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5 Ways Sport Psychology Can Jumpstart Your Life

5 Ways Sport Psychology Can Jumpstart Your Life
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Imagine you are watching the NBA Finals, there is 1.5 seconds left, and your favorite team is down by one point in game seven.  There is enough time for one last shot and your team is in-bounding the ball. I’m guessing you know who you would like to take the last shot. Every team has their own fan favorite superstar. Whether your sport of choice is basketball or another sport, we all know how great athletes look and are aware of the mindset they embody. If you were to list the mental characteristics, it would read something like: motivated, determined, courageous, resilient, focused, and so on.

Would you like to embody some of these qualities? I bet you would. The truth is, there is no reason you can’t. That’s exactly what the field of sport and performance psychology does. It teaches athletes and everyday people how to harness their inner mental toughness. Performance psychology is a key component in my work with athletes, performers, and executives. On some level everyone is an athlete, perhaps your sport just happens to be financial trading, or making million dollar sales, or writing a best-seller.  We all have an arena in which we strive to be a superstar. We can all take something from sport psychology to jump-start our performance.

Here are 5 easy to follow strategies you can begin to use today to unleash your inner athlete.

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1. Know your endgame

In sport, as in life, one of the biggest keys is knowing the end result you want and having a crystal clear vision of where you want to go. It’s very difficult to go after something if you don’t know what it is you’re going after. The more detailed and vivid your goal, the better. While goal-setting is nothing new, it’s a very powerful tool when done consistently. The field of sport and performance psychology has done some of the most rigorous research on goal-setting of all fields. We’ve demonstrated positive results of setting goals time and time again.

Knowing your endgame will not only increase your motivation, but also help you delay gratification. Once you know where you want to go, start breaking your long-term goals down into manageable daily actions that are process-focused. Great athletes focus on what they can control. Setting daily action-packed goals will help you stay focused on what you can do to ensure your long-term results come into fruition.

2. Train and refine

Perhaps you’ve heard “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” This is so true! If you want your goals to turn into a reality there will typically be a price to pay. Almost every world-class performer I have worked with and researched has trained exceptionally hard to get to the top. When pursuing your goals, expect there to be hard work, expect tough choices, and expect there to be a price to pay.  The more you put into your training, the better your results will be down the line. The hard work you do now will prepare you for the future, especially if you map out your goals and make an intelligent plan for how to get there. Perhaps, your hard work isn’t training extra hours in the gym. Maybe it’s making extra sales calls or getting additional education instead. Persevere!

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The caveat to working hard though, is just working hard isn’t usually enough. If what you’re doing isn’t working then learn and modify. All great athletes are flexible, knowing how to change their strategy to get to the end result. This is crucial to improvement. Training hard won’t always be enough to get you to the promise land. You need to train hard and train smart.

3. Seek experts and great coaching

There’s two paths to achievement: sometimes you create your own path, and sometimes you use the path of others to help guide you. Devising a success plan on your own can be challenging. Sometimes, you need another perspective, like someone who has either gotten to where you want to go or who is an expert. This is why coaching and mentorship can be so valuable. Every top athlete has sought advice and wisdom at one point or another. Coaching can speed up your learning curve. It also gives you an opportunity to make less mistakes and learn from the mistakes you make.

4. Embrace every experience.

World champion athletes embrace the positive as well as the negative. They build confidence from their successes and learn from their challenges. It’s no secret we work hard and compete to experience wins and successes. So, when one of those successes comes – enjoy it!

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Unfortunately, to experience winning means you have to put yourself out there and make yourself susceptible to losing. The good news is, the majority of top athletes admit they learn more from their mistakes then from their triumphs. To become a top performer in your field, you need to cultivate a perspective toward learning and growing. You can’t always be in control of what happens to you, but you can control the meaning you take from an experience. There will be times when the results don’t go your way and you experience setbacks. The way you respond to these setbacks will help determine when you reach your long-term goals, so learn to respond appropriately. Next time you experience a setback ask yourself, “What is the lesson here? What can I learn from this?”

5. Develop a winning mindset

A winning mindset can be described as motivated, engaged, resilient, confident, and focused. There are many strategies and principles to developing these characteristics and attributes. The truth is these skills can be learned and enhanced. A central component to the field of sport and exercise psychology is helping to develop these attributes by teaching skills like relaxation, visualization and imagery, thought-management, focus-enhancement, as well as many others.

I would encourage you to start small and decide one area of your mind you would like to develop. Perhaps you want to be more positive or learn how to manage your anger. Once you decide on an area you wish to improve, you can do your own research or seek the assistance of a sport psychologist. Sometimes, you can even learn to enhance these skills indirectly. For instance, yoga and meditation can be a great ways to learn mindfulness and energy control.

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No matter the route you take to using sport psychology on your quest to self-improvement, remember that a winning mindset can be developed. Take pride in your mindset, after all you own it.

Featured photo credit: Cyclist Racing Through Paris For Tour De France – Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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