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March 10, 2021

Athlete Mindset

We recently hosted an Athlete Mindset seminar, led by Licensed Psychologist (and member), Susie Markle. While the content was geared towards athletic performance, Susie revealed that the principles and information she shared are applicable to other areas of life, like work (for instance making a presentation) and personal life (like addressing conflict).

While she presented a ton of amazing information, here are the top points that resonated most with me.

  1. There is danger in the mindset of "sport is life." This means that if you hang your identity so much on your athletic prowess, there can be consequences. If you have a bad performance, it can be mentally devastating. And, eventually, you won't be the athlete you once were...this is just a fact. So, there must be a focus on other things as well: being a good person, parent, friend, etc. Instead of "sport" is life, you can fill in the blank with things like your occupation or any other factor you hang your identity on...there is more to life and the goal is to be a well-rounded individual who isn't so caught up in being this one " thing."

2. The is an ""arousal"" continuum that affects performance. On the x-axis is arousal (excitement, stress, etc.), and on the y-axis is performance. There's a balance that needs to happen with just enough arousal to positively impact performance. If you have too little, you won't perform well (you're basically indifferent). But, if you have too much, you also won't perform well (could result in anxiety). Think ""fight or flight."

graph courtesy of Starting Strongman

3. Effective tactics to practice before any performance (athletic, work, personal) are:

  • Self-talk: Our thoughts influence our feelings, choices, and actions. So, practice positive self-talk.
  • Running simulations: The ""psychoneuromuscular theory" notes that when an individual mentally imagines a skill, the activated neural pathways are identical to those activated when physically performing the skill. Running simulations not only involves visualization of the task but also, coming up with all situations, both positive and negative, that can happen so you are ready for them. Say you're competing in a CrossFit event that has double-unders. Not only will you want to visualize you executing the movement flawlessly, but also what would you do if your rope broke? If you've already pre-conceived this, you will know exactly how to react if that situation happens. In the workplace, imagine you have an upcoming presentation. You want to visualize a perfect demonstration, but also determine what you would do if your PowerPoint doesn't work. In either situation, you've run simulations so thoroughly that you have confidence and you know how to deal with adversity.
  • Body language: Susie presented a study in which people made themselves "small" (think hunched shoulders) before a job interview and others did a "power stance" (made themselves big with arms stretched and legs wide). Those in the power stance group received higher marks from interviewers. So, bust out a power stance next time you are going into a situation where you need to perform well.

4. There are three types of goals, all of which are important to have. Don't just focus on the big outcome:

  • Outcome goals - the result of THIS. Basically, the end goal...but how do you get there?
  • Performance goals - what you are doing to DO. This is usually based on past performance.
  • Process goals - this relates to the actions you will take in the long game to accomplish all of the above. This one is helpful in training.

There you have it! I thoroughly enjoyed this seminar and got great feedback from other attendees. I hope this information can help some of you in future " performance," whatever that may be.

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