Elevate Your Excellence: The Mindset and Methods That Make Champions is the sport psychology book I've been diligently writing for a year and half. It is nearing it’s final stages and about ready to go to print!
I’m so proud of the book I’ve created.
But it has come at a price.
You see, pursing a challenging goal takes over your life.
When you are going hard and giving 100% to something you care about, it’s hard to be balanced.
Whether you are writing a book or striving to make it to the championship game, we become out-of-balanced –like an off kilter wash machine, because every ounce of energy goes into brainstorming, creating, experimenting, training, failing, making mistakes, improving, and mastering.
That means we don’t have much leftover energy and attention to give to other things that are important to us.
The process of writing a book gave me the opportunity to create something that I believe can impact the lives of those who are in the pursuit of excellence –whether that be in sport, exercise, business, or life.
But, I have to be HONEST
…it cost me my motivation to exercise
…it cost me my enthusiasm to do fun, fulfilling things with my husband and 3 year old
…it cost me my desire to hang out with friends
…it cost me my sleep –waking up at 2am with my mind churning
…it cost me my ability to kick back and relax
I’ve come to realize that anything worth fighting for is certainly going to throw you off balance.
And being unbalanced is okay.
In fact, it is part of life –despite what we are conditioned to believe.
An unbalanced life is merely a season.*
Let’s be real…it can’t ALWAYS be summer and sunny outside.
As the season shifts to autumn, it’s natural the weather is changing, the temperature is crisp, and the leaves turn into brilliant orange, red, and yellow.
Just like the seasons, different areas of our life,–whether that be physical, mental, vocational, emotional, social, are ever changing and always shifting.
Although I know the seasons change, I don’t particularly like that so much of my energy went into writing a book. Because I chose to prioritize the book over self-care, I am frumpy and not fit from my lack of exercise and sometimes I feel like a piss-poor mother/wife for not spending enough time with my family.
But, I try not to sweat it.
Because this is sometimes how our biggest dreams and boldest goals get accomplished.
I also remind myself that this is the season I am in and the price I paid to pour my heart and soul into something I love.
And you know what?!
The seasons will shift again.
Not too far from now the book will be in print and my focus will shift to fitness, family, and friends.
In the meantime, I am accepting and appreciating this season for what it is –an opportunity
…to face my fears of not feeling worthy to write a sport psychology book,
…to test the depths and limits of who I am,
…and to discover new strengths I didn’t know I had.
Like the annual growth rings on a tree, it was a season of tremendous progress and development. And for that I am thankful.
As Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, describes my sentiments for the will to excel, commitment to expand, and desire to be a champion:
“…I firmly believe that any man’s finest hours—his greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear—is that moment when he has worked his heart out in good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle—victorious.”
I also know that staying with this type of intensity is not sustainable.
Much like periodization (systematic physical training in sports), when we stress the mind and then let it recover we are better able to grow, find new ideas, and have breakthroughs.
As the trees begin to shed their leaves, I’m also looking forward to taking a break from a great growing season and resting and reflecting next week (I attempt to take a week of leisure at every season change, see The Roman's Secret to Optimal Performance).
My hope of this blog post is that through my struggles and reflections you are better able to enjoy the current season of your sport, of your fitness, of your personal development, of your career, of your family, etc., etc., etc.
And honor where you’re at right now!
Before too long the seasons will change again.
CLICK HERE to preview the book ELEVATE YOUR EXCELLENCE.
*Inspired by www.shethrivesblog.com
In a time of so much division, I believe sports are a powerful and positive force to bring people together.
Sport creates moments that get people through their greatest challenges in life as well as support them through the best of times.
Sport does this by allowing us to care and connect to a like-minded group.
It’s a family that share moments of:
…dreams & depression
…happiness & healing
…fun & fears
…triumphs & tears.
That’s because those who participate in your sport are your family –connecting, playing, learning, bonding, fighting, loving, ranting, and raving.
It’s a place to be raw, real, & resilient through the mental and emotional fluctuations of sports and life.
On a broader scale, we don’t even have to speak the same language to play sports with each other. Each sport has it’s own set of rules that every participant understands –despite their race, religion, sex, or nationality.
In fact, there is no other event in the world that brings more people together than the Olympics. The great thing about the Olympics is that each of us experiences a deeper connection that goes beyond sports. And that is a beautiful thing.
