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The art of focus – Ski the gaps, not the trees!

February 22, 2016

10 steps to positive focus in work, life and sport

I’m really excited to present the first in a series of blog posts, written in collaboration with Cathy O’Dowd, an awesome adventurer, speaker and author, and the first woman to climb Everest from both sides. Together we will be exploring the psychology behind some of the lessons we learn through adventure. Today – how to focus on the success you want, rather than the obstacles in your way.  We start with the story of Cathy’s experience and then I will explain the psychology.

“Ski the gaps, not the trees”

That always seemed to be one of the silliest pieces of advice I was given as a novice skier. Let’s get real here. I might face-plant in the powder of the gaps and fill my goggles with snow, but the gaps aren’t going to hurt me. Those trees, though…..

Those trees are evil. I may not be an irresistible force on skis but those trees are undoubtedly immovable objects. When you run into them at speed, it hurts!

“The skis will go where you look.” That was also clearly nonsense. I’ve had my two skis abruptly part ways and head in two entirely different directions, neither one where I was looking, and the results weren’t pretty.

I learnt to ski as an adult and it was a slow, awkward process, driven by conscious learning rather than the intuitive discovery of children. With time, I came to realise that some advice only applies once you are good enough to use it.

Gradually, my ski control became a sub-conscious process, my body learnt to make the fine, intuitive adjustments faster than I could deliberately think them through and it became true that the skis would go where I focused. I started to see that if you skied down a slope staring straight at a tree, you’d ski into it.

Nevertheless, I certainly wasn’t going to ski through a forest without keeping a wary eye on where exactly those trees were. It still hurt to run into them! The challenge was to see how far I could push the tree into my peripheral vision while still having a beady eye on it.

The result was a series of heart-stopping near misses. Somehow the tree would sidle imperceptibly towards me and then abruptly leap into my path, resulting in a frantic swerve, a high-speed wobble and probably a crash into a snow-drift.

Finally it dawned on me that the truth was simple: you get what you focus on. A tree in my peripheral vision was still a tree I was obsessed with, afraid of – drawing my attention away from where I actually wanted to go.

I’m not suggesting you ski into a forest without taking an overview – a rapid mental snapshot of the nature of trees, the depth of the snow, the angle of the slope. At that moment I identify the obstacles I need to avoid and plot the line of gaps that will carry me safely through.

But once I’ve committed to the descent, then I need to let go of all the possible problems and give my full attention to success –  focus on the gaps, one leading to the next and the next, slide my way through in an exhilarating fast dance to where the slopes open up below.

Ski the gaps, not the trees. Focus on what you want, not on what might stop you. It turns out to be very good advice.

 

Focus, self-fulfilling prophecy, limiting beliefs

The art of focus. Skiing beautiful powder through the Rialb forest in Andorra, my winter backyard. Skier: Curig, photo: Cathy O’Dowd.

 

 

Sarah shares the psychology behind Cathy’s experiences, and tools to help us all focus on success

Have you ever had one of those ‘I got what I focused on’ moments? I know I’ve had plenty, and I’m sure most readers will have their own experiences of that realisation – whether you wanted it or not, you got what you got because that was where you’d placed your focus!

These experiences are sometimes referred to as ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’. We have an uncanny knack of expecting something to happen, usually based on our beliefs, and then behaving in a such way that our expectations become reality. We’ve proved our beliefs to be right and so we’ve further strengthened them. This is all well and good when it is a positive belief or expectation. However if our focus is based on a negative or limiting belief we may well get exactly what we don’t want.

When Cathy enters the tree thinking ‘if I hit a tree I’ll hurt myself ‘ or ‘there are so many trees it’s difficult to ski my way round them’, she finds the trees have a knack of leaping into her path…… and her belief that they are difficult to ski is confirmed.

When she switches her focus to ‘ski the gaps’ with the expectation that they will carry her safely through, she’s challenging that previously held ‘limiting belief’. By focusing on directing her skis where she wants to go, she enjoys an ‘exhilarating fast dance’ through the trees, a positive, self-affirming experience. With each successful experience, she reinforces a new ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ where ‘one gap leads to the next’.

