Posted on September 17, 2020 in Performance Psychology • No comments
What if I told you that ultimate achievement (winning the big game, closing a huge deal, a massive promotion) shouldn’t be what we give all of our attention to within our careers? Like, not at all.
Not that they’re not great and massive accomplishments – they are. But, they’re ephemeral, and our brain is really bad at understanding how they’ll truly make us feel, and what they’ll do for us.
What does the brain instinctively TELL us about those accomplishments?
First, that it knows EXACTLY what it will feel like if you succeed or fail to reach it. Essentially, it tells you that it can feel the high of the high, or the lowness of the low. Problem is that it can’t. The brain inflates both to their extremes. The brain is a bad predictor and estimator of feeling.
It makes sense – it’s built in to our survival instinct. It creates a drive to gobble up more and more of the good feeling, and to prevent more of the bad feeling.
Here’s the reality. The “ultimate success” moment if it happens will spike a positive emotion for sure, but actually doesn’t last long. A day, maybe a few, if you’re truly lucky maybe a week. And, the pain if you don’t reach it can be rough. But….it doesn’t kill us. It does fade. Life will continue, and we always move forward. Sometimes we even learn or grow in the exact way we needed to because of it.
So, if we reach it it’s a great moment, but it’s actually a bit fleeting. And even when temporarily defeated, we can go on to build an even more fulfilling present and future, that’s broader, deeper, and greater.
What does this really mean than? Well, we should still definitely “go for it” and not be afraid of failing, because we’ll almost always be just fine, and maybe even better for it. The journey is definitely worth it. And, if we’re being real with ourselves, we shouldn’t expect life to change too much when we do reach these outcomes.
So, what should we give our deepest attention to? The daily successes. The moments when you master something that you never could do before. The growth. The struggle. The fleeting moments. The relationships. The testing of yourself. The moments when you know – inside – that you did well and that no one needs to tell you that. And, of course, the moments when you help others to achieve as well.
It’s so fucking cliché, but it really is about the journey. If you can define your deepest values, and then align with them in your sport, your work, and your life – it’s right there. If you can attempt to do things that help others to have success, help your organization have success than you’re already experiencing the things that your brain wants to convince you are coming down the road if/when you finally reach _________ …whatever that may be?
It’s our attachment to what’s down the road that creates the suffering.
The genius though is that the gratitude – the fulfillment- are already happening and are possible, if you just know where to look.
Daily gratitude for what is, and what we’re already experiencing isn’t something that our brain instinctively does, so we need to train ourselves to do it. It’s not difficult. Doesn’t take up a ton of time, and the reward is amazing.
Society’s (and truly the marketing machines) messaging wants to keep you thinking that your happiness and fulfillment are just beyond your reach, and that the “next success” (or purchase) will be the one that brings you to that ultimate place. It won’t. But the cool part is that it’s actually already there – you just may need to refocus your lens.
Stuart Singer, M.Ed., and PsyD (ABD) is the Director of WellPerformance, a Mental Performance Coaching and Consulting practice, and the creator of the DoSo app https://t.co/R61vbpda4X
For more information regarding this topic he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @wellperformance, or instagram: wellperformance
Posted on September 16, 2020 in Performance Psychology • No comments
The marketing and advertising world want to make performance – specifically performance psychology – really sexy and exciting. They want to sell the sizzle, but don’t give you the steak. Most don’t even know what the steak would be.
In fact, somewhere along the way it was renamed “mental-toughness”. That “sizzles” right?! But, here’s the deal – psychological performance is really a skill like every other part of performance. When something is a skill it means that we can address it, practice it, there are fundamentals for it, we can reevaluate, and practice again and again.
For over a decade now I have worked in the high consequence environments of the NBA, WNBA, MLS, NWSL, NCAA Division 1, and with Olympic Gold Medalists. Bottom line is that high-performance is the standard. I’ve been up close and personal to ultimate success.
I hate saying this, but it’s rarely “sizzle” – it’s typically a ton of reps, preparation, honest self-evaluation, deep understanding of basics, failures and disappointments, refocus, and high-quality recovery. In fact, if someone tries to tell you otherwise – that there’s a hack or a trick – run, don’t walk, away.
But, I can also tell you this – it’s a blast!
Performance psychology will have complicated moments for sure, as there are so many variables out of our control. However, if I’m going to try and simplify it in order to start with something targeted and trainable it would be …………………… attention.
Man, we’re so distracted. So, understanding what to give our attention to, and what NOT to, is a massive first step.
However, it’s not enough to just understand what you do and don’t want to give your attention to – it then becomes all about learning HOW to train attention proactively and intentionally.
The world-class athletes that I am fortunate work with train it and learn to utilize it in really high-consequence moments. But, here’s the interesting thing – so can you! You don’t need their elite physical ability in order to develop truly elite mental skills. It’s not complicated, but it’s not easy either…
Deep attention requires us training to quiet our minds. To find stillness even in chaos. To dial in to a very specific target, become distracted, and then find that specific target again…and…. again….and again. Remember it’s not sexy and requires reps with a specific intention. But if you want the skill you have to WANT the PROCESS – all of it!
If your thoughts or focus are stuck going over mistakes you’ve already made, predicting the ones that could happen, or on the noise of the opinions of others – you simply can’t perform at your best. It’s pretty normal to get stuck with your attention in those spaces…nothing is wrong with you, or particularly “weak” – you just haven’t learned the skill of intentional attention and then carried out the proactive reps it takes.
It’s real. Can be a struggle. You’ll be unsure if you’re doing it right. And….then…you’ll get it. You’ll experience sense of calm in a crucial and chaotic moment. At that moment you’ll know you BUILT a skill.
As you do “reps” of the attention training that I’m discussing here you start to find that the actions/behaviors that you want to spend time in start to become more clear and easier to access. The actions/behaviors that you don’t want begin to fade and you don’t find yourself “in them” as often.
The natural byproduct becomes a clearer mind, less overthinking, reduced emotional outbursts and reactiveness, and the ability to choose how you want to respond in the most consequential moments in your sport, your work, your leadership, or your life.
We can help you develop the mental skills you need and align everything you do with the deeper value that you’re looking for from life and work.
But I’m going to promise you that I don’t have a hack for it – is that ok with you?
Stuart Singer, M.Ed; PsyD (ABD) is the Director of WellPerformance, a Mental Performance Coaching and Consulting practice, and the creator of the DoSo app https://t.co/R61vbpda4X
For more information regarding this topic he can be contacted at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @wellperformance, or instagram: wellperformance
Posted on March 18, 2019 in Performance Psychology • No comments
I have been fortunate to work with some great coaches and players this year. On the professional level the team I work with made it to the finals of the WNBA championship. On the Division 1 collegiate level I have 3 teams that will be playing in the NCAA tournament this week. However, I would bet you that if you asked any of these coaches about the number of wins they have they’d be hard pressed to give you an accurate number. Don’t get me wrong they are each highly, highly competitive people, but the numbers themselves are not the measurement of success they use.
It would be easy for me to sit here and write about all the reasons that these teams won because of the massive impact of sport psychology – my work and role within each team. But that isn’t the direction I am going to go at all. In fact, it may be the opposite of that. There is no way to quantify the impact of my role in helping these teams to reach really high performance success. I know that it’s there it’s just really difficult to find a metric that could measure it.
However, what I have started to think about is why are they so successful? Here’s what I know – all four coaches are very different – age, years of experience, tactical style of play, what they emphasize, how they teach, etc. Yet, what they do share is that each of them believes that we coach humans and not jersey numbers. They believe that they must equip their players with everything they can within their resources to help develop them as a whole person. This includes training on recovery, nutrition, hydration, sleep, strength, and giving back to those that are less fortunate than them. It also includes teaching them about mental and emotional growth.
I believe that they don’t feel that any one of these areas specifically is THE reason for the success. Instead they believe that EACH of these together helps their players to find their ultimate potential. And if they can help them reach their own individual potential then it places them in the best position to reach their highest collective success. They believe that there is no single easy path to achievement, but instead a dedication to effective and healthy skills and habits done over and over again.
Essentially, just by feeling that the role of sport psychology is an important enough role to include within their programs/franchise that they are telling their players about what their culture is about. That EVERYTHING matters, and that THEY matter. As cliché as it may be – that investing in the individual pays the greatest dividends. And that they trust that a dedicated focus on the process of success is way more important than focusing ON the success itself. A culture of success isn’t always about what you preach, but instead what you give your attention to.
Stuart Singer, M.Ed., and PsyD (ABD) is the Director of WellPerformance, a Mental Performance Coaching and Consulting practice, and the creator of the DoSo app https://t.co/R61vbpda4X . For more information regarding this topic he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @wellperformance, or instagram: wellperformance
Posted on August 3, 2017 in Performance Psychology • No comments
One Simple Truth:
I have the answer. You have the answer. There are skills that can be learned. There are skills that can be implemented when you need them. You may be bad now, but you can get better. You may be good now, but you can get better. You may be great now, but you can get better.
However, there are no “hacks”, quotes, 7-step systems, pump-up songs, or YouTube videos that create a sound, repeatable, and consistent “mental-game” that over and over allows you to be resilient, focused, confident, and calm. If someone promises you a “hack” to mental strength – don’t just walk away – run away!
There are fundamentals just like any and every other skill set you can imagine. Like those skills they take time, repetition, perseverance, and willingness to learn. But, lets more specifically define what we mean by “learn” – what I really mean is that we need to be willing to listen, try, fail, correct, try again, fail again, fine-tune, and finally get better.
After we do this process once, we start it again, but this time we are building off of the prior improvement (even if it was incremental) and using that as the starting point. You see the road to learning and developing anything of importance is not straight, short, and flat, but more typically, winding, extended, and up and down.
However, here is the “one simple truth” – you can’t change your habits of thought, until you’re ready to invest in the entire experience of it. That you actively decide you want to explore this. That you choose to listen, and that you choose to ask questions that give you a more in-depth understanding. That your investment is in experiencing it enough and as often as it takes to create that moment of realization…”There it is”!!
Just like you don’t get physically stronger in a single workout session, or in better cardio-vascular shape on a single run, the mind can’t become significantly stronger with a single one-hour session.
When you are willing to work at your mental skills in the same way you are the physical than it will come to you…simple as that. Not to say you’ll become mentally “perfect”, but simply to say you’ll become better, and more consistent.
But are you willing to dive in, to trust, to try, to fail, and then to try again? Are you willing to jump on the path, while not being 100% sure of where it takes you? Until that point the “one simple truth” understands that you already have one foot out the door, and it’s really hard to get better at something when you aren’t already committed to doing it.
In the growth of the mind you can’t physically SEE the growth. You won’t feel “better” immediately. You may feel like the skill work is impossible to do on the court or field. You may want to say, “it’s not working”. But, you must continue to do the mental workouts. You must continue to try the skills.
Here’s what the “one simple truth” understands…that it is literally impossible for someone to tell another to just simply have a mindset. Instead we do the workouts and the repetition and after a period of time the mindset reveals itself. It’s there for you to use when you need it.
Mental strength is really all about attention. If your attention is stuck on the last mistake, predicting a future error, or your imperfections you’ll feel pressure, anxiety, or stress. However, if you work on paying a specific type of attention it will be on the things that you do control, that are process oriented, and that are within the present moment. If so, you’ll feel empowered, in control, and composed. The ability to RESPOND and not REACT with emotion will become yours.
The “one simple truth” is that having a resilient, strong, and consistent mental approach is within your reach, and your control. There are fundamentals that you can “workout”. There is no hack, there is no 7-day program, and there is no YouTube video that will create and sustain the growth you truly desire and need. Invest authentic, committed, and daily focus and the strength you want will be there.
Posted on January 26, 2017 in Performance Psychology • No comments
“Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind and it’s a technique that has really helped me. You do have to focus because there’s some positions that can really hurt you at times if you aren’t focused and breathing right.” –Lebron James
Concept: How you can use Yoga and Mindfulness in order to maximize your performance.
First we need to understand how and why these practices work?
Yoga serves a number of extremely important purposes for a competitive athlete. First, yoga increases flexibility and core strength. Increased flexibility and core strength are associated with increased speed, wider range of movement, balance, explosiveness, overall strength, and injury prevention.
Secondly, yoga serves to detoxify the body and add in deeper and faster recovery. Intense training and competition take a toll on the body. While we often think of intensity of competitive training and movement as the “important” part of performance development it is actually in recovery where muscle growth occurs. If the athlete doesn’t engage in high-quality recovery they will never maximize the benefits of their training.
Yoga also connects deeply with the mind. Yoga has moments of deep discomfort. During these moments it is easy to have the mind suggest to “escape” the discomfort. Instead what yoga teaches is how to use deep breathing techniques, which allow us to relax and work with the discomfort instead of against it, as Lebron James mentioned in the quote above. Too often when something is uncomfortable or even painful (as in losing a big game, or having a poor performance when it matters most) we look to want to avoid or escape those feelings.
However, the mentally strongest athletes understand that discomfort and painful moments are an inherent part of competition. When we look to avoid them at all costs we actually end up playing it “safe”, which doesn’t allow us to play to our maximum. Yoga trains our mind to be highly aware of those moments and how to overcome them when we need to most.
Now, lets look at the mind and the use of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation teaches our minds to be completely aware of “The Moment”. Many coaches preach for their players to “just stay in the moment”, but never do any training at all to help teach their players the skill of blocking out the last mistake, or how to prevent “predicting” the next mistake if the player is already struggling that game. Mindfulness is literally the practice of training the mind to be present and aware of what is happening right NOW, in THIS moment. The natural outcome from this practice is a more calm and composed athlete.
Additionally, mindfulness teaches us to become highly aware of what the mind does. No one – the novice athlete all the up to the Olympian – can avoid moments of doubt, fear, anger, lack of motivation, or frustration. These are all real emotions and what make us human. So, instead of denying that these things even enter our minds, it’s more important that we learn to recognize them, and then learn to implement skills to move beyond them if they are holding us back. Mindfulness is literally the most powerful skill that any athlete can learn in terms of the mental-game!
Yoga and mindfulness can be designed in way that enhances ultimate athletic performance. The mind and body are one system that are in constant connection (sometimes battle) with one another. If we are looking for maximum performance we must train the entire system as the interconnected unit that they are.