Motivation: Understanding your WHY

Motivation, Success and Understanding

I’ve written about motivation before on this blog and it’s a major theme in “The Athlete within You”. Understanding what drives you is very important to your success. This came up the other day with one of my client / athletes. In going over her ESi (Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory) we discussed her low Achievement Drive. A part of a measure of her internal motivation. The first question I generally ask of course is “WHY do you compete?” Usually I get a fairly trivial answer or one that doesn’t often ring true. With some exploration we generally start to see a better clearer picture of why someone competes and what their purpose is playing a sport. In my gymnast’s case, she thought she was competing to to get into the college of her choice. As we explored her “why” it became clear to her that her real motive was to be part of something special at college. I could see a change in her behavior and her emotions as she understood her “why”. Understanding her why gave her the conviction to commit to part of her routine at State and Regional’s that had recently caused her to fear her dismount in one of the events.  Understanding her “Why” isn’t the only technique I taught her to use in overcoming her fear, but her understanding made it far easier for her to believe in herself and that she could place and move on to Regional’s and then National’s.

I got a message from her mother last night and then an email from her this morning that she finished in the top four in all round and took first in one event and will be headed to Nationals.  I pretty good change for someone stuck three weeks ago fearing that her dream might be finished.  I am really happy for her.

I’m not writing about her accomplishment because I need to brag about being good at what I do. After 30 years of working with athletes, her story is familiar and while I do myself feel great about helping her, (It is my Why after all), I wanted to write about her because she demonstrates so clearly by example what happens when you increase your self awareness and discover your “WHY”.

As I got ready to write this post, a Facebook “friend” posted a video on his drive for success and I want to share it with you here. It is a very short video. The athlete is Bryan Clay. Bryan is the reigning World and Olympic Gold medalist in Decathlon. I have a soft spot for decathletes as one of my first clients was one. So here is the short video.

Are You Weak if You Use a Sports Psychologist / Mental Trainer?

Keep in mind that I have been working as a sport psychology consultant for three decades now. I’ve seen a lot of changes, but not enough. In Europe and even in Canada I know sports psychology consultants that never even hear these questions. So why here? If you get my book you will note that I trained under someone many consider the modern father of sports psychology n North America, Bruce Olgilvie. He started working with athletes in 1966. And we still ask the question 46 years later. The Russians brought Sports Psychologists with them in the 1950’s. Why is it in North America, particularly in the US, we have made such slow progress. This is in answer to feedback I got from my post “Is Mental Training Right for You”

Many athletes have a fear that other athletes or teammates will see them as weak if they work with a sports psychologist. Are you or any of your athletes hesitant about mental training? I talked with a football player at a DI University that has a sport psychologist and he said very few would utilize their services and it was free. Myths about sports psychology can prevent athletes from developing a strong mental game. (more…)

Is Mental Training Right for You and your Team?

Is Mental Training Right for You and your Team?

Is Mental Training Right for You and your Team? Ask Questions-

I was talking with a potential client’s mother today. She wanted to see if I was the right fit for helping her kid. We discussed all of my services, but it came down to some basic questions. One was that the concern he would think there was something wrong with because of the term “Psychology” and the other was how does sport psychology and mental training fit their needs. The second part was easy, and it has been the nature and intent of the posts I have been making. The first question gets more to the roots that 99% of Sports Psychology and Mental training is for healthy athletes that want to increase or accelerate their performance. Yes, we deal with things like fear, self confidence and anxiety, but it is with the intent to increase performance.

So as you read through the rest of this post, I would like you to answer two questions for yourself and me. Please feel free to leave comments so we can have a conversation.

1) Is mental training right for you and/ or your team?

2) What makes someone wake up and say to themselves “I think I’ll look for a sports psychologist / mental trainer today? (I ask this in part because in talking with sport psychologists in Canada and the UK, mental training is far more accepted than it is in the US and I have been working with athletes for three decades and am still answering these questions today. So maybe it is that I am missing something and would love to hear from you.)

