Composure is the pinnacle of performance psychology. It will enable peak performance under intense pressure while also helping to overcome disillusionment, depression, disappointment and anxiety. Anxiety is a negative emotion which manifests itself through worry, nervousness and apprehension associated with activation of the body. It will heighten awareness of bodily sensations, affect concentration and cause paralysis by analysis.
Having the ability to stay calm and composed will help focus offsetting the negative effects caused by anxiety. Furthermore, top athletes and performers interpret anxiety as a positive emotion, an excitement that is facilitative to performance. Combining this positive interpretation of anxiety with an ability to stay calm and composed will help you deal with bad days, let go of mistakes, stay focused, cope with pressure, reduce worry, embarrassment and fear of failure to deliver exceptional performances on a consistent basis.
Practical techniques to stay calm and composed include:
Zone of optimal performance
Music to relax and calm
Meditation, Yoga, tai chi
Confidence is one of the most prized assets in high performance. It is a belief in one’s ability to succeed. Studies have shown that self-belief has consistently been identified as an important factor in athletic performance. Someone who is highly confident is much more likely to succeed in any task, project, skill or goal. Being confident has other knock on effects helping to reduce anxiety, increase motivation, facilitate concentration, arouse positive emotions and generate psychological momentum to boost performance.
Luckily confidence is an attribute that can be enhanced. Individuals and teams can be proactive in their approach to strengthening confidence. Although various tools and techniques can be used to protect and raise this important trait, ultimately it can be distilled into three key words:…Yes I Can…Yes I can…Yes I can = I am confident!
Practical techniques to boost confidence include:
Change in posture
Train hard and smart
Identify key sources
The Mental Toughness Chain diagram below better illustrates how our emotions and personality traits actually work. The science tells us that certain emotions are linked, for example, if you are high in confidence then you will be low in anxiety. Each aspect is linked like a chain and as you boost one trait it will lift other emotions and positively influence other factors of high performance.
Conversely, an inability to focus, will cause mistakes, continuous mistakes will lower confidence, increase anxiety and reduce enjoyment creating a downward spiral of poor performances.
Coaching can help you to become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Identify key areas and boost focus on achieving consistent marginal gains. You’ll receive practical techniques such as triggers, goal-setting, self-talk, performance routines to improve your concentration and emotional control to sustain peak performance.
Tools and techniques to help you focus on the process are:
I have developed a coaching philosophy that focuses predominantly on the positive, the character strengths, techniques and tactics that enhance performance as opposed to hinder it. More specifically, I don’t coach people how to deal with distraction, I coach people how to stay focused. I don’t coach techniques you should apply when you feel low in confidence, I proactively show you how to be super confident. I don’t coach people how to deal with fear and anxiety, I coach individuals and teams how to stay calm and composed.
The premise of my coaching philosophy is to continually re-direct focus to the positive aspects of performance enhancement. Given that your mind has a limited capacity, if you keep focusing on the positive elements that improve performance, then there will be much less room for the factors that will negatively affect your game.
Below is a simple diagram illustrating my positive psychology approach. The graph depicts positive and negative personality traits as bi-polar opposites. Each trait or characteristic can be learned, practised and cultivated. Focusing on the positive traits will aid performance while reducing the frequency and intensity of the negative traits.
Focus is crucial to peak performance including developing more self-awareness to better self-regulate ones mental and emotional state. If you can’t tune in to how your thoughts, emotions and behaviour help or hinder your performance, you will be unable to make changes and improve.
It’s crucial to sustain your focus on what’s relevant or else your performance level will drop. The science tell us those individuals who focus on the process perform better than those who are more easily distracted by situations outside of their control.
Furthermore the ability to split your focus on two distinct areas will ensure peak performance. Dividing attention between the technical process (what a performer has to do physically) and the emotional process (key emotions that enhance technical execution) will maximise the individual’s chances of success. Below is simple diagram illustrating my split focus concept which can be applied effectively in training, competition, and life in general:
Motivation separates the peak performers from the rest. Highly successful people know what they want and expend huge amounts of energy to make it happen. Put simply, motivation is direction of effort and intensity of effort. An individual figures out what they want, their direction, sets a goal then pursues that goal with lots of intensity, grit and enthusiasm.
Like striking a ball, motivation is a skill that can be practised and nurtured in a number of ways. Your environment, the culture, the coaches and the people you associate with, all have a direct influence on your motivation. Effective self-talk will push you to excel, your favourite music plus setting goals that have meaning and excitement all serve to enhance this valuable trait.
With Performance psychology coaching you will get help to apply the most up to date and cutting edge strategies to multiply your passion and keep the ‘fire’ burning brightly.
Methods to improve motivation include:
Identify key motivators
Create goals that inspire
Good work-life balance
Focus on strengths
Leadership is the ability to "lead", motivate and guide other individuals, teams, or organizations. I believe the most effective form of leadership is leading by example. Strong leaders are themselves strong performers who then pass on their qualities to other people. In fact, it’s possible for everyone to be a leader and empower those around them.
If you understand the principles of high performance, apply these principles to succeed in your chosen endeavour then show others how to do the same, you are a leader! Much of what you do will brush off on those around you, even without the need to coach. You will be leading by example, inspiring others to model your behaviour and reach the same levels of productivity and achievement.
Strategies to improve leadership include:
Understand the principles of peak performance
E.g. an inspiring vision, simplicity and accountability
Raise your game and lead by example
Attract the right people who work well together
Know teammates strengths and weaknesses
Learn more effective communication techniques
Developing effective routines is a cornerstone to superior performance. The extreme achievers, industry leaders and A-players have all installed routines and habits that produce exceptional outcomes.
Maintaining a routine is much easier than installing one. For example, changing your diet, the way you think, a new business or exercise regime, all take lots of enthusiasm, grit and determination. But once you have installed the new behaviour it is much easier to maintain and be consistent.
Forming new habits can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the individual. But eventually once the habit is installed, it becomes automatic. It’s becomes easier to do the new habit, ritual or routine than not to do it.
This is one of the great strategies of the great athletes. They don’t have greater reserves of energy and willpower but a better knowledge of how to use what they have. Just like a rocket ship taking off into space, they generate lots of initial energy to blast a new path to their desired destination. After that initial burst, the habit is installed and less energy is needed. Over time, the marginal gains of their new rituals turn into exceptional results!
Some practical examples for installing new routines include:
Identify smart, simple and effective routines to install
Install one new routine at a time, make it easy
Persist with a new habit every day, same time, same place
Associate with people who have excellent habits
Change your environment to fit the routines you want
Develop a rituals for better sleep and napping
Practise pre-game and pre-competition routines
Work in consistent cycles e.g. 60 min work / 10 min break
Install recovery habits including massage and time off
Goal setting is a mental training technique that clearly outlines the step by step process an individual or team will pursue to achieve a specified goal. Having effective goals helps people focus on important tasks, persist longer, overcome adversity, build confidence and create strategies to achieve the objective.
Setting goals is basically a two-step process:
1. Clarify what you want, your target, your outcome, a vision that really inspires and motivates you!
2. Detail the incremental steps of how you are going to fulfil your ambitions.
An effective goal-setting system will chart a steady upward curve to victory from short term daily goals to the long term vision. Most people will benefit from having a big vision that generates lots of motivation and enthusiasm. However, to prevent feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge it’s important to break the complex overwhelming goal into small realistic steps that will eventually turn the vision into reality.
The graphic below illustrates an effective goal-setting practise used by world class performers:
Self-talk is the act or practise of talking to oneself, either aloud or silently and mentally. In basic terms, self-talk can be either positive or negative. Both positive and negative self-talk can be controlled by the individual while possessing huge amounts of creative power to determine how one feels and acts for better or worse.
Positive self-talk is the language that makes you feel good and perform better every day. Words such as, ‘I can do this’ and ‘I am skillful’ boost your confidence and self-esteem. Other examples include ‘stick to the plan’ to stay focused, ‘push it’ to generate determination in training and ‘I learned a lot’ to reframe negative events that don’t work out the way you wanted.
Negative self-talk is the language that makes you feel bad and prevents you from making progress and enjoying everyday life. Phrases such as ‘I’m rubbish’, ‘I’ll never be any good’ and ‘I hate this’ put up unnecessary barriers and create negative feelings that make life more difficult. Negative self-talk can become a habit and affect a person's performance plus their mental and emotional well-being.
Below is a practical strategy to help you re-wire your mindset:
1. Pay attention to your inner voice
To improve your self-talk you must listen to what you’re saying to yourself. Notice the internal conversation in your mind and even write down what you’re thinking, both the positive and negative statements.
2. Change your negative thoughts into positive thoughts
Now that you have a better idea of what you’re thinking, separate the positive phrases from the negative phrases. Continue using anything you feel is helpful and change any negative statements into more encouraging performance enhancing language:
Negative self-talk to Positive self-talk
I’m rubbish to I can improve with practise
I messed up to I learned a lot that will help me in the future
I’m injured to this a great opportunity to improve other areas
I feel anxious to be cool, stay calm and focus on the process
I don’t like this to find something good about it and have fun
I’m tired to dig in and push it one more time
3. Practise Practise Practise
Changing your self-talk is difficult and requires lots of work and continuous practise. Fortunately the more you practise the easier it becomes to reframe negative thoughts into more empowering feelings and actions.
Click below for more on self-talk for positive & performance psychology:
Mental toughness is an umbrella term many people use to describe the psychological qualities of individuals or teams who achieve outstanding performance. Coaches, media, athletes, sports commentators and business leaders freely use the term to describe the mental state of people who persevere through difficult circumstances to succeed. I would interpret the term as alternative way of saying performance psychology.
In brief: Mental Toughness = Effective Sports & Performance Psychology
It is the ability to execute key mental skills to achieve a desired outcome. A study by Jones, Hanton and Connaughton in 2002 formed a definition highlighting mental toughness as innate characteristics and learned mental skills:
Mental toughness is "Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure." (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2002, p. 209).