Posted on September 16, 2020
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @wellperformance, or instagram: wellperformance