This deeper connection in sport allows our spirits to soar.
It’s a place we are able to get lost in the moment –letting go off suffering, sadness, & success.
Just moments of being in the now.
It’s a place to release the heaviness and relish in utter elation.
It’s experiencing a sense of awe.
A sense of bliss.
For me, it’s pretty simple.
Sport fills me up.
It strengthens my mind and body, which makes me want to be a better person.
And that, my friend, is how we change the world.
Rumi captures the essence of this…
“Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
I am so grateful that my sports give me a rich opportunity to relax into my true nature, discover my pure potential and that of others, and share these deep experiences with people from all walks of life to make the world a better place.
Even Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and legendary activist most notable for his efforts to dismantle South Africa’s institutionalized racism, ranks sport high on the list to make powerful, transformative changes.
At the 1995 Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mandela convinced a divided nation of blacks and whites to unify and root for their home team, the Springboks –which only had one nonwhite player. With a crowd almost completely white, Mandela went onto the field wearing a Springboks jersey. The crowd was silent. Then, began chanting “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!” The South African Springboks went on to win the game (Carlin, 2009).
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
What do you think?
Has your sport been a positive and powerful force in changing yourself and the world?
If so, how? I’d love to hear about it!
Send me your brain dump by emailing me.
The joy of testing your limits, connecting with like-minded people, and doing what you love is suddenly stripped away. During these uncertain times, it’s easy to get sucked into the pain cave.
But, is there a better way?
Can you take advantage of using mental training to aid in your recovery?
Joel Hatch, co-founder of Trail Manners a podcast series for trail runners, contacted me for an interview on just that. Joel has an injured friend who wants to know the optimal way to psychologically deal with an injury and what tools can be acquired during the recovery process.
I was psyched for the interview as this topic is close to my heart.
Because of my own athletic injuries in high school, my chosen career path was athletic training. For several years I practiced as a certified an athletic trainer for youth, collegiate, and Olympic athletes.
What I came to realize is that I not only helped athletes heal their injuries through physical rehab but more importantly I helped athletes recover from the mental misery of enduring an injury so that they could confidently return to play, which is one of reasons I quit my athletic training career, pursued a sport psychology doctorate degree, and started my business Mindset.
In the podcast interview, you’ll learn:
For a sneak peek into the interview, Go F.A.R. stands for Feel. Accept. Recover.
Feel: Honor the present. Injuries can sometimes be traumatic. Rather than deny your emotions and let them build until you burst, allow yourself to feel into hurt, anger, disappointment, and frustration (this is also true for a crappy training day or competition). Acknowledge the emptiness, despair, or confusion, but have a lightness on your face. As the adage goes, “This too shall pass”.
Accept: Pain is our resistance. Holding onto tension wastes precious energy. You can waste energy fighting against not wanting to be injured or you can accept your current situation and find ways to make the hardship an opportunity to make you stronger. Can you embrace the change versus fight against it?
Recover: I know how hard it can be to feel and accept (I'm better at swallowing my emotions than letting the surface), but once you’ve made these adjustments you’re in a better head space for a speedy recovery. For example, have you ever went into a training session and felt like crap? Did you show up anyway and found a way to move on…maybe even have a superb training session? You are practicing resilience. And you can drum up these resources, and even refine them, during the injury recovery process so that you are mentally stronger and more confident for your return to sport.
For more mental training tips, Click Here to listen to the 53-minute interview.
A couple weeks ago, 17 steel poles broke near Teton Village in a winter storm.
Jackson Hole was closed for days.
The town declared a state of emergency...there was no way in and no way out.
This is the way of nature...and a great metaphor for your mental game and performance.
As martial artist and actor Bruce Lee puts it,
"The stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending in the wind."
And that's why I dislike the term mental toughness.
Mental toughness refers to being strong, hard and rigid.
This so called 'toughness' is actually quite fragile because it's breakable...with enough force you'll snap.
I believe mental toughness is a veneer term
...it's a cover to describe being supple, flexible and malleable.
But no one wants to talk about the softer side of mental toughness...maybe in fear of being perceived as weak?
Strength comes from letting go of being stiff and stuffy.
...the tougher and harder you are, the more defensive, insecure and isolated you become.
...the more open and honest you are, the more secure, fearless and better you become.
STRENGTH = SURRENDERING + SOFTENING
Stop trying to be mentally tough.
