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5 Ways Sport Psychology Can Jumpstart Your Life

5 Ways Sport Psychology Can Jumpstart Your Life

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 October 15, 2018

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

How to Calm Down When You Are Overwhelmed: 7 Quick Ways to Try

Do you sometimes feel that you add items to your to-do list faster than you tick them off? Do you spend most of your day worrying about your lack of time?

The truth is, no matter how much we love our job, or how productive we believe we are under stress, there comes a moment when the pressure rises above boiling point. The sheer number of urgent tasks multiplies in a geometric progression. New possibilities no longer sound inspiring, they sound overwhelming and equal more work.

If that’s where you are right now – keep reading! If not, it doesn’t mean you should wait until you get there to learn how to cope with a demanding work schedule and how to calm yourself down quickly when you feel overwhelmed.

Here are 7 quick and easy tips on how to calm down when you are overwhelmed:

1. Let go of a few activities

Yes, it’s that easy! Take a look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “If I don’t do it today, will it matter a month from now?”

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Not every urgent task is important. Just like not every important, high pay-off task is urgent. The best way to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed and to manage your time is to know the difference between the two and learn to simplify your life by getting your to-do list down to three big tasks.

2. Take deep breaths to calm down

This advice sounds so simple it’s often overlooked. But it works better (and faster) than any other relaxation technique out there.

There is a direct connection between our emotional state and breathing. An anxious, frustrated or overwhelmed person breathes as if they have just finished running a marathon. A calm person breathes differently. Their breathing is deep, slow and steady. So when you have a panic attack, the best way to bring your heart rate down and to regain your cool is to change your breathing.

Try this now:

Take a slow, long deep breath in, filling your lungs with air and expanding your diaphragm. Hold your breath for four counts and then slowly release the air through your mouth. Repeat four times and notice frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed dissolve with each long exhale of these calming breaths.

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3. Make “Just one thing” your mantra

When we feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on our to-do list, it’s easy to enter the ‘deer in the headlights’ state. You see deadlines approaching directly towards you, and you know that something has to be done about them, but you just don’t know where to start.

The best way to get your mind out of an ‘inactivity trance’ is to create momentum. This is what makes the “Just one thing” mantra so powerful. It helps to change our expectation that everything has to be completed right now, “or else.”

Next time you feel overwhelmed make grabbing a cup of coffee your “Just one thing.” You can do it, right? Then come back, pick one of the smallest tasks on your to-do list and tell yourself you’ll do just that one task. This is your next “Just one thing” that you will concentrate on until it’s complete. After that you can move on to the next task and so on.

It’s not “One thing at a time.” Saying this implies that there is a huge line of other tasks waiting to get done and that’s not the message you want to keep repeating to yourself. Learn how to focus here and stop getting overwhelmed.

4. Reduce the multi-tasking and multi-thinking

It’s been proven that multi-tasking is very inefficient, to the point of dumbing us down (more than smoking marijuana does). The same is true for multi-thinking, when your mind frantically jumps from one thought to another, trying to focus on and analyze several things all at once.

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Fortunately, there is help. A few minutes of meditation or brainwave music is all it takes to start feeling more relaxed, more creative and less overwhelmed.

5. Get moving

Any exercise you engage in – be it walking or dancing to your favorite beat – helps to release endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones, through your body and to clear your mind.

Staying active also increases your productivity, enhances your ability to combat stress and anxiety. It also helps you to release the tension, boosting your mood and changing the thoughts that induce the sense of being overwhelmed.

The best part is you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get the mind-soothing benefits of exercise. Even as little as 15 minutes of dancing or jogging can go a long way towards making you feel better and staying calmer.

6. Change your surroundings

We all need and deserve to take vacations from work woes and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, spending two weeks lazing on a beach, toes in the sand and a Mojito in hand, is not always an option. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t take short ‘vacations’ from work stress and the technology buzz.

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Go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the sunshine. Stop at a park instead of driving straight home from work. Sometimes changing your surroundings and ‘spicing up your routine’ is all it takes to change your perspective on things and find creative solutions to seemingly complex and overwhelming problems.

7. Get some pet therapy

Studies have shown what most of us already guessed – our pets can be a great help during stressful moments. Simple actions such as petting or playing with your dog or cat can lower high blood pressure, boost your immune system and boost your mood.

Besides, pets can make the best conversation partners to share your frustrations with. They listen, they love you unconditionally and they never talk back or say, “I told you so.”

Final thoughts

Don’t wait for stress to hit you to start practicing these quick ways to calm down when you are overwhelmed. The best way to enjoy a worry-free life is not to push yourself to the limit of being overwhelmed and frustrated.

Featured photo credit: Dardan via unsplash.com

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