We all have made ”to do” lists, set goals, have dreams, or have motives for the things we want to see happen. How come some accomplish more? What makes them tick? There are theories out there for why some make a plan to lose 20 lbs and do it and why others set a goal to reach a position at work and never quite get there. So what’s the secret?
Well, the first part of motivation is understanding ourselves. If you understand your achievement motives or why you want something, then you can recognize obstacles and distractions that may hinder your plan. Figure out why you’re going after something. This can make the picture more clear and easier to attain. You might be able to think of someone who is like this, or you may be able to relate yourself.
What goes into being motivated? First, you have people that hope for success. They might anticipate pride afterwards or really feel they need a sense of achievement. For example, you want to try out for a team to be involved, have a sense of accomplishment that you made it, and feel part of a group.
Next, you have the fear of failure. These people want to avoid failure. They’re anticipating shame or humiliation for failing. So this same person may not try out or go for the next level simply because he is afraid of what he’ll feel like if he doesn’t make it.
To really understand each motive, look at what is more important: the outcome or the process? and what do you value? You are evaluating yourself and your worth. With these ideas in mind, you should be able to ask yourself: “Last time I achieved…. it was because I wanted to outperform others or win.” or “It was because I didn’t want to lose or be outperformed by anyone else.” or “It was to better myself and my performance.” or “I train so I don’t get worse.” Obviously plugging in your own example makes it relevant to you, and anything can fill in the blanks. So I exercise because… I compete in triathlons because…. I don’t workout because… I enter so many races a year because…. I haven’t applied for a new job because…. I run because…
Take some time to sit down and make a list of what you’re motivated to do and not do. There will be a “I’m proud” list and a “I can throw this away” list. That’s okay, putting it down on paper really makes you aware of why you’re making the decisions you make on a daily basis. If it doesn’t bother you, then it must not have value. If you value an area then you can find a way to be motivated to do something about it. However, the first step is being aware of what makes you motivated.
We want to move along the continuum. So paying attention to why we’re not doing something (amotivated) to ultimately doing it for ourselves (intrinsically motivated). Are you just satisfying others? That won’t last. You have to have competence and autonomy to be motivated for the right reasons. For example, you want to lose weight for a wedding to look good in pictures, but then you find it really hard to stick to the plan so far out. Then you decide this time you want to lose weight to be healthier and please people around you, again it’s tough to maintain once the goal is met possibly. You attempt to lose weight again, but this time you are doing it to make you happy and change your quality of life.
You’ve probably heard you can’t make someone change who doesn’t want to, well motivation is very similar. If you want to meet goals, YOU have to want them. We have a human tendency to reach our development. We want more. We crave autonomy, peace within, and self actualization. This is often never reached when we try to live up to what others want for us.
Take a look at your goals. How do they change throughout the game of life or even throughout an actual game. Notice how they change and what you want to get out of the big picture. Keep in mind motives and goals are different. Goals are dynamic and constantly need to be updated and changed. Motives can change over time, but require a longer time frame. Figure out what you want, make that list, select a goal to promote, develop steps to achieve it, and make it happen.
The idea behind applied sport psychology is to provide athletes with tools, strategies, and techniques to better their performance. It’s common for athletes to spend most of their time on physical practice & be developed physically. When athletes make a decision to turn to a sport psychologist, performance consultant, or performance coach, they are making the choice to reach the next level. They realize that just competing the physical components of training aren’t enough. It’s time to gain a competitive edge, learn mental toughness, and be able to cope with whatever they face.
Athletes wanting to make it to reach their ultimate potential in talent development know the importance of mental training as well as physical training. It is no surprise that the top tier of athletes in their field must turn to master level coaches to better their game; they must also employ strategies gained from a mental skills specialist to move up the ladder of success.
According to Benjamin Bloom’s research: parent support, high standards, goal setting, appropriate social interaction, and encouragement at all levels are main contributors to athlete’s success at elite levels. If these are necessary pieces to the puzzle, then the notion of applied sport psychology is definitely supported. Why not give your child the ultimate advantage and expose him or her to mental training as well as physical practice. Expert talent development is not just about intense physical training. There is more to it. Bloom broke down each distinct talent field/sport to show how every area studied found similar training methods. Athletes are finding success by following a protocol. They’re hunting for the secret, and mocking what they find in others… because it’s working.
Encouragement and motivation are valuable to an athlete’s growth. These principles can be taught in applied sport psychology. We are often looking for answers on why certain athletes can’t get over detrimental events, get burned out, or what pushes some to go further than those before them. Teaching these outstanding athletes short and long term goals, how to use their resources, how to allocate time efficiently with school work, and how to manage the emotional commitment has taken them to the top of their field. These athletes recognized these concepts were all factors that contributed to their success. Bloom’s studies open the eyes to skeptics who may not value applied sport psychology.
Sport psychology is using psychological life skills to better your performance; it’s not just for “broken” athletes. It shows the significance of what to pay attention to when teaching an individual new skills. Bloom has also shown this in school: pointing out how any person can learn if provided with appropriate conditions. For example, some students retain info better if they do a project, some learn by reading on their own, some need to teach material to others, some learn best in groups. Perhaps, society should value the magnitude of psychological skills training and social support a little more. Sport psychology concepts can really be implemented in any circumstance for better performance on the field, court, or in the classroom.