The Big Why

Baseball great Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “90% of all sport is mental and the other 50% physical. Why do we spend almost 100% of our time training only our bodies? This is the big question you need to ask yourself as an athlete. What are you doing to train your mind for athletic success? Are you dealing with competitive stress productively? Sport Psychology and Mental Game Training will help you reach the next level of peak performance. You need to explore and see if there are areas of your mental training that would benefit by learning the game within the game. Most programs are relatively short, but the results will last a lifetime.

Take this short quiz.

1) Are you a confident athlete?

2) Do you understand how best to use imagery to help you to peak performance and to accelerate learning of new skills?

3) Do you deal with your fears?

4) Do you know how to relax? Can you turn the switch on when you need to?

5) Do you lose focus during competition?

6) Does the word choke hit close to home?

7) Do you use an effective pre- and post competition routine? How about for practice?

If you found that there are questions that you answered to with a NO, then let’s turn them into a YES. Gain the skills to effectively get results and take your game to the next level. Come join us and play the Game within the Game. 

The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.

Most people have so much more potential than where they are right now!

Success or Failure is dependent on one thing- YOU

Are you the player you want to become? Come discover” The Athlete within You” and find out what is sport psychology; and why you should learn about the game within the game!

Which beast do you feed?

Which beast do you feed?

Which beast do you feed?

This is an Old Native American Story, or so I am told. Various tribes would gather and they would pass down knowledge from one generation to the next about Sport Psychology.

I admit it. I stole this story off a Facebook post. I have heard the story of course many times before. The tribe, it seems often changes, depending on who tells the story. I am sure its origins come from my tribe, but we will leave that for future tales.

So it goes like this:

What we learn from stories

Early lessons in sport psychology

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.”My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, inferiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, gratitude, truth, and compassion.” The grandson thought for a minute and then asked “Grandfather, Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Is there a beast needing to be fed inside you?

Is there a beast needing to be fed inside you?

So Freud studied native culture I guess. In working with athletes, I hear about their real and perceived issues. One critical thing we work on is not necessarily just the issue itself, but how much food they are nourishing on the issue. Their focus is on what is wrong with their performance. They can have a great game or practice and still feed the one mistake they made all game. This is no different than what most of us do in life.

I was talking with a young man via Facebook this week. He is a soccer player from Ghana (that’s in Africa, not to be confused with Guyana in South America). Not sure why I have made so many interesting friends around the world via FB that want to talk soccer (futbol) and sport psychology, but it has happened. I am asked at least once a month when will I come to Africa. I say as soon as I’m asked. I had to rephrase that immediately because I was asked, but they weren’t sending a ticket. Anyway, this young man scored the winning goal in his game, but all he could focus on was an earlier mistake. He was feeding the wrong wolf. Or maybe as it is Africa, a Lion.

We all do this to one extent or another. Some people can use this to insure that they prepare properly for competition. After all, if you didn’t notice the things you didn’t do right, you might not work on them to make them better. You might want to give this beast enough food so you maintain balance, but not enough so that you are in constant battle.

I of course am the exception. I am always positive and starve my wolf (actually a grizzly bear). OK so all of my friends and my sons just fell down laughing. I too tend to heed the wrong bear. The difference to some extent is that I recognize I am doing it. So after letting the two bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)

Mike’s Beast

fight for a while, I hit the evil one with a tranquilizer (relaxation skills, cognitive behavioral techniques and some guided imagery) and move forward taking positive actions. Would it be better if I were not negative at all. Of course. But then I would be someone else. I work all the time at keeping the wolf (bear) at bay, feeding him less each month and year. It is a work in progress. Those that think they can go cold turkey (turkeys don’t stand a chance by the way against bears, wolves and lions) are setting themselves up for failure. We take small steps in the beginning. It is what we call growth. Depending on how much you have fed your animal over time, will depend on how long it takes to get them under control. Why do you think mine is a grizzly bear? They were once cute little bunny rabbits, they just grew into the fiercest, most deadly animal in North America.

My menagerie as I said is mostly under control. How’s yours? There are skill sets you can learn to help accelerate the process. If you are someone wanting to find The Athlete within You, then come join me and learn to control the beast within. Feed and nurture the one that will make you strong and happy. Many of the skills I teach will assist you in taming your savage beast. Keep in mind that as an athlete, there are times, more often than not where it is necessary to unleash the beast. I’ll deal with that another time.