Start being mentally flexible.
By not being blinded by what you think will bring you happiness and high performance -like more accomplishments, winning, status, or a rock-hard body.
Rather than repeating the pleasures you already know, open up to the unknown.
It is here where we explore an endless source of possibilities and find our untapped potential.
...and isn't this what we all want?
...to live to our full potential!
An athlete of mine recently shared with me a story of Josh Waitzkin, chess and martial arts champion. In an one-hour interview at Google, Josh says what he's learned from years of studying champions is that those who are the most successful are expressing themselves most purely through their discipline.
Mentally flexibility, then, is giving yourself permission to unravel and understand your unique potential.
It's not about glossing over the losses and becoming more callused and mentally tough. Rather, as Josh puts it, it's the losses that define you.
It's giving yourself the time and space to learn how to be honest with yourself and to accept whatever may be happening on the surface.
Before moving on with your day, pause.
And remember to be flexible
...embracing the opportunity to grow when meeting a new challenge
...BENDING WITH THE WIND
...and excelling in the deepest and most profound ways.
In loving memory of Dawn Trent Banks
The mind game consists of the tricks your mind plays on you
The most important thing I've learned as sports psychology coach is that:
Any trick of the mind
can be defeated by
becoming aware of the trick.
AWARENESS = POWER
The AAA Approach to Awareness
ACKNOWLEDGE your reaction to the situation.
When you face a challenge, mistake or setback, tell yourself:
"This is me reacting to the situation, the situation is a blank experience."
The situation has no meaning until you personalize it.
You can acknowledge what’s going on in the situation by
LABELING your experience as X, such as frustration, confusion or not being good enough, and say to yourself:
When you accept without judgment, what happens?
...You become relaxed, centered and gain an open perspective.
The more centered and accepting we are,
the more positive energy we bring to the situation,
which eases the heaviness of a difficult moment
and boosts our performance.
After saying, "I am experiencing X", immediately say:
Next, take ACTION.
In every moment, we have a choice.
The choice to embrace our power or to give it up.
There is no BETTER WAY to
develop your awareness and
harness your power than to
redirect your attention to a better outcome for yourself in any situation.
Ultimately, the choice in how you react is YOURS.
...No one can carry your burden for you.
How do you want to move forward?
***THIS IS HOW WE WIN THE MIND GAME***
When you ACKNOWLEDGE and ACCEPT where you’re at and
CHOOSE an ACTION of where you want your story to go
...you are centered and engaged.
You are no longer wasting time
because you are experiencing being here
–nothing more –nothing less.
From this CENTERED PLACE
you’re positioned to
use your skills and strengths to the utmost
–as an athlete, parent or passionate professional.
And the POWER of PERFORMANCE is born.
Next time you’re mind tries to play tricks on you like,
"I'm not strong enough to do this" or
"My achievements aren't as good as others,"
And WIN the mind game with 3 Short Statements...
1. I am experiencing X.
2. It’s okay to experience X.
3. I choose to ___________.
If you're looking for more tips, tools or tricks to win the mind game, I invite you share it with me in the comments below. I'd love to hear your story.
Come into the mountains, my dear friend
Leave society and take no one with you
But your true self
Get close to nature
Your everyday games will become insignificant
I wrote this quote on my white board ten years ago when I started my PhD and never erased it.
Today it stills lives on my white board and reminds me of what’s important -health, friends and family, and quality of life.
Yet, driven by my ambition I continually outpace my daily intake of energy.
My personality is more like the fast hare instead of the slow and steady turtle.
…I often dip into my energy reserves and become depleted.
I find that too much ambition and activity robs us of time to contemplate, relax, and enjoy every good thing in life.
As Kirpal Singh, 20th century Indian Saint, put it:
“Ambition is the thief of the spirit”
But, ambition is in my blood…and in the blood of the athletes I work with.
We love to run, push, and overachieve.
Ambition, while leading to some positive accomplishments, can also lead to stress, poor health, and bad decisions.
How do we balance our ambitious drive?
Over the past few years, at each seasonal change I step away from my desk to rejuvenate.
The autumn equinox is tomorrow so…
I’m going into the mountains, my dear friends.
And taking some time to balance my perspective and priorities.
This may seem unorthodox.
But, recently I learned that the great Roman society -known for their advances in architect, medicine, and science, were able to achieve so much because they took LEISURE time.
