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Learning Personal Development from Elite Athletes

Learning Personal Development from Elite Athletes

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    Working With Athletes

    Over the last twenty five years I have (amongst other things) worked with many athletes at all levels of development and competition; boxers, aerial skiers, runners, throwers, swimmers, footballers (Australian Rules Football, Soccer and Gridiron), basketballers, netballers, bodybuilders, power-lifters, martial artists and lots more. From complete novices through to experienced Olympians, I have worked with them all. I have been employed by four professional sporting teams as a conditioning coach and this year I am working with the Melbourne Vixens; a professional netball team playing in the Trans-Tasman, Australia-New Zealand competition. I am involved in both the physical stuff (conditioning work) and also the head stuff (personal and professional development sessions). The girls are great to work with and I love that part of my professional life. Although looking up (literally) to twelve girls when you’re coaching them is somewhat strange when you’re a 5’10” bloke. Most of the girls are six foot plus but fortunately for insecure me, I have bigger guns. Just.

    * You can see two of the girls in action: 1. Natasha Chokljat just below.

    choklat

      Years of working with elite athletes has taught me much about the mechanics, process and psychology of creating desirable outcomes (improvement, success, winning) and much of what we learn with athletes can be transferred to the ‘non-sporting’ world. Desirable outcomes for an athlete (depending on their sport) would be things like: improved skill, fitness, strength, speed, power, flexibility, muscular endurance, recovery time, reaction time, more game time, improved performance in their sport and of course, winning gold medals and finals. Having this background and experience has helped me enormously with the personal and professional development work I now do with individuals and organisations. We all want ‘better’, we just need to know what that means and how to create it.

      Training and Competition

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      In sport we have two distinct components – training and competition – and naturally it makes sense to say that, as a rule, the better we train and prepare for our sport, the better we will perform on game day. We coaches find that athletes who train poorly, typically perform poorly (or not up to their potential) when it counts; in competition.

      Training Intensity.

      Being able to deal with physical, emotional and psychological pressure is a non-negotiable for the would-be champion. Some very talented people never succeed simply because they won’t do what needs to be done to maximise their potential. That is, get uncomfortable when they train and do it consistently. As a rule, competition is uncomfortable, even painful, but at the same time, it can be incredibly rewarding, exhilarating and enjoyable. We know that sport can be very demanding on not only the bodies, but also the minds of the athletes. We also know that athletes who spend the majority of their training time in their ‘comfort zone’ will invariably fail or under-perform at their chosen sport, because they are not prepared (physically or emotionally) for the reality and the demands of elite competition. Playing regular tennis with a ten year-old (even a lot of it) won’t prepare you for competitive tennis against highly-tuned adults of comparable ability to you. Comparable ability plus much better preparation equals much better performance.

      Train as You Intend to Play

      boxer

        We coaches regularly put athletes under enormous pressure in training because that’s where high level sport is played; in the ‘discomfort zone’.

        “If you wanna play like a freak, train like a freak.”

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        If athletes don’t hurt in training, they won’t develop the necessary skills, qualities and attributes to do what needs to be done when it matters; game time. As much as possible, coaches will simulate the type of intensity and pressure that game day brings because only that will truly condition an athlete for what he/she needs to do when it matters. I don’t care how well you can kick, throw, catch, pass, or side-step when you’re under no pressure and you’re physically fresh, I care how well you can perform those skills when it’s the last quarter, you’re down by two points, you’re physically exhausted, you’ve got people screaming at you, you’re stressed and you’ve got five opposition players doing their best to kill you. That’s when it matters.

        An Analogy

        Now, let’s take that thinking, understanding (it makes sense right?) and training approach, and apply it to the world of Personal Development; becoming a better version of us. Are we really developing (that is, changing in a real, practical and measurable way) or are we merely down-loading more and more self-help information that we don’t actually use? For this discussion, let’s say that coming here and reading articles such as this one is part (not the entirety) of your ‘training’ for your sport; your sport being… life.