Is Tiger Woods Finished?

Is Tiger Woods Finished?

I still think he'll break my record, says Jack Nicklaus about Tiger Woods

Okay, it’s Monday and I am a little bothered by what I saw being broadcast all weekend long. Apparently Tiger Woods is finished? Media reports of Tiger Woods’s PGA failure, coupled with his performance record the last two seasons seem to have everyone “walking on his grave.”  I even saw a report from a mental training coach declaring Woods as not mentally tough enough to succeed again.  I find these judgments premature and bordering on the ridiculous.

I am certainly not a Tiger apologist. Nor am I going to comment on personal events of the last few years that have impacted his game, his focus, and his ultimate performance. Certainly, many things including his injuries have affected his golf game.  But to call him done? Is this not a premature declaration? (check out the rest and  what Jack has to say) (more…)

Jack of All Trades Master of None

Jack of All Trades Master of None Perfectionism

My book The Athlete within You is almost ready to go to press.  It was a long journey.  It is interesting how I feel about it.  Writing over the years has been a real pain in the ass for me.  Call it perfectionism, fear of failure or whatever you would like.  When I was in graduate school back in Virginia we had a discussion about this very topic.  The gist of it was that my professors laughed at the idea that I was a perfectionist.  They said, as I obviously put so little effort into my technical writing, that while perhaps I feared failure, I was just a lazy, though brilliant, student.

Over the years working with many people, I have determined in my own lazy, but brilliant way, that as I thought back then, they were way off base.  I think people can become so perfectionistic that rather than attempt to do something to their own unreachable standards, they just shut down.  Moreover, because they fear failure, the move on to another activity.  When they find success there and start to master that area of their life, they may become once again caught up in this cycle of perfectionism and fear of failure.   Perhaps this is where we find the saying Jack-Of-All-Trades, Master of None.  (please comment at the end with your Perfectionism stories)

The fear of failure aspect is just part of normal attribution theory in that a person reaches a certain level through natural talent and sometimes because they do not attribute success to work and talent, they begin to become uncomfortable with their lack of success.  This leads them to decide the activity or their own ability lacks worth and they move on.  I think the same thing can be said for someone that is perfectionistic as well.

The perfectionist views a task, like writing or playing basketball, with a view that they should be able to accomplish something based on their ability and work.  Though they may believe in success through hard work, they toil over what success actual means to them.  They struggle with making sure every sentence is right grammatically and in making a point.  Words should not be wasted.  Mark Twain once apologized to a friend by saying “if I had more time, this letter would be shorter”.   For a basketball player, perfectionism is a tough.  If every shot should go in there, is an obvious issue.  In baseball, the best hitters in the Major Leagues hit just over .300.  That means they fail seven out of ten times they step to the plate.  Failing this often can be a problem.  I have seen parents and youth coaches really hammer their players when they fail to get a hit.  For some athletes this teaches them to not only fear failure, but to feel like nothing but perfection will satisfy them.

The combination of both of these attributes certainly contributes to a person drifting from one thing to another.  Usually they are good at what they do, but cannot seem to make themselves remain dedicated to their goal.  The closer they get, the higher the expectation to be perfect.  The harder they work and not reach perfection, the more they fear failure and the unreasonable expectation for success (only measured by perfection).

I realize that I very often post things where I spend a great deal of time explaining an issue and a very short explanation for a solution.  So this is part one of two.  Next post will look at ways to help someone or yourself over this kind of issue.  You cannot expect it to be an easy task.  That would be unreasonable, you might say perfectionistic.  So from one that has been known most of his life in sport as a Jack of All Trades, I’ll be back with suggestions on overcoming perfectionism without giving up a need for achievement.

What I would like is for people to share their perfectionism stories.  Let’s look and see if there are common treads.  It will be fun and of course we put ourselves at risk by sharing something of our vulnerability.  But that after all is what this blog is all about.  So forget about shame, leave fear behind.  Share and help others understand perfectionism, from your own experiences.