A common theme of sport psychology would be challenging individuals to reach their full potential. One should not settle for where they are, but ask what else he is capable of accomplishing? Full potential would entail raising the standard, utilizing work ethic, and making use of each practice session and ability.
What if society could increase the amount of talent developed if the standards were raised? It doesn’t have to be so rare. Have we gotten complacent? Are we satisfied with just getting by? What if we asked more of students in schools or more of children in terms of physical activity? Look at the obesity rates, dropping artistic programs in school, and the amount of TV shows/books on weight loss for example. Would people have a greater sense of fulfillment if they learned coping skills, how to manage stress, balance work/life, build confidence, or channel their nerves better? Coaches, teachers, and parents should not be afraid to push the envelope. What could a sport psychology coach do for your young athlete?
Leaving Poor Performances Behind & Focusing on the Race at Hand
Easier said than done at times, but with everything worth gaining, you have to practice at it. Your mental game is just as important to practice as your physical. Panic, worry, and fear can creep up on you in a crucial race or game time situation if you’re not prepared. You know the feeling. The sweaty palms, heart racing, muscles tensing up, or even pacing back and forth. You’re freaking out that this time has to be it, has to be perfect, has to be clutch. This race, next play, or performance is where you shine, drop time, or dominant your opponent. It has to be Wheaties box great because your last go round wasn’t. You have to make up for the last shot you had. You’re stressed, even though you won’t admit it: that this performance has to look like your “usual self”. The performance people “know” you for. Right? With that amount of pressure there is no wonder you can’t live up to the expectations you’ve set.
You have to learn how to leave poor performances behind and focus on the event at hand. If you bring bad shots, missed free throws, missed putts, or false starts to your next event, you’re setting yourself up to overcome that performance again & again. Take one race at a time. Most people tell themselves, “don’t do …..(insert your favorite here) again”. Or, “I have to make this….(pick one)”. Sound familiar? You are what you say to yourself. This has been proven over and over. You can’t approach your next event still thinking about your last “mess up”. We’re all entitled to messing up. No one is ever getting it right all the time, but it is about training your mind to sort out each trial. You make a mistake – you need to revisit it, correct it, and figure out what happened. However, you don’t need to continue to bring it with you every time you step on the green, the court, or the track.
How do I do that though? “I know I shouldn’t focus on the negative and I need to move on to be in the now, but I can’t get it out of my head?” Don’t over think it, first of all, stay in the moment, and play like it’s still fun for you. You need to learn to thought stop for it to become routine. You need the thought stopping to be second nature and race in the moment for it to work. You can’t just try to use it when the pressure is on because you’re not used to it and your body and mind are distracted. I encourage the power of practicing the mental aspect of approaching EACH race. Say what you want to achieve. Be productive in your thoughts.
Make a plan to replace a race or a situation, depending on your sport. What this means is taking a great performance and remembering those circumstances, environment, and feelings when you’re faced with a new challenge. For example, a swimmer might replace a “final” race time of an event with his next race of a different event that may seem intimidating. Using different races in your mind and reliving them helps with imagery as well. Perhaps the 200 free has been his nemesis recently. He can’t drop time in a major meet, faces pressure to do well here to get back on a relay, or panics when someone passes him. So his last great 200 fly race becomes his 200 free in his mind when he is preparing for the 200 free event. He takes the time to visualize what the 200 fly felt like, review his successes, and look at his competition like there is no prayer for you all because I’m getting ready to blow you out of the water. He no longer thinks of the last time he swam the 200 free, how he wasn’t pleased with his performance and how he seems to be stuck in a rut and can’t break out. He no longer forces that pressure of having to have this 200 free be the “one”, the “perfect” race. It’s now a race in the moment. He is focusing on the 200 fly because he did well and replacing that image with how he will swim the next event he’s in.
It’s about leaving that poor performance behind, by correcting components, not reinforcing them. This isn’t easy, so when you can’t let go of a particular event, use a replacement strategy. Seem cheesy? It’s a proven technique for several elite athletes, and it’s worth a shot if this simple tip of “replacing your race” can give you the competitive edge. You have to implement the strategies to make it work.
You can use polysensory (all your senses in painting the picture) visualization, destroy the negative parts of previous races or events and perform just like your best performance. The key here is picking an exact performance. You can’t just think of one time you did well, or just imagine when you were at the top of your game because that will just bring pressure to be great again. You have to focus on a specific race or situation when you were proud of your achievements. You need to take in each element of that performance and re-live it. The more vivid the picture, with each sense imagined, the more powerful the replacement of what we want to correct. Your brain doesn't know if this event was imagined or really occurred; it just thinks, "the last time I pictured this or did this, it went well." Well that’s the short version anyway. This strategy has helped other athletes in the sense of allowing them to let go of “poor” performances and lets them get more into a race they may have built up fear or anxiety about. Come in to learn more about implementing this resource and applying to your races.