……..because it speaks to a TRUTH which is the same for everyone, NO Exceptions!’
The question I’m frequently asked by Performance Directors, Coaches, Managers and Athletes is, ‘what’s the difference between your work and traditional Sport Psychology’?
It’s a great question and I’m inspired to share my answer with you, as best I can!!!!
To be clear, I’m not a Sport Psychologist.
For 20 years, both as an athlete and more recently as a National Coach, I’ve worked at the cutting edge of high performance; curious and fascinated about what’s really going on for sports people when it comes to training and competing?
I’ve found that the single most distracting factor in performance is a person’s own thinking!
Think of a time, when you performed, out of your skin, I mean you really nailed it!
Sit for a while, before reading on…………!
Sink into the feeling, we sometimes call this the ZONE state, where everything is effortless, you’re totally at ease and performing as if you’re on auto-pilot – something else seems to take over!
Can you describe what it felt like: peaceful, quiet, calm, connected, timeless?
After the performance what did you remember, what were your thoughts?
Most successful performers, whether in sport, music, medical, business, whatever the field, don’t recall very much afterwards, they just did it, the performance just flowed, it felt effortless, it all came together, they could even go beyond their current skill capacity.
Former sprinter Mark Richardson talked about being in the zone in the winter of 1996:
‘It’s a very strange feeling. It’s as if time slows down and you see everything so clearly. You just know that everything about your technique is spot on. It just feels so effortless; it’s almost as if you’re floating across the track. Every muscle, every fibre, every sinew is working in complete harmony and the end product is that you run fantastically well.’ – Extract from ‘Mind Games,’ Grout and Perrin, 2006.
Now, think of a time, when you didn’t perform at all well, you were disappointed, it wasn’t your usual quality and accuracy, and everything seemed much harder than usual.
Did you remember what you were thinking? (OOO yes, probably you did – self-conscious, doubtful, concerned, judgmental, critical).
It’s likely that you had a lot going on; a busy, noisy mind, and you became distracted.
Traditionally, you’re taught to be reflective, you observe and analyse the performance, then learn to manage the type of thinking that causes interference, and lack of concentration and focus in times of pressure.
You’d apply/use a mental skill, tool, or technique, whatever you’d like to call it, to try to prevent that thinking from being an issue during future training sessions and competitions.
SO HERE’S THE DIFFERENCE – the work I now do with clients doesn’t do that – it’s a complete paradigm shift in psychology.
It doesn’t offer techniques, tools or strategies to change or manage your thinking; (to do so would elevate the noise levels and take you further away from a clear mind – a bit like stretching a slinky until eventually it pings back).
Don’t get me wrong, for 15 years, I would’ve used mental skills to keep a clear head, especially during the CWG’s 2014 qualifiers, at times they appeared helpful.
It was not, however, sustainable, once I’d dealt with one niggling doubtful, insecure, irritating thought, I’d soon be onto the next one!
It’s interesting, when you ask elite athletes, what was on their mind during a great performance; they never give you details of mental techniques! That’s because it just doesn’t work that way.
Great performance doesn’t come from a mind full of mental activity.
The so-called Performance ZONE or Optimal ZONE Functioning State, is not made of affirmations, visualisations, and positive self-talk, re-framing, settling bananas, or definitive choices.
It seems to me that, optimal performance is created from a place within; of connection, quiet, clarity, stillness, inner peace, well-being, resilience, innate health – it’s spiritual in nature and incredibly liberating and powerful for the performer to experience.
Andrew Cooper (1998) describes qualities of the zone as “profound joy, acute intuition (which at times feels like precognition), a feeling of effortlessness in the midst of intense exertion, a sense of the action taking place in slow motion, feelings of awe and perfection, increased mastery, and self-transcendence”
What I’ve come to discover is, this Zone State is our Natural State; some people call it ‘home’. It’s our default setting – it’s who and what we are as a human being, beneath the noise of our personal mind – it’s our Soul state!
Many fields, mental health, reform, addiction, business, military, education, and sport, are now learning about the Principles behind the human experience, SO THAT people can perform in life – connected to their true-self, innate mental health and well-being.
This is for you IF you’re curious:
As a human being, you’re the THINKER of your THOUGHTS – You’re not your THOUGHTS?
Ever noticed the range of THOUGHT’s you get? Some you bring to life, yet others are simply gone in a flash – what do you make of that?
Why is it that we engage in some thoughts and not others?
As you look in this direction, you’ll start to see the Power of Thought, as it creates your entire experience of life.
You’ll settle down, get quiet and connect to your well-being. You won’t need tools to control your thinking, as you’ll see it for what it is, fluid, arbitrary, illusory and transitory.
You’ll not take your thinking so seriously, and you’ll be able to perform even when your thinking isn’t co-operating.
What’s the Thinking that keeps you from your finest performance?
What’s the Thinking that prevents you from being truly happy?
How REAL or SOLID does this appear to you?
You’re only ONE thought away from a different perspective – NOW that’s awesome!
If you’d like to get ‘unstuck’, I’d be happy to help, get in touch and we’ll arrange a time to speak.
You may also like to join me if you’re in the South East of England, UK at the upcoming event for coaches, managers, leaders, athletes? (Virtual track is coming, I promise!).
I’d love to hear from you, what resonated by reading this article? Any questions – don’t be shy, (or shall I say, believe a shy Thought is real!) – go ahead and comment.
I hope this sharing is helpful and wish you clarity to perform at your best.
Love Denise x
If you’d like to hold an event at your own club, or organisation, we can arrange it, get in touch and we’ll sort something out.
Please share if you’ve found this fascinating, it may just help someone you care about become free of their limiting beliefs and be amazing!