10 steps for creating self-fulfilling prophecies that will focus you towards success in work, leisure and sport:

  1. Identify what you want to achieve and how you will know you’ve achieved it.
  2. Notice when your limiting beliefs or self-fulfilling prophecies occur and hold you back – what triggers them? Note down your limiting beliefs.
  3. Replace the limiting beliefs with ‘believable and achievable’ positive beliefs that focus on what you want to achieve.
  4. Think about and vividly imagine what success would look and feel like.
  5. Look for and collect evidence (e.g. past successes) to support these new positive beliefs
  6. Develop new self-talk phrases to support these new positive beliefs.
  7. Before any potential ‘trigger’ situations connect with your new positive beliefs, feelings and self-talk.
  8. Enjoy achieving – remember how good it feels.
  9. Practice, practice, practice.
  10. Decide how you will stretch yourself even further

Find more about Cathy on her website, Twitter or LinkedIn

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Managing anxiety and self-talk during Escape from Alcatraz test swim – being my own client!

July 13, 2015

June 2015 I found myself in San Francisco supporting my husband Adam Younger, who was competing in the iconic Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon to be held on the Sunday.  1100  Friday morning we discovered that there was a test swim at 0700 the following day and the organisers had opened up an extra 10 places.  Loving open water swimming and a challenge – and not wanting to miss out on what might be a once in a life time opportunity – I signed up.

 

Open Water Swim Alcatraz to San Francisco

Approx track of swim Alcatraz to San Francisco

With less than 20hrs to prepare myself I started to reflect on just what this meant.   Approx 1.5 mile swim from a boat just off Alcatraz Island to San Francisco.  The water is notoriously cold and the currents notoriously strong (the majority of the swim is across the current).  I’d swam in the sea (England) about 5 times this season for up to 25 mins/swim in temperatures from 11C – 15C (no pool swimming) – so  I wasn’t swim fit and was relying on my general fitness to get me through.  On the plus side I had my open water swimming kit with me (in case we found some great swimming spots during our holiday after the triathlon), I’m used to swimming off the Isle of Wight where we also have strong currents and the early season sea temperature is similar, this was a test swim for the organisers, with professional swim coaches/guides swimming with us, so no pressure to swim fast or even complete as they even wanted to test their rescue/recovery systems!   I realised I would be somewhat out of my comfort zone and this was definitely to be one of those ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ (Susan Jeffers) experiences.

0615 the next day we were given an very thorough briefing and loaded on to two boats before heading out to Alcatraz.  We were a really mixed gang of experience, confidence and anxiety levels.  Some obviously very nervous, and as we got further from the San Francisco waterfront, I too was becoming increasingly anxious about the size of the challenge I’d taken on.  We had a short delay waiting for some very large ships to clear the shipping channel we were about to swim across – which only added to the nerves and the wind had now increased so instead of a calm sea it was reasonably choppy with wind against current.

Then it was time to jump off the boats and start our swim……I’m not one to prolong the agony of ‘pre-start anxiety’ so was in the first wave of swimmers to jump in.  The first pleasant surprise was the water temperature wasn’t as cold as I was expecting (I later discovered this was due to a lack of snow melt in the Sierra Nevada).   For the first 5-10 mins I was really excited to be started on my journey and loving my challenge.  I was struggling to get my breathing under control and relax into my swimming.  I usually breathe alternate sides, every third stroke and can easily settle into this within a few minutes.  I put it down to the initial excitement and choppy sea.

However after 10-15 mins I found myself in a cycle of negative self-talk which was increasing my anxiety levels and not only preventing me from getting my breathing under control but making my breathing worse (short, shallow, almost hyperventilating).

Sarah Fenwick lower right swimmer

Alcatraz test swim with Golden Gate Bridge in background, I’m lower right swimmer

‘Alcatraz still looks very near and the city a long long way’

‘have I really got the general fitness to do this?’

‘the sea is getting really rough…not sure I can tough it out’ 

‘I could just stick my arm up and get hauled out – but I don’t want the embarrassment of being the only one not to finish or to be last’

‘I’m not sure I can do this’

‘what if the current sweeps me past the beach we are aiming for?’ 

