Thursday, 28 May 2015

Achieving in sport with Mental Strategies

Whatever level of sport you compete at you always want to give your best and the margins for gain when you get up to the top level can be small. 

This is why you need to have your own mental strategies and give your mind training sessions, which will give you the mental edge over your competitors.  Using coaching and training techniques helps you to find out what works for you and what doesn’t and how you can make decisions in the moment that will enhance your performance.  You will learn more about yourself as a person and the skills and techniques you learn in your sport can be adapted and used across other areas of your life and work.  This is about utilising your skills and helping you develop and fine tune your own techniques and resources to support you to achieve your goals.

Both teams and individuals can benefit by being able to get into the performance zone quickly and easily and handle the mind games of others.  Teams come together and take collective responsibility for what is working and change what’s not working and everyone can work on having the focus that is needed in that moment.

What you can achieve

Using defined mental strategies can help you achieve higher performance levels in your sport and are for competitors, coaches and clubs. 

  • help develop resilience,
  • more energy,
  • drive
  • focus. 
  • More understanding of how you and others think which gives you the ability to communicate effectively to those around you. 
  • Develop your own self-belief and can intervene when someone (or you!) finds themselves in a negative cycle of belief and performance.

9 areas you can make a difference in

We spend time thinking about how we are physically as athletes and put time, effort and energy into training, looking after our nutrition, keeping injury free in order to be ready to perform at our best.  This is why you should also train your brain.  We all need to have mind and body working together and mental coaching techniques will help achieve:-

7 ways you can achieve

There are 7 key strategies that you can use for your Minds Training Session.  Behind these 7 main strategies are layers of specific techniques that you can use and adapt.

Because you have practiced and trained you mind as well as your body you will have/know

  • Mental edge over your business and sports competitors
  • What works for you/what doesn't
  • Make decisions in the moment
  • Develop and fine tune the techniques to make them personal to you
  • Handle other peoples mind games

Expected Achievements

After putting into practice the techniques that I use with clients I expect them to have more confidence to achieve at the best of their ability on a regular basis and to have a more positive outlook on their training and competing.  Clients are able to learn quickly from mistakes and not dwell on them, but understand their thinking in that moment and what they will do differently next time.  They will also learn how to repeat great performances by understanding all their strategies for high level performance.  There would be higher levels of motivation and determination.

Practicing your mental strategies means that on the day they are a habit and require no extra energy.  Having the mental edge is not about having a mind that is full - it is about being mindful of what you need in the moment.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Preparing for success in sport

If you want to have success then you need to know what success means to you - how can you succeed at something if you don't actually know what it is!

So that's my first question - what is success to you?

Have  a think about this quote...

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet - Bobby Usher

What do you do to prepare - how much time each week do you give to your physical training, now think about how much time you actively give to your mental strategies...? I'm going to suggest it's no-where near as much...

... and then opportunities...

How do you recognise opportunities..?  By being really clear about your outcome

Think about what you want to achieve.  You might find yourself actually thinking about all the things you 'don't' want to happen and that's fine, write them down and get them out of your system.  You can then write down what it is you 'do' want.  This outcome must be a positive one and one that only you can deliver - in other words completely in your control.

At this point we are not looking at how we are going to achieve this but what

Once you've defined what you want to achieve, take a moment, think about what it will be like when you have achieved it, what can you see that you are doing and what is happening around you, what can you hear yourself saying (out loud or in your head) and what are others saying, and how do you feel.  Write or draw these thoughts down as well

This is making our outcome sensory specific.  When we do that we are helping our brain understand what it is we want to achieve and it will then start to work towards that.

Once you have all this written down, recheck it, is there anything missing that you want to add in, is this still the outcome you want?  You'd be surprised how many times we think we 'should' have a specific outcome, only when we look at it in detail we realise it isn't what we actually 'want'.  The outcome needs to be one we desire!

Once our brain knows what it is we want, it will look for the opportunities to deliver it and if we are preparing well then success will follow.

One important key to success is self-confidence.  An important key to self-confidence is preparation - Arthur Ashe

and remember...

