll give you just one more important factor in why I focus on the mental game in business. Athletes make great team mates. Great teams are made up with great athletes. So in building your team, in creating an atmosphere for success within your company and maybe even more importantly leading the team like a great coach, wouldn’t you want everyone to at least have certain attributes of an elite athlete? Building your team with the mentality of a great coach with people who have the drive for success of elite performers will produce tremendous results for you and your business. Be the coach and provide the leadership to train your athletes, so that they have the mental game for success. Of course if you would like some help, you know where to find me.

Win the mental game

Win the mental game

Win the Mental Game (previously published in WAC Magazine)

How to prepare your mind for competition and successWin the mental game

When it comes to getting ready for competition, your mental preparation means more than you might realize. I often call this the “game within the game.” If you have been a competitive athlete at all in your life, you can probably recall a time when your mental state caused you to perform better or worse. What you might not realize, however, is that you can achieve peak performance more consistently through mental preparation.
As a sport psychology consultant and mental trainer, I often ask athletes to consider the best and the worst games they ever played. After they’ve done this, I ask them what they think the differences were between the two. Was the other team flat-out better, more fit, or coached by a genius? Almost always, the answer is none of those things. So to win the mental game, training makes a difference.

Instead, people often look internally. Talking about their worst performances, they point to anxiety, fear, or a lack of focus. The words differ, but the meaning is essentially the same: It was a “mental thing.” My next question is this: How much time do you spend practicing the mental game? Whether we’re talking about sports or business or personal affairs, if your answer to this question is “no time at all,” then it’s time to rethink your approach.

FIVE TENETS
The game within the game is the mental contest we play as we prepare for competition, whatever form it may take. It’s about what we tell ourselves before, during and after competition. It involves managing stress, setting goals, and visualizing success. How we play this mental game determines how we perform when it counts.

These are the five tenets:
1. Calmness
2. Confidence
3. Carefree approach
4. Motivation
5. Focus
Although each of these carries its own importance, they are also interrelated. Improving one area can lead to improvement in the other areas. Here’s a closer look at each.
Calmness: If you aren’t relaxed while playing or performing or working, you’ll more easily lose the feel for what you’re doing. Although learning to relax may seem simple, it’s actually a skill that must be practiced. Before you go to work tomorrow, try sitting on your couch for three minutes. Breathe slowly and just relax. The next time your stress level picks up on the job or during competition, take a deep breath and talk yourself down from the ledge. Refuse to get stressed out. It does no good.
Confidence: If you don’t feel confident that you can handle a competitive situation, you’re setting yourself up to fail. When you don’t believe in yourself, how is anyone else supposed to believe in you? Whatever it is you’re trying to do, tell yourself you can and believe it when you say it. Picture the success you are about to achieve.
Carefree approach: This is all about staying loose and knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll come out better for it. When the pressure mounts, refuse to let yourself get tight. It’s also important to make sure you don’t let worries from other parts of your life affect the task at hand. Stay mentally relaxed regardless of what you face. This goes hand in hand with staying calm.
Motivation: If you don’t have motivation, you don’t have much. Think about the things success will bring you. If you win the game, what will that mean? If you nail that presentation, what effect might it have on your career? Find your motivation and think about it often.
Focus: People often remind athletes of the importance of concentration. But what does that mean? Quite simply, it means focusing on the task at hand, avoiding distractions, and remaining fixated on what must be done. When players are off their game, it’s often because they’re thinking about something else. You can’t just go through the motions. By staying in the moment and avoiding mental interference, you can keep your mind where it needs to be.

STRENGTH FROM WITHIN
We all deal with stress. Life isn’t easy for competitive athletes, surgeons, lawyers, investment bankers, writers, or anyone else who’s trying to achieve great things. But it sure is fun. Remember that when you’re faced with long odds and the prospect of
failure. Enjoy the ride and know that you are doing exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
Live for exhilaration and learn to deal with pressure. It makes you special and it sets you above the competition. You didn’t get where you are in life without putting in the work. And you won’t continue moving up by quitting or giving in when things get tough.
Instead, look within for strength, envision your success, and practice your mental preparation. Professional athletes typically spend 20 years perfecting their game on the way to reaching the highest level of their sport. By committing yourself to your own mental game and practicing often, you too can achieve greatness.