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My grandfather used to say “if you’re not changing and growing, you’re dying,” long before Tony Robbins coined the phrase. I’ve always taken that wisdom to heart and am now preparing for the next chapter of my professional life. As I shared in an article in the April issue of the APA Monitor, my next chapter will focus on spending more time with my family and enjoying an active lifestyle of hiking, trail running and cycling (hopefully for many years to come). I am now accepting new clients only by referral and beginning in 2016, will cease taking new individual clients. My current clients don’t have to worry– I will maintain a caseload of select individuals and have no intention of abandoning anyone. I have a number of internet projects to pursue that will hopefully provide tools for athletes, performers and performance consultants, and provide professional outlets for creativity and generativity. These projects include mental skills training videos, webinars for coaches and teams, and a special series of conversations with some of the top sport/performance consultants in the world.
Don’t get me wrong– I love my work and consider it a privilege to have been invited to share the lives of so many gifted performers over the years. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of trusted colleagues whom I am honored to call “friend.” I am a proponent of intentional living, however, and it is time for a new chapter.
Our ancestors learned years ago when travel was by swinging tree to tree that if you want to make any progress, you must be willing to let go of what you’ve been holding on to.
The tragedy surrounding the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon may present significant emotional challenges not only for those directly effected by the events, but also by all runners, athletes and the general public. The North Carolina Psychological Association Disaster Response Team has compiled this list of resources for coping with the tragedy. Feel free to pass this information along to others.
- Coping with Disaster Resources: Explosions (section on After an Explosion) http://www.ready.gov/explosions
- Coping with Disaster http://www.ready.gov/coping-with-disaster
- Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disaster and other traumatic events http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx
- Taking Care of Your Emotional Health After a Disaster http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240142_EmotionalHealth.pdf
- Recovering Emotionally http://www.redcross.org/find-help/disaster-recovery/recovering-emotionally
- Helping Children Cope with Disaster http://www.fema.gov/pdf/library/children.pdf
- American Psychological Association web services is working to upload relevant resources for the public on the landing page very soon on the Psychology Help Center: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/
- Disaster Distress Helpline (24/7 phone and text) via Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration http://disasterdistress.samhsa.gov/about.aspx
We hold the runners, spectators and their families in our hearts and prayers.
- If you are exercising 7 days a week, odds are you are being lazy. Lazy with your recovery that is. Training does not make you stronger; it actually breaks you down at the cellular level. You become stronger only when you recover after the breaking down process. Elite athletes and committed recreational athletes typically have no problem with the grunt and groans of hard workouts, but too often avoid adequate recovery out of misperception that down time is goofing off rather than smart training. “Lazy” is a disinclination to engage in an activity that one intellectually knows would be beneficial. Most folks are lazy with avoiding exercise; heavy exercisers are typically lazy with avoiding recovery. Recovery imbalance decreases performance, and increases the probability of illness, injury and burnout. If you have any questions about the dangers of overtraining and the benefits of recovery, check out the January 2013 issue of Medical Science of Sports and Exercise. It has the first ever joint consensus statement on “Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment of Overtraining Syndrome” by the American College of Sport Medicine and the European College of Sport Sciences. Stay tuned for a webinar on “Balancing Stress and Recovery” sponsored by Get Your Head In The Game in February of 2013.
- Motivation is over-rated. Motivation changes like the temperature; commitment is the key to making long-term change. For example, I know of no parents who are “motivated” to get up at two o’clock in the morning with a sick child. They do it because they are committed. If you want to actually get the goals that you have set, commit to a SMART goal– one that is Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Reasonable and Time-oriented. For example, a goal such as “working out more this year” is a lovely thought, but usually not very helpful in actually producing change. By contrast, a SMART goal such as “getting to the gym three days a week for 30 minutes, for six weeks in a row” has a much higher probability of being achieved. For more on SMART goals and effective goal getting, check out this video: https://headinthegame.net/resources/videos/#GoalGetting
- Take time to P to improve performance. As simple as it sounds, performance (including sticking with an exercise routine) can dramatically improve if you simply Pause, get your Pulse down by breathing, put things in Perspective, and then work your Plan. Often you do not need to learn anything new to perform better; you simply need to remember what you know. The “P” routine allows you to slow down those pesky old habits, and be more intentional in your actions. Try it and you will ‘Ppreciate the results.
- Commit yourself to an institution. A school, church or organization that is. One of the keys to happiness (and simultaneously preventing burnout) is to use your strengths and talents in pursuit of something that is “meaningful,” i.e., bigger than yourself. Many people consider volunteering with a local civic group, or becoming more involved with their place of worship; but then put off doing so until “things ease off a bit.” Don’t kid yourself, your life will always be busy and that lull may never come. Make the commitment and you will find the time.
- Stuff it. The old adage of “count your blessings” as a means of promoting happiness is actually well-grounded in modern research. Studies indicate that the simple act of reviewing the positive events of the day can have profound impact on improving happiness. I recommend a variation that is geared towards a fantastic New Year’s Eve celebration at the conclusion of 2013. Get a large jar (preferably one gallon or larger) and keep a small pad near it. Take time every day to “count your blessings” and write down at least one positive thing that you experienced during the day, and stuff it in the jar. On December 31st, take out the jar and review all the good memories of 2013 as part of ringing in the new year. After the stroke of midnight, store the memories in a baggie (or a scrapbook if you are inclined) and repeat for the next year.
Few people can surpass Olympians at both goal setting and goal getting. Writer Suzanne Rust has distilled the principles and techniques used by Olympic athletes for “ordinary mortals” seeking success in their personal and professional lives. I was delighted to serve as a resource for Rust in creating this feature for Citibank’s Women & Co. program. Click here for more…
Athletes consistently report that mental preparation for Olympic competition separates the good from the great. With that in mind, I want to share what U.S. Olympic champions have identified as the top 10 lessons for Olympic success. This information comes from the DVD, “Success at the Olympics,” produced by the Sport Psychology Services at the USOC. The lessons here are not restricted to athletes, but apply to anyone who wants to perform under pressure in business, performing arts or high risk occupations.