‘if only I could get my breathing under control, it’s all over the place….’

oops – time to remember I’m sport psychologist – and to be my own client.  What would I recommend to a client in this situation?  Focus on my breathing and use positive words/phrase about what I want to be feeling and what I want to achieve.  So on my inhale found myself saying ‘Now I am calm’ and on my exhale alternating between ‘I am really enjoying this swim’ or ‘I can complete this swim’.   I also remembered the advice from the briefing about taking time to take in the scenery from the unusual sea-level perspective – noticing Golden Gate Bridge, the waterfront, various iconic buildings, Alcatraz becoming more distant and San Francisco closer.  Having switched myself into this more positive and mindful attitude I found myself really relaxing into the swim and thoroughly enjoying my surroundings.

And then time passed quickly and I was on the last push across a back eddy to land at the scheduled landing spot, the beach next to one of the St Francis Yacht Club.  A few high fives and emotional hugs with my fellow swimmers before looking back to Alcatraz Island and taking a few moments to reflect on how great it felt to have taken on the challenge, overcome my self-doubt and negative demons and retaken control of myself to enjoy what was an amazing and most likely once in a lifetime swimming challenge and journey.

What a fabulous reminder and lifetime memory of successfully feeling the fear and doing it anyway!

 

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Scott Expedition – with 24hr daylight where are the ‘dark sides’?

November 8, 2013

Extreme expeditions are high risk physically and mentally.  I am very excited to have been asked to provide psychological support to the Scott Expedition.  Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere are very aware that their journey across Antarctica to complete Scott’s 1,800-mile return journey to the South Pole on foot will be pushing the physical and psychological boundaries of human potential.  As part of their psychological preparation they thought it would be a good idea to get an insight into their own and each other’s personality, to make most of their strengths and reduce the potentially life-threatening impact of any default ‘dark side’ behaviours that might come out when the going gets really tough.

To achieve this we used two personality questionnaires:

  • The Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) is designed to assess the ‘bright’ side, that is aspects of personality that  promote success. This can reveal areas of strengths and some interpersonal tendencies that might cause problems.
  • The Hogan Development Survey (HDS) identifies the ‘darker’ side of personality, revealing what we might experience when people are stressed.  These ‘darker’ sides of our personality can affect an individual’s leadership style and behaviour. Under normal circumstances these characteristics can be strengths. However, when stressed, tired, hungry or otherwise distracted these risk factors may become dysfunctional, impeding effectiveness and eroding the quality of relationships and decisions.

In an extreme environment where Ben and Tarka are interdependent for survival having this intra and inter-personal awareness gives them greater ability to manage themselves and each other in the potentially challenging situations they might encounter.

Ben’s profile reveals he is friendly, warm and popular, enjoys being in the limelight and exciting others about his projects.  He thrives in adventurous, high risk situations, is highly ambitious, self-sufficient, competitive, confident and comfortable in a leadership role.  Whilst he enjoys the bigger picture aspects of the expedition, he is reasonably organised and reliable when it comes to managing the day to day tasks critical to their survival.   He is able to focus on what needs to be achieved and remain calm and composed under pressure.   Ben prefers learning on an as and when needs basis and is curious, creative, analytical and good at developing well thought through solutions before deciding what to do.

However in high stress/pressure situations or when, cold,  tired and hungry Ben may become overly confident and manipulative about doing things his way and on occasions may become a little impulsive and impatient.  Ben prefers to avoid conflict and so may struggle to address any differences of opinion or other issues as and when they arise.

Ben’s profile also suggests he may experience an inner conflict/dilemma between his reserved /self-sufficient dark sides and:

  • his colourful, limelight seeking dark side
  • his friendly, caring, conflict avoidant ‘bright side’

Tarka’s profile reveals he also thrives in high risk, adventurous situations, is highly ambitious, self-sufficient, confident and comfortable in a leadership role.  However he may sometimes come across as ruthless, dominant and competitive.   Like Ben, Tarka enjoys the bigger picture aspects of the expedition, however Tarka has a more unorthodox approach to developing ideas and solutions to expedition challenges.  He also has an ability to focus on what needs to be achieved, however may struggle to pay attention to the detailed, more routine tasks that may be key to their survival.  In a crisis Tarka is likely to remain reasonably calm and make a realistic assessment of the situation before deciding what to do.

In high stress/pressure situations or when tired, cold and hungry Tarka may not listen to Ben, may be dismissive of Ben’s ideas and/or may struggle to persuade Ben why his rather unorthodox solutions/ideas might be best.

The likelihood of their ‘dark sides’ emerging is reduced and/or moderated due to their ability to remain calm and rational when under pressure and they both thrive in adventurous, high risk situations.

Following their individual and team feedback, given the insights they’d gained, we discussed how they can best manage themselves and each other to maintain psychological fitness throughout this challenging expedition.

Click here for a case study on the Rivers of Ice Expedition

this blog has been written with permission from Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere

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Goal setting for marginal gains

August 23, 2012

I was completely obsessed with the Olympics and fascinated by some of the stories and insights into Team GBs outstanding performances, particularly the insight into the cycling team’s ‘Marginal Gains’ philosophy.  Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s Performance Director  in a BBC interview  said “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

From my work as a sport psychologist and executive coach, and my own sporting achievements I know that attention to detail and ‘Marginal Gains’  is critical to success.  It reminds me of a saying my father would often use to encourage me to save pocket money ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.’

So how do we break down business or sporting performance to the micro level that will help you focus on and deliver marginal gains?  My top tip is to focus on how you set and achieve your goals:

Top tip 1: Set your goals using a top-down approach – as Stephen Covey suggests in his book 7 habits of highly effective people   Habit #2 ‘Begin with the end in mind’:

  1. Vision, Outcome Goals, Performance Goals, Process Goals, Marginal Gains GoalsWhat is your vision/dream goals?  e.g. to be the best in the World, the company vision
  2. To achieve your vision/dream goal what outcome goals do you want to achieve?  e.g. to set a world record, to be top 3 organisation in industry by revenue
  3. To achieve your outcome goals what performance goals do you want to achieve?  To beat the World record by 1 second, to increase revenue by 10%
  4. To achieve your performance goals what process goals do you want to achieve?  What do you actually need to do?  e.g. strategic, financial, technical, behavioural, environmental, psychological, physical, etc e.g. better cycling position, improve client retention,
  5. To achieve your process goals – what are the ‘marginal gains’ goals you want to achieve? e.g. 1% improvement in aerodynamics (bike, athlete, helmet, etc), 1% improvement across all client satisfaction ratings.

Top tip 2:  set about achieving your goals in a bottom-up approach.  Focussing on and achieving your ‘marginal gains’ and ‘process’ goals will provide solid foundations on which to improve performance for the achievement of your higher level goals.

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My TEDx talk the Positive Ps of Peak Performance

May 1, 2012

Preparation for Peak Performancehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lT7nEByCoM&feature=youtu.be

Many readers will be familiar with the 5 Ps (or the 6 P version) – that is commonly used in the business environment ‘planning and preparation prevent poor performance’.  I challenge this because from my years of experience as an executive coach and sport psychologist and my own sporting achievements I know you get what you focus on, and if you focus on avoiding poor performance you may get OK or maybe good performance, however you are unlikely to get peak performance.  I believe the key to success and peak performance in any walk of life (business, sport, performing arts, life, etc)  is focusing on the what and why (purpose) and the how (planning and preparation). So I propose the new version should be Purpose, Passion, Planning and Preparation Produce Peak Performance. 

PURPOSE and PASSION is about clearly defining your vision and goals and being passionate about achieving them.  For me making my purpose public created a big shift in motivation and self-belief and created a real connection to my passion.  It was also an invitation for others to engage with my purpose leading to offers of support, information, ideas and resources.

PLANNING defining my strategy and deciding on tactics;  what, where, when, how, who, etc.  This involved a few months of research on best locations, environmental influences, time lines, resources and support required, risk analysis, back up plans, etc.  Once location had been decided more in-depth research into all factors that could potentially influence the outcome (positively or negatively), more risk analysis, working through the what ifs and options, before being satisfied that I’d not left a stone unturned and felt confident to declare a World Record attempt. Paragliding is a sport that if you get it wrong your life is potentially on the line, so planning and preparation are critical to both success and survival.

PREPARATION Knowing I had done everything I could in terms of my skills, experience, knowledge, equipment and technology so that I launched with the confidence of knowing I was 100% prepared.  This included being prepared to get the most out of the high times whilst mindful of  the future and the potential low times. Confident I would make well thought through decisions, including the temptation of some short term losses for longer term gains.   PREPARATION also meant training for when things might get out of control and the potential for being out of my comfort zone and being prepared to make tough decisions that are critical to success and survival.   PREPARATION  also involved thinking out of the box and developing potentially uncomfortable solutions, and being mentally PREPARED  to patiently tough it