        The Application

        Now, if we were going to take the above training approach and apply it to our personal growth journey, we would listen to the coach (in this instance, me), take the information and strategically, practically and consistently apply what we learn here over the course of our journey. That is, consciously put ourselves into situations where we are forced to step out of our predictable, safe, familiar, comfortable little box (oh yes, you know the one) and put ourselves into a simulated game situation; the place where we are forced to grow, learn, adapt and develop – like we say we want to. Let’s train like we wanna play. The truth is that when many ‘self-helpers’ are thrown into the game (that is, they are confronted with a real challenge in their world) they fall apart because they haven’t trained for it. Sure, they’ve read about it… if only reading was doing.

        Food For thought

        Q. How can the United States and Australia be two of the most educated countries in the world (in terms of health, diet, exercise, lifestyle etc.), while also being amongst the fattest (and still growing)?

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        A. Because we know what to do, but we don’t do what we know. Too manyof us are great at the theoretical and complete crap at the practical.

        We continue to destroy ourselves despite our knowledge. We want the results without the work. We want the pill, the powder, the potion, the shortcut. When will we stop looking for answers in the wrong places? When will we be honest? When will we stop wasting our time and potential?

        Soon I hope.

        Not a Theory

        Personal growth and genuine transformation isn’t about the theoretical, it’s about the practical – and the practical is all about YOU. If you read, understand and remember every single word I ever write, but never apply any of it, you will see absolutely zero benefit or positive change in your world. So apply it. Do it. Consistently. And get uncomfortable. Consistently. There are far too many personal development junkies who are great at talking the talk – they even use all the self-help jargon (I know, I talk to them) – but in reality they are full of crap because they don’t actually live any of it. They tell others what to do, while not actually doing it themselves. The Pseudo Gurus, I call them. Reading does not equal transformation. Reading equals reading. Even knowing doesn’t equal transformation. There is an abundance of educated and knowledgable failures.

        A Little Tough Love

        I’m not trying to be offensive here, just honest. The time for being precious and politically correct is not now; now is the time to be realistic and practical about our behaviours, our habits, our mindset and the type of results we produce in our world. Sure I could dance around the real issues and do my best to protect some people’s fragile emotional states, but the truth is that we all need a big fat reality check from time to time and to be honest, I don’t care if I offend people when I’m speaking the truth. Some people will get offended no matter what I say or how I say it, because they are victims. While others choose to get real, they choose to get hurt. That’s their miserable prerogative. I won’t waste my time or energy on people who are not prepared to help themselves or be honest. When we take the emotion out of it and be completely practical and realistic (about creating better results), we discover that many (many, many) people – even the self-help types – have been going around in circles for years. Lots of hot air, talk and hype but no results. Harsh? Perhaps. Honest? Yep.

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        When the S**t Hits the Fan

        When the s**t hits the fan – (this would be game time for an athlete) – and it always does, many people capitulate because they haven’t prepared for competition. They have the potential, the knowledge and the resources, but they didn’t have the courage, the focus or the work ethic to do what needed to be done; they didn’t ‘train’ the way they wanted to ‘play’. Some didn’t train at all.

        Decision Time?

        For some of you, it’s decision time. You know it and you’ve known for a long time. Of course you can find more reasons not to change and more ways to rationalise what you’re not doing, being and creating… or you can simply stop with the excuses and explanations… and change. Once and for all. You can train like you wanna play. You can be the change in your world. Today can be ‘just another day’ and this post can simply be ‘just another one of my articles’ that you don’t act on – or it can be the start of the most incredible journey you’ve ever had.

        I made my choice long ago.

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        Last Updated on January 17, 2019

        8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

        8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

        In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

        Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

        Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

        Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

        Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

        The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

        There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

        How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

        According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

        Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

        Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

        The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

        Listen carefully:

        We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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        The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

        Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

        8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

        There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

        Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

        1. Pray Daily

        You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

        When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

        Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

        Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

        2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

        A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

        By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

        Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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        If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

        This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

        How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

        3. Smile Often

        Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

        Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

        Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

        The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

        4. Organize Your Working Desk

        A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

        When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

        Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

        Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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        5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

        I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

        Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

        What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

        6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

        God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

        I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

        I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

        7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

        You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

        How do you do that? This is my formula:

        First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

        If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

        If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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        If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

        Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

        8. Go Exercise

        Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

        The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

        You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

        12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

        The Bottom Line

        It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

        It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

        Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

        More Resources About Mindfulness

        Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

        Reference

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