For ease of reading, I’ve broken these into two parts: five are covered in Part One (CLICK HERE for Part One); the remaining five in Part Two (CLICK HERE for Part Two). These links lead to recent issues of our Pressure Points newsletter. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to take a moment to subscribe to the newsletter and other “Good Stuff” from Get Your Head In The Game, that way you will be assured of getting great tips and offerings “hot off the press.”
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback on Pressure Points and any other aspect of our site.
Charlie Brown, PhD
Director, Get Your Head In The Game
PS – Olympic fever is here. Catch it!
Energy management. All the preparation and hard work is behind you at this point; the key is to manage your energy at the venue so you can perform at your optimal level when it is your turn to compete. While high intensity focus is a key ingredient of successful performance, sustaining performance over a prolonged period requires alternating intense focus with periods of relaxation and shifting attention. Mental and emotional recovery between events is as crucial as physical recovery. If you’re really serious about performing well, take time to be “not so serious,” kick back and relax. You’ll have more energy when it’s time to ramp up for your event.
Execution. By now you should have a well-developed performance plan that you have rehearsed countless times. Your body knows exactly what to do, even if your “thinking mind” may wonder if there is something different that might tweak your performance even more. You do not need to do anything new or different; simply do what you know and do it well. Trust your training; trust your body; execute your plan. Anything new or different at this stage of the game is a recipe for disaster.
Embrace the experience. Whether you are a seasoned Olympian or a first-time qualifier, you’ve been preparing for this moment all your life. You have earned this opportunity. Embrace the excitement, uncertainty and possibilities that it offers. Make memories that you can Enjoy for a lifetime.
This afternoon the Olympic Trials for the whitewater slalom team of USA Canoe & Kayak started at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC. The temperatures were crisp and the skies a brilliant clear Carolina blue as the top paddlers in the US started the three-day process to determine the 2012 US National Team and earn points to represent the US at the London Olympics. The outcome of years of training are determined on a frothy whitewater run that lasts less than 120 seconds. This is the epitome of a pressure performance situation.
The key to performing well under pressure is having a clear “target” of what you want to be doing, and keeping your attention on that target. Athletes, performing artists, physicians, and business people are quick to identify what they don’t want: don’t choke, don’t freeze, don’t blow it. Unfortunately, focusing on what you don’t want often inadvertently increases the probability of what you hope to avoid.
So what is the optimal target in these pressure situations?
I first heard this term used by Canadian sport psychologist, Terry Orlick, and immediately knew it captured the “target” for anyone attempting to perform under pressure. The key to being able to race free is to FACE the challenge:
Focus totally in the moment.
Activate to your ideal performance level; calm down or pump up if needed.
Commit fully to your performance plan.
Embrace the experience.
Let the games begin and FACE the challenge…
If you are struggling with self control, a little bite of something sweet may be just the thing to boost waning willpower. Researchers have been studying what actually goes on in the brain when a person is exercising “will power” or self-control. The part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex is responsible for will power and self-control, and different regions of the prefrontal cortex influence different aspects of will power. The left side gets things going and energizes your attention on the tasks and behaviors that are your goals, while your right side acts as the brakes and keeps you from falling victim to temptation.
It also turns out that will power requires a goodly amount of energy, primarily in the form of glucose. If your glucose levels are low, either due to not having enough “fuel” or the body simply not processing the glucose efficiently due to stress or lack of sleep, then your will power is more apt to run out of gas. Psychologist Roy Baumeister of Florida State University conducted studies where a small number of jelly beans or half a can of soda provided the brain with a boost in glucose to produce more self control.
Members of AA have long advocated the “HALT principle” when undertaking one of the greatest challenges of will power: abstinence from alcohol. HALT is a reminder to never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Modern brain imaging research validates the HALT principle. If you are hungry and struggling with will power, a bite of something sweet may provide the sugar boost that you need to sustain self control (just make certain is is only a bite!). Likewise, engaging in pleasurable activities that promote emotional and mental recovery, can help restore one’s will power “muscles” and strengthen them in the process.
These current findings also give insights as to why eating several small meals throughout the day is typically more effective than restrictive crash dieting. By eating throughout the day, a person is better able to maintain the glucose levels needed to fuel the parts of the brain that exercise self-control. That means making better choices as to both types of foods and portion sizes. By contrast, if a person restricts food for an extended period and experiences a drop in glucose, will power crashes and the probability of binge eating skyrockets.
To learn more about recent findings on the neurological basis of will power, check out this article from the Boston Globe: click here.
So now about that chocolate… The researchers used a small number of jelly beans to boost glucose levels. Personally, if I’m going for an energy boost, chocolate is my “fuel” of choice. The challenge is to stop with just a bite. If you eat it slowly (and good chocolate should always be savored slowly), the added glucose can help you say “enough.” Sounds like a “win-win situation” to me.
So what have you found that helps your will power?
While the experience of anger in youth sport is not new (the Rutgers Youth Sport Research Council has an excellent article on-line documenting adult violence at youth sporting events occurring 25 years ago), there are factors that make the matter more volatile today. One of the major concerns is when parents begin seeing their child’s sport participation as an “investment.” Rather than encouraging a child to play for fun and to learn life skills such as teamwork, leadership and discipline, sport participation is viewed as a way to get a scholarship or a big paycheck as a professional athlete. Too often this can lead to thinking in terms of “ownership” of the athlete and wanting to protect the investment, rather than pride in your child.