Leisure, known to the Romans as otium, wasn’t a time for selfish pleasure. It was time devoted to writing, reading, meditating, sharing thoughts and ideas, exercising, playing, and appreciating nature.
Balancing ambition with leisure was a central tenet to the Romans success.
Achievement requires rejuvenation.
It’s my belief that a natural time to rejuvenate is by the rhythm of the seasons.
Every three months during the equinoxes and solstices, I take a break from writing, checking emails, and networking so that I can “vacate et videte”. According to the Romans, “vacate et videte" means to be still and be seen.
And I invite you to do the same.
Balance Your Ambition by finding a time do an activity that allows you to be fully present -free of time, responsibilities, and burdens.
Schedule an hour or a day next week to give yourself permission to read, play, contemplate, or appreciate nature…like the Romans did. I promise -you won't regret it.
Sometimes in sports things go wrong.
Sometimes it’s because we’ve lost sight of what’s important to us.
Sometimes it’s because we fear failure.
However it happens, there’s a certain amount of mental misery that can occur. It can leave us feeling confused, hopeless and downright pissed off.
The questions we ask ourselves in these moments shapes everything.
Too many times I’ve seen athletes, including myself, stew on questions like, “WTF happened?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Or “How can I fix this?”
Rather than sliding down the slippery slope of negativity, I suggest taking a different approach.
Ask yourself: How is this perfect?
If things have gone wrong...
there’s a good chance that there’s something you didn’t see.
Maybe it was something in yourself …like losing focus because your mind was dwelling on a mistake you made a minute ago.
Maybe it was something in the environment …like a distraction from the opposing team or bad weather conditions.
When things go wrong, it’s uncomfortable. It hurts. And sometimes we suffer. We instinctively put our blinders on and try to move through it as fast as possible.
But before breaking into a problem-solving sprint, it’s usually a good idea to slow down, take off your blinders and open yourself to different possibilities.
It’s worth setting some time to ponder on these sticky situations because it brings about greater self-awareness.
With awareness comes transformation, freedom and a higher level of performance.
EXERCISE: How is this perfect?
Set aside 5 minutes with a pen and paper to better understand how your situation is perfect.
This question is NOT interested in making you feel shame or faulting anybody.
This question IS interested in helping you to see what you haven’t seen before. Look at your situation and ask “How is this perfect?”
Try it now.
(It’s important, I’ll wait…)
Now, let me ask you:
-->Did you learn something new?
-->How likely will you make the same mistake again?
-->Will you be a better player or person the next time this situation comes up?
Pretty powerful, right?
Next time when something goes wrong in sports, or in life, remember to take some time to slow down, take off your blinders and reflect on these 4 words: How is this PERFECT?
Being a champion is a lifestyle…not a part-time job.
You got to have
…a twinkle in your eye
…an ambition in your heart
…and discipline in your teeth to be focused at being the best you can be.
It’s about becoming the best you can be and, thus, becoming a champion in sports and all walks of your life.
That's why I believe that sport is played with the body, but won in the mind.
As a result, I get really excited to share with you the tools and habits to be who you are, to never doubt your ability and to excel in your desired dreams.
To get started, I believe that understanding your motivation is the foundation for excellence. To jump start your motivation, take a moment and answer the following questions:
If you look at your answers there are a variety of internal and external reasons of why you enjoy your sport. Those who excel at the highest level, athletes like Shaun White, Carli Llyod and Micheal Phelps, speak to the important role that fun, joy and passion plays in freeing them to excel.
As you review your answers, remember to connect to the bigger reasons of why you do what you do. These deep, internal motives allows us to have more control and confidence in our athletic, and life, pursuits. When we have control and confidence, we begin to see all the choices that lead to the path of performance and personal excellence.
Despite being a pretty optimistic person (nickname Bubbles), I tend to be hard on myself. Mostly, I struggle with being an overachiever. I worry about doing my best, over think minute details and try to be excellent at EVERYTHING.
If you’re anything like me, this pursuit of excellence can be exhausting.
That’s why I WORK HARD at...
And being mentally tough.
By NOT being HAPPY 24-7.
Sure. Happiness can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But, I think the majority of people don’t talk about the DARKER SIDE of emotions because expressing fear, anxiety and disappointment OPENS you up to feeling vulnerable. It exposes your weaknesses (if there is such a thing).
