Tag: positive thinking

Why the Journey is More Important Than the Destination

By: Premier Sport Psychology

We have all heard the old adage, “The journey is more important than the destination,” (or some variation of it) time and again. What few people discuss, however, is what makes the journey so important.

Look at any newspaper story describing an athletic accomplishment, and you may notice that while the headline comes from the accomplishment itself, the body of the story is, in fact, a story. It is the story of how the athlete achieved his or her goals, typically through preparation and adversity. Take for example, Ben Saunders.

In 2014, Saunders accomplished a journey that no one previously had—he trekked to the South Pole and back on foot. He and his partner ventured 1,800 miles, spanning 105 days—shattering the record for the longest human-powered polar journey by over 400 miles. However, it wouldn’t have been a journey without obstacles along the way. After experiencing consistent headwind slowing them down, the two cut back their food rations to half of what they should have been consuming, and eventually ran out. 46 miles away from their storage of food, hungry and suffering from hypothermia, Saunders made the decision to call for assistance. It was not easy, and Saunders called it “one of the toughest decisions of [his] life.” He went on to say, “I don’t regret calling for that plane for a second, because I’m still standing here alive, with all digits intact. But getting external assistance like that was never part of the plan, and it’s something my ego is still struggling with. This was the biggest dream I’ve ever had, and it was so nearly perfect.”

In today’s fast-paced world, we constantly try to achieve the next goal as fast as humanly possible. We try to change the definition of what is humanly possible. We are obsessed with perfection and being the best. However, we must shift our focus from the end point to the point we are currently in. We must focus on accomplishing our current challenge before we prepare for our next challenge. Runners build up their endurance by running 5, 10, 15 miles before running a marathon. Swimmers do not swim the 400-meter freestyle without spending time in the gym building their muscles and physical strength. Athletes (much like Ben Saunders) do not accomplish great feats unless they first spend a great deal of time preparing.

We need to learn to be content with the place that we are in and not just the destination. Crossing the finish line takes a split second, but the journey takes so much longer. If we are only living for the finish line, we are only enjoying a few moments instead of the weeks, months, or years of preparation. The journey is where we learn. When people recall their stories, they don’t just say, “Well, I crossed the finish line at this time and then that was that.” They tell their stories. They talk about overcoming obstacles—when they learned what their breaking points were after being pushed to their physical and mental limits. They talk about the relationships they formed with their teammates and crews. They talk about how, in the most brutal of conditions, they learned what they were made of. We don’t learn what we’re made of after we complete goals—we learn during the process.

After Saunders completed his journey to the South Pole and back, many people asked him what would be the next milestone he would conquer. Reporters wanted to know the next destination, but Saunders was still reflecting on his journey:

“Looking back, I still stand by all the things I’ve been saying for years about the importance of goals and determination and self-belief, but I’ll also admit that I hadn’t given much thought to what happens when you reach the all-consuming goal that you’ve dedicated most of your adult life to, and the reality is that I’m still figuring that bit out. […] I’m also standing here saying, you know what, that cliché about the journey being more important than the destination? There’s something in that. The closer I got to my finish line, that rubbly, rocky coast of Ross Island, the more I started to realize that the biggest lesson that this very long, very hard walk might be teaching me is that happiness is not a finish line, that for us humans, the perfection that so many of us seem to dream of might not ever be truly attainable, and that if we can’t feel content here, today, now, on our journeys amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit, the open loops, the half-finished to-do lists, the could-do-better-next-times, then we might never feel it.”

To hear Saunders’ full story, watch his TED talk here.

 

5 Sport Psychology Skills Every Coach Should Know

By: Premier Sport Psychology

Leadership

One of the most important skills that a coach can develop is personal leadership. As a coach, you are put into a role that deems a significant amount of guidance and responsibility. Athletes will observe all your positive attributes, but also your downfalls. Developing a set of leadership skills that will help athletes improve both in sport and in personal endeavors is crucial.

“Make no doubt about it, athletes not only need effective leadership, they also desire it. Young people want consistent parameters, direction, order structure, organization and discipline. They need it whether they know it or not. It gives them security, and that, in turn, helps them to be more confident.” (Dorfman, 2003)

Blog: “Qualities of a quality leader”

Imagery

Imagery has been the focus of a great deal of research over the recent years. Results consistently lead us to believe that successful implementation of imagery techniques have a direct and positive effect on sport performance. By developing these techniques, we enable our athletes to experience a variety of competition settings mentally so that when the time comes they will be prepared to perform at their highest level.

“Although it is still not clear why, imagery frequently predicts behaviors: Imagining disaster or success at work, in relationships, or in sport often leads to that outcome. Taking control of our imaginations is vital if we are to manage our behavior effectively, particularly in sport.”

Self-confidence

Even without research, most would argue the importance of confidence in sport and in life. It is a feeling that when experienced can make or break ones performance. Feeling confident gives an athlete the ability to believe in “I can” rather than “I can’t” which often times determines whether that belief becomes a reality.

Coaches can help develop athlete’s confidence by providing positive feedback when the athlete performs well and conversely, in the instances where athletes are not performing their best. Sometimes it is equally or more important to build an athletes confidence when they are struggling. Providing constructive criticism can help athletes learn how to improve, but giving them the confidence to know they can improve is more important yet.

Self-talk

A study conducted by David Tod, James Hardy, and Emily Oliver analyzed 47 studies that assessed the relationship between self-talk and performance. The study suggested positive effects on performance by athletes who were using various forms of self-talk. Similar to imagery, often times what we think has a direct effect on our behavior. If we focus on the thoughts that go through our head on our regular basis, we can start to identify the negative thoughts that have potential to lead us to decreased performance. On the other hand, we will notice self-talk that is positive and constructive and will be able to implement those types of thoughts more often.

As a coach, teaching athletes how to implement positive self-talk will benefit them (and the team as a whole). Self-talk can increase performance and will help the athletes develop a strong sense of self worth that is an invaluable skill outside of competition as well.

Blog: “Learn to listen to yourself”

Goal Setting

Goal setting can be a great way to get the team on board and working toward a common outcome or result. It is important to be SMART when setting goals with your team. Check our Premier Sport Psychology’s recent blog post on setting goals titled “He Shoots, He Scores! Setting Goals, Not Just Scoring Them”

S – Specific – Be very clear in your mind exactly what the goal relates to. If there are several aspects, create multiple goals.
M – Measurable – Any goal set should be capable of being measure in some way. If there is no way to measure, there is no way to assess progress. If assessing Mental Skills, a subjective measuring scale can be used, as long as the same scale is used every time.
A – Adjustable – Goal setting is a dynamic process and goals need to be altered at times. If your teams’ progress is faster or slower than you had originally planned, goals will need to be changed to reflect this.
R – Realistic – It is essential to set challenging goals, but not so challenging you never achieve them. As a simple rule, set goals that are sufficiently beyond your present ability to force hard work and persistence, but not so challenging they are unrealistic. Use your best judgment for what is and is not realistic for your teams.
T – Time-based – All goals should have a specific time period. Without a target date, there is little motivation for the athletes to achieve the goal. There are three time periods for goal setting: short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term.

 

References:

Bull, S., Albinson, J., & Shambrook, C. (1996). The mental game plan: Getting psyched for sport. Eastbourne: Sports Dynamics.

Dorfman, H. (2003). Leadership and Power(s). In Coaching the mental game: Leadership philosophies and strategies for peak performance in sports, and everyday life (p. 3). Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing.

Morris, T., Spittle, M., & Watt, A. (2005). Imagery in sport. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Tod, D., James, H., & Oliver, E. (2011). Effects of Self-Talk: A Systematic Review. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 666-687.

 

 

Feeling Anxious? Lucky You.

By: Premier Sport Psychology

You are feeling anxious? Lucky you.

I am going to get on my soapbox for a couple minutes here. I think everybody can thrive from anxiety. However, the feelings of anxiety often make us uncomfortable. The root of this anxiety is because neither you, nor I, really know how to use our anxiety. Because here is the thing, anxiety could just be one of the most powerful innate skills we as humans possess, and instead of running with it, we run from it. If you look up the definition of anxiety this is what you will find: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

Then scroll down and take a peek at the synonyms: worry, concern, apprehension, apprehensiveness, uneasiness, unease, fearfulness, fear, disquiet, agitation, angst, misgiving, nervousness, nerves, tension, and tenseness.

Well I think, while I am up here on my soapbox, I would like to pick a fight. I would like to pick a fight with the idea that anxiety is a negative thing. I would argue that anxiety is indeed a positive thing. I’ll use with another word, excited. The definition of excited reads: stirred emotionally, agitated, stimulated to activity, aroused, to cause; awaken. Now I may be the only one, but I have experienced both these feelings and have come to realize that the feelings can overlap a great deal. Are you going on a first date? How do you feel–anxious or excited? Are you buckling your seat on a roller coaster? Is that feeling anxiousness or excitement? Competing in a game? I ask you the same question. Are these feelings only anxiety or only excitement–often times it seems hard to have one without the other.

An excessive amount of anxiety is not beneficial, I agree. When it creeps its way into places it doesn’t belong, anxiety can cause problems from a physiological standpoint. And that is not going to do anyone any good. But, what if we can channel small amounts of anxiety into positive performance. Even an abundance of anxiety can be transformed into a wealth of energy and excitement. We can change the way our body responds to anxiety if we first change the way we think about it. People do not walk up to a podium in front of 500 people without anxiety. The players in the NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA have all had their share of this feeling. However, the athletes and people that view anxiety as a strength and a skill for performing are the ones that can reach optimal performance.

If you asked every person if they have experienced this feeling, I would be surprised to hear if even one person had not. It is a natural response developed with our “fight or flight” reflex many years ago. And we still find it prevalent today. The role of anxiety has clearly left a genetic imprint that is crucial to our evolution (and to your success). So before I step down from up here where the view is great, I will ask you to remember one thing. The next time you feel your anxiety kick in, heart racing, sweat going, palms sweaty, and body shaky don’t run from it. Run with it. I am willing to bet you will run much faster with it, then without it.

 

Want to hear more about this topic? Watch this TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal.