It’s that time of the year where dynamic goal setting and profound proclamations are encouraged. New Years Resolutions will dominate conversation and even break into action starting the magical date of January 1st. Sadly, New Years Resolutions succeed only 8% of the time. It turns out that making a statement and having a plan is simply not enough to make an absolute change. The problem with a resolution is that they commonly lack intrinsic(internal) motivation. Resolutions come from extrinsic(external) motivation such as rewards, guilt, coercion, fame, money, recognition. To evoke true CHANGE a person must be intrinsically motivated by the challenge, mastery, or enjoyment of the goal or achievement. Any individual, team, or business must have the right mindset in order to have what it takes to make real change and sustained success.
In our arena we work closely with athletes and adults on achieving performance along with esthetic goals. At APEC we take mindset very seriously, but I would argue that mindset transcends athletics/physical fitness and will be a determining factor on any individuals’ quality of life. The purpose of this blog is to give you 7 ways to improve you, your team(work or athletic), your company, or your families mindset.
It’s unrealistic for all of us to become sports psychologist or to meet for hours with each member of our team individually. Another challenge of sports psychology(and other practices) is that it is reactive to failure or a condition. Most people do not visit a psychologist when life is great or they are batting .350 in the MLB, its after the bottom falls out. Failure is certain in almost all things in life but what separates us is our response to the failure. I am suggesting that we become proactive with mindset strategies. If we build a strong shield of resistance for our athletes, failure is less likely to become a place we visit or stay for any amount of time.
BASICS ON THE BRAIN
The Brain is an information processor; nothing more, nothing less. The brain itself can be divided into many lobes, cortex, but for our purpose we will focus on a few key areas and their perceived influences.
Frontal Lobe: Planning, inhibition, control.
Hippocampus: Memory Processing.
Amygdala: Emotional behavior, motivation.
The brain and the body are interdependent because the body depends on the brain for management and the brain depends on the body for all sensory information. Light, Sound, and touch stop at the retina, eardrums, and skin which means that we literally create the world internally from scratch, inside our head. How accurate is our representation of reality? That will largely be affected by our Mindset.
We are the only animals that can visualize a distant future. This could be a great tool or bring enormous stress. We can wrestle control and create behaviors that change future outcomes and even overcome our genetic predisposition.
Before these changes or upgrades can happen we must imagine a future that we want. We have to be honest about the emotions that drive us to want that future. Then, we have to alter current behaviors to get the outcomes we decide are an advantage to us. This is described as self-regulation. We must plan a strategy that binds events across time to your goals. Avoid distraction and change direction when things are not working. I know, easier said than done. This is a form of disciplined thought and NOT just a one time decision.
It is not a coincidence that the Amygdala(emotional behavior) and the Hippocampus(memory) are tightly linked in the cerebral cortex of the brain. In 500 milliseconds of an event happening the brain has already subconsciously linked past emotions to what you should do next. Your brain has a guiding principle to minimize harm and maximize reward. Your perceived limitations of yourself may not be reality but instead a deep emotion from the past that is holding you back. This emotion usually brings about anxiety. When an individual’s perceived capacity to meet expectations is exceeded, the sense is one of anxiety or loss of “Flow”.
To remove these emotional pretenses we need to assure ourselves of a different outcome. We have to remove doubts of past failure by practicing self-efficacy. Self-Efficacy refers to the changing of self-image in response to a new challenge. One must believe that their plans or actions can be executed and WILL result in the desired outcome. We have to remove the emotions about past failure and see ourselves having succeeded with the current plan. For instance, “If I would have trained like I am now, I know I would have broken the 100M record last year instead of coming up short.” The other major factor in high performance is GRIT. Grit refers to stick-to-it-ness and predicts success in top performers beyond that of academic IQ, genetic athletic ability or Emotional IQ. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus. In a story of the Iditirod Sled Dog Race a poor man wanting to break into an expensive sport went to all the breeders and ask for the cheapest dog that “worked hard”. Despite not being able to afford the strongest or fastest bred dogs, he eventually became champion because all of his dogs had grit, the ultimate predictor in all long term success. Grit is a decision and one that you and your team can make together with a sound plan of action. To support Self-Regulation, Self-Efficacy and Grit we are going to spell out 7 ways to upgrade your mindset. Look at it as a Mindset Enhancement Toolkit.
7 ways we can Enhance Mindset and achieve the future that suits needs/wants.
To affirm your own self determination write down three ranked reasons why this change is important and how it fulfills something in your life. Then write down three ranked reasons why this will make you feel efficient, effective, and a master of your sport/position/job , etc. Finally, write down how this will help you feel like you are connected to other high performers(All State, Hall of famers, etc) at the top of your game.
To affirm one of your athletes plan for a change put the OARS strategy to practice.
*OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS: Start by asking questions about their plans for high achieving to which a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is not sufficient.
*AFFIRMATION: Respond with positive commentary on what they are saying or proposing
*REFLECTION: Confirm the emotion they are expressing to help engage with it
*SUMMARIZING: Gather positive aspects of what they are saying and summarize back to them- “So here is what I am hearing” – then move on to another open ended question that will help them affirm their plan for success.
The brain has difficulty in discriminating real from imaged memory IF the imaginary scene is highly detailed in all senses. If you are only as good as your last game, then you should imagine having your best game as much as possible. Our friends at Baylor Basketball showed us one of the things that I felt to have a huge affect on their program- each player on the team had personal highlights on a TV above their locker. Talk about seeing your best performance everyday, no doubt that has a huge impact on the performance of their team.