Rather than adopting my typical SUCK-IT-UP mentality, INTERNALIZING my fears and PUSHING forward, I recently started scheduling a time to...
And ALLOW myself to feel my raw and often times confusing emotions.
Carrying unneeded negativity inside of you is incredibly draining.
It takes up precious energy (which is a finite resources…when you run out, you run out) that could be better spent on things you really enjoy –like running, racing or reaching your peak potential.
Research (Csikszentmihalyhi, 1990; Thelwell & Greenless, 2006) shows that people who learn to manage their inner experiences feel
…and at the peak of their abilities.
Living and performing your best, then, are something YOU can make happen.
Well, you CAN'T BE YOUR BEST until you let go of your shit. Honestly. You can try to suppress your fears, doubts and frustrations, but you can’t avoid it forever. Trust me, I tried for several years. What I learned is that I can learn all the positive skills in the world, but it wasn't until I was brave enough to explore why I was afraid of the dark that I really started to excel.
You got to understand what’s holding you back and release it.
This is peak performance.
This is fully experiencing health and happiness.
FACE YOUR FEELINGS EXERCISE:
Grab a pen and paper. Set a timer for 1- to 15-minutes and feel into your fears and frustrations. Listen to the silly, self-sabotaging voices in your head. Then, give it a voice by writing it down. Free form. No holding back. Try starting your statements with a feeling (mad, sad, etc). You might be surprised how peaceful you feel when you’re done.
Here’s how I write my statements:
We often think that holding back and holding it all in makes us STRONGER. But learning how to acknowledge and let go of negative emotions as they arise FREES us from any perceived obstacles or struggles that are in our way (fear of not performing up to our expectations, afraid of what people think of us and not being accepted).
With practice, you begin to see that undesirable thinking and feeling is NOT BAD. It’s not a weakness. It doesn’t characterize who you are. It just is.
Plus, if you didn’t feel the ups and downs of your thoughts and feelings, then sports –and life would be pretty damn boring.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyhi (1990) said in his book Flow,
““The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.”
Let’s make it happen!
ALLOW yourself to let go of all the layers that KEEP YOU from living and performing your best by acknowledging and accepting your thoughts and feelings.
Then, share your experience with me. Take the courageous plunge and make a comment below or send me an email and tell me all about it. I look forward to hearing from you!
When the national anthem started to rumble at the 2014 NFL season opener last Thursday night I made a comment that puzzled my friends.
I said, “I’m nervous”.
I wasn’t nervous that my Green Bay Packers were playing on the home turf of last years NFL superbowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks. I was nervous because hearing the Star - Spangled Banner sparked anxiety.
In my experiences competing as a gymnast, a boxer, and a long-distance runner, the Star - Spangled Banner meant it was GAME TIME.
That’s why I love sports.
Game time is an inescapable feeling of anxiety AND excitement.
Competing in sports, or getting back into fitness, are ways to accept a physical challenge. Enjoy it. And learn more about yourself.
I believe that through the magic of play the world lights up.
You become more open, more receptive and more alive than ever before.
It’s a place where the boundary of in here and out there disappears.
Your internal experience turns to an outward expression.
And you enter a state of self-fulfillment, pride, and joy.
You flow without boundaries.
But, because of FEARS surrounding the pressure to perform well in sports, and everyday life, game time can feel anything but playful.
Helping athletes move from fear to flow gets me jazzed.
That’s why I’m excited to share with you a pre-performance poem to help you unleash your power through play. It’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to pass it along because just like in competition --you have to place your best foot forward with what you got right now. Here's what I got...
Performance is a time to light it up.
Be bright and full of might.
Radiate with luster and glow.
Show up and Ignite.
Burst into flames.
Explode into your joyful performance flow.
Remember, you’ve logged long, hard hours.
So, you deserve success.
You deserve to dazzle.
You deserve to show your strengths and powers.
As you huff and puff,
Believe that you are good enough.
Trust me, you are powerful beyond measure.
This is what you need to treasure.
Let fun be your guide and you’ll do fine.
Now, go out and play…it’s Time-To-Shine.
It's my hope that this manifesto aids you in reaching a higher level of performance and personal excellence. My goal is to help as many people as possible live and perform to their unique potential. So if you liked this little manifesto, please share it with your team and friends.