Over the coming weeks I'm going to writing about different areas of mental strategies and give you some specific ways of training your brain.  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

An Introduction to your mind...

I thought it would be useful to give you some insight into how our brains take in information and how it learns so that you can start to understand why you see the world differently to someone else and be able to develop your own strategies in your sport

Over the coming weeks I'm going to be writing various articles to help you build your understanding of how you work and what you need to do in order to be able to achieve your goals.

But first what is actually going on in our heads...

It is estimated that our brain receives more than 2 million bits of information through our senses every second.  If we were to take in all this information consciously it would drive us absolutely crazy.  So what happens to all this information?  Well, according to memory theorist George Miller, we can only consciously process 7 +/- 2 bits of information at any given moment.  So in the speed of a second, the mind has to compress about 2 million bits of information down to 7 +/- bits of information.

In order to make sense of this vast difference (two million down to seven) the mind filters the events our senses take in by deleting, distorting and generalising the information through our language, memories, attitudes, values, beliefs, decisions, etc. We then make an internal representation of the world we are taking in, with pictures, sounds and feeling.  That puts us in a state of mind, which can change our physiology that affects our behaviour.  All this happens in a fraction of a second and none of it has to happen in any particular order.  We are in a constant state of flux, where our physiology can affect our attitudes just as easily as our behaviour can affect our language.

What this tells us is that the world that we experience is not the world that is outside of us, it is a world that we are creating inside.  We do not experience reality as it is, we only experience our own perception of reality.  As we all have different sets of filters (that being different sets of values, beliefs, memories etc.), we will all have our own unique perception of the world.  This explains how one person can perceive an event completely differently to another person who has experienced the same event.

If we did not delete, distort and generalize the events we take in, consciously we would be in sensory overload. It's the sensation of more things happening than you can handle, which can be quite overwhelming!

Delete This is when we omit data or selectively pay attention to certain parts of our experience and not others.  Think of a time when you were so engage in a conversion with someone that you were unaware of other events going on around you.

Distort – This is when we can change the information around us to fit what we expect or believe.  Do you remember a time when you where looking for your keys and not seen them because they weren’t where we expected them to be.  Someone else helps you look for them and finds them instantly, ‘but I looked there’ we say, not realising that we have experienced a distortion in our sensory information!

Generalise – This is when we put ideas, people or things into a convenient group or category.  We may generalise that all swans are white, until we come across Australian swans – which are black.

By making small changes to our thoughts (internal representation), our emotions (our state) and/or our body (physiology), we can make a big difference in our behaviour and therefore our outcome. 

You can change one or all three and start in any order.  They are all linked neurologically together in templates.

What are Templates?

Whenever we have a memory, be it a smell, a happy memory, painful memory, a movement, it is there because our brain has fired off a template.

Templates are created when we learn (which we are constantly doing!) and are nerve cells that have wired together in a way to hold the different parts of that memory as one and the wiring together of nerve cells is mainly under the control of our emotional system.  Everything we remember is stored in a template (or a number of templates) and the nerve cells look to make connections with each other when they are firing at the same time and then the chemicals in the brain start to get involved to help those connections build!

What this means for us is that our brains are always learning and we can also unlearn and learn again, if we've taken in information and created an internal representation that is not useful to us we can change it by understanding the science of the brain as well as the thinking of the mind.  It also means we can create very strong templates of strategies that will take us forward in our sport.

'The Little Book of Big Stuff About the Brain' by Dr Andrew Curran is an excellent read that goes into the details of how our brain works in a really accessible way

Next time we will be looking at Preparing to Succeed...

Monday, 11 May 2015

Haile Gebrselassie

I am currently planning the blogs for the coming weeks and had to put in a special mention to Haile Gebrselassie who retired from competitive running this weekend.

An absolute legend of running and all those who have met him have said he is also an amazing and wonderful man.  So happy retirement to you Haile and enjoy your running at a more relaxed pace.

'Run with your head, not with your legs'  Haile Gebrselassie

After completing in the Elite race in Manchester he went back to the start line and ran with the masses - how awesome that must have been for those runners around him!