Getting out of our comfort zones. I’ve been seeing this graphic a lot lately. Photos of people jumping off cliffs, or bubble graphics showing where you are now and where you want to be and the only way to get there is to get out of your COMFORT ZONE.Out of our COMFORT ZONES

COMFORT ZONES are a moving target or at least it should be. As you move yourself out of your COMFORT ZONE to become or realize your goals, you will start to get comfortable again. This requires the mentally strong person to continually push themselves into a new level of discomfort. Complacency leads athletes to mediocrity. This is especially true in training camp. You have survived the first few weeks. If you didn’t force yourself out of your COMFORT ZONES certainly your coaches did. Now that you have gotten used to the ebb and flow of practice things are easier and for many this is a time to relax a bit and focus on what you are good at doing. But great athletes never allow themselves to get sucked into the malaise of the COMFORT ZONE. Great athletes are vigilant in their pursuit to continually push themselves out of the COMFORT ZONE to find THE ZONE. THE ZONE is where an athlete plays their best. It is often called PEAK PERFORMANCE and should be every athlete’s ultimate destination. Notice I said destination and not goal. THE ZONE is not something you can set goals for directly, it is the path you travel that gets you there and to get to THE ZONE, you have to pass through your COMFORT ZONES.

Lessons from sport psychology

One way out of the comfort zone is to …

Now it is easy for people (sometimes coaches) to tell players this is an easy thing to do. It is for some of course, but certainly not for everyone. Having worked with thousands of athletes over the last 30+ years at some very high levels I can tell you at some point the COMFORT ZONES suck most everyone in. You can get out of the COMFORT ZONE in many ways. One exercise I like to use with athletes is using an imagery technique. It is a switch technique. Imagine you are practicing or playing in the COMFORT ZONE. Things are going well for you, but others are working just a little harder. They may be even making a few mistakes, but you are playing safely in the COMFORT ZONE. This seems OK, but you are starting to lose ground.  As you imagine this scenario, notice where you see it. Out in front, to the side, below eye level or above. It doesn’t matter.  Let’s put that aside for a moment. Now imagine a different scene. In this one you are pushing yourself out of your COMFORT ZONE. You are tired, you are trying new things, you are learning and getting better. Now notice where that image is located. Put them up on a huge flat screen TV in their respective places. Turn the COMFORT ZONE image black and white and make it smaller. Now take the out of the COMFORT ZONE image. Make it brighter and bigger. Count to three and switch their relative space on the TV. Fade the COMFORT ZONE completely into oblivion and say to yourself this is where I want to travel. Practice this and make what you see a reality by committing to this image and feeling every time you step out to practice and play. This is a great first step in helping yourself when you have trouble getting out of your COMFORT ZONE. The more we try to learn about ourselves, the more we can move down the path towards peak performance and finding THE ZONE.

We Can Learn from the Olympics- Guest Blog

We Can Learn from the Olympics- Guest Blog

10 Career Lessons We Can Learn from the Olympics- Guest Blog

I had decided to do something very much like this relative to the Olympics, perhaps more directed at business, when I got a response to the book review in the Issaquah Press. This blog site has been followed by OnlineCollege.org for the last few years. They asked if I would like to post a recent staff post they had written about what career lesson from the London 2012 Olympic Games. Most of the attributes discussed  sport psychology focuses on with the athletes we work with, so I think it is appropriate. So here it is in it’s entirety.

10 Career Lessons We Can Learn from the Olympics – Guest Blog

Most of us have watched the Olympics simply in awe of the amazing skill, dedication, and focus exhibited by athletes from all over the world. Yet these traits do not only serve the athletes well in the arena; they can also be carried over into the non-Olympic sphere. The drive to aim for gold, the passion to battle through setbacks, and the infallible work ethic of these athletes can serve as a powerful lesson for those of use who aren’t quite Olympics material, too, and are traits that are just as valuable in the office as they are in athletics. Here are 10 excellent career lessons that employees, managers, and business owners alike can take away from the Olympics. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to work just as hard for the career of your dreams as the Olympic athletes work for theirs.


    We Can Learn from the Olympics

    For Olympic athletes, stagnating when it comes to skills can mean the difference between getting gold and going home with nothing. They must constantly push themselves to be faster, stronger, and better than they’ve ever been, even sometimes blowing past the limits of what others said was humanly possible. This same kind of attitude and drive can go just as far in the office as it can in the arena. Pushing yourself to learn, to improve, and to excel at your job will not only make you better at what you do, it will more than likely gain the attention of management. Push hard enough, and you might just gain the skills and confidence to deliver a gold medal performance in your own profession.


    There are dozens of stories of amazing teamwork in the Olympics, from the dynamic duo of Missy May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings to the impressive relay teams in men’s and women’s swimming. You don’t have to be an athlete to have that kind of commitment and loyalty to your team, however. The same kind of team dynamics apply in the office, too. You can do your career a big favor by learning how to be a solid and reliable team player and be willing to cheer on the team and help them work toward the end goal, even if your own ideas get sidelined. When it comes to work, a victory for the company is a victory for everyone involved (offering greater job stability and maybe even a bonus) so there’s no reason not to go all in with supporting your coworkers and earning their respect and support in return.

    8 more great things learned from the London 2012 Olympic Games

Seven Day Challenge: Remembering the Coin

Seven Day Challenge: Remembering the Coin

Seven Day Challenge: Remembering the Coin

About a week ago I posted an exercise Remember the Coin Part 1.

Remembering the coinRemember the Coin

Remembering the Coin. It was really a seven-day challenge. I gave the instructions, but no explanation of what the exercise was about. I set it up to entice athletes to want to do the exercise without an explanation of what the lesson was about. I left that part out for a couple of reason.

1) If you know what it is about you are likely to say that is not an issue for me and decide not to give it a go.

2) Another reason is I wanted to show how perhaps language might impact those that gave it a try.

3) And the third reason is that as with many good mental training exercises, I did not want to influence people into thinking that it was one simple construct, but perhaps it had multiple meanings.

So here is part of the reason for the exercise. If you found other significance’s, I would love for you to post them here. At the end of the explanation I’ve added another challenge for those of you that found this too easy. That would be the 10% that passed, not the other 10% that lied or the 80% that failed.

The primary reason to do this exercise revolves around discipline. What almost every person lacks to achieve what they want is Discipline.

If you are not disciplined enough to complete a simple task for 7 days, how will you possibly be disciplined enough to commit to any kind of goal setting or other training plan?Mental training skill

From experience, I will tell you that you will always have a difficult time in any training, if you are not willing to do the little things that are involved in success.

This is one of the things I start with in working with athletes. If they are not able to complete this simple exercise, expectations are in need of reassessment. I know of another sport psychology consultant who refuses to work with an athlete that cannot complete this simple task. I would rather use it as a great learning experience and teachable moment. The effort the athlete puts into this process is critical to the long-term effort they put into the sports performance they want to achieve.

The reason this exercise is difficult is in its simplicity. Stupid or silly are words I’ve heard to describe it. Meaningless as they do not see the relevance. In its simplicity and meaninglessness is its relevancy. When an athlete finds that they cannot be bothered with details of training, they often cannot stay on track with many other parts of training. An athlete may have no issue with parts of training they consider important to their success, but other less interesting or fun parts get set aside. For example an athlete, say an ice hockey player,  might decide that on ice training is critical, but when it comes to off-ice work the motivation is not always there. I’ve seen this interfere many times with the relationship between coach and athlete, because the athlete lacks discipline to carry out the coaches instructions.

The other thing about this exercise is that it demonstrates a need for emotional commitment to everything the athlete does. In this exercise there was no emotional commitment. The athlete has no blood in the game. Neither success nor failure means anything. This makes completion of the task other than by discipline difficult. We all need to make an emotional connection to what we really want. These connections are what help motivate us to continue when we have reservations. The exercise helps create an emotional connection. If you accomplish this connection, you’ll be a step closer to finding the athlete within you.

OK a couple of other points about how I set up the exercise. I did set athletes up to fail. I challenged them almost to the point of saying you are a failure if you cannot achieve success. However, I also left the gate open and said you can start over should you forget a day. The other thing I did was that I continued to use the word TRY everywhere I could. I asked the athlete to try and meet the challenge. This was really as much for parents and coaches, as the athlete. When working with players eliminating this word can have a very positive effect. Consider that this exercise would be easier if I had told everyone that they could be very successful just by completing this task. Eliminate try and you will see more progress in those you work with. I promise. Give it a try, or rather as Nike says. “Just Do It”

Remembering the Coin: POST SCRIPT

To make the exercise more difficult (for the 10% THAT PASSED).  Take your paper and put it behind something. Put it completely out of sight so you force yourself to do it. You can invent other challenges as well. Keep in mind that often times discipline is a habit and to create a new and positive habit takes between 21-45 days. Teach yourself to be a more disciplined athlete and you will find many other benefits.

Remember the Coin

Remember the Coin

Remember the Coin

It’s called remember the coin. it’s an exercise I would like you to try. Take a ruler or tape measure. Grab a piece of paper and something to write with. On the paper measure seven (7) inches and draw a line (Shown in red). Mark it in one inch increments (shown in green) like I have more or less drawn below.

Remember the coin

Now you are just about ready for one of the toughest exercises you will ever be asked to complete as part of your mental game training. The only thing you need now is a quarter or some marker like say a poker chip.Remember the Coin


Place the paper somewhere in a room. Now I’m going to ask you not to cheat on this. Please don’t put it right in front of your computer, by the remote control for the TV or your Xbox. This is sort of the opposite of the instructions I would give you if this were a goal setting exercise. In goal setting I want you to be able to see your goals easily and more or less run into them all of the time. With this exercise I would like you to put the paper somewhere less in your path. You don’t necessarily need to hide it in a drawer or behind a moat infested with alligators (well that would make it interesting), but just not where you see it casually.

The next step is to place your coin, marker or poker chip on the first mark. Only if you are neurotic does it matter if you start on the right or left (top or bottom). What I want you to do is each day after the first is to flip the coin over so it sits on the next line. You may only flip the marker once each day. If (or when, I should say) you forget to move the coin you need to start over. It might be a good idea to mark the first line with the day you start.

Generally 80 percent of you will fail the first time. Another 10 percent will lie and say they did it correctly even though they forgot a day or two. Around ten percent will get it right. Remember, one turn only once per day. If you forget a day you restart.

Have fun with this, teach it to some friends.  In around ten days I will post the purpose of this valuable exercise. You’ll love it even when you fail. Remember the Coin is a good way to start your mental training.

Game within the Game – Slideshow

The Game within the Game slideshow

I thought I would post one of my PowerPoint presentations on the game within the game. It is how I often introduce sport psychology and mental training to parent groups. It is performance oriented and takes a more research or academic based approach to mental training. Come view the slide show and see many of the topics covered in mental training and how it can be a benefit to athlete who decide to travel this road. Mental training is an important aspect of the athletic experience.

How we make mental changes in sports

How we make mental changes in sports

How we make mental changes in sports

I was recently given a book called Switch (http://amzn.to/xiNYME) by the brothers Heath. It is all about the psychology of change. This is of course an area I have worked in for three decades with athletes. Change covers a lot of territory. Sport Psychology encompasses everything from dealing with stress and emotional intelligence to dealing with fear and pain. It is all about change and how athletes adapt.

The Heath Brothers tell this allegory as a way of explaining how change happens in an individual. I use it here as sport psychology is often caught between two worlds as we all are. I want to talk about how our conscious and unconscious affect our behavior. This is particularly important when working with athletes when they want to change something in their game or in life.

The allegory is simply about elephants. Elephants like those that are used to do work in places like India and SE Asia. We have seen this in movies and on TV where a person riding on top of the elephant, directing the huge beast to move trees and clear out debris. And this works a good deal of the time as long as the elephant wants to do the work. If the elephant decides they would rather go for a walk it is unlikely that the person riding on top of them will have a great deal of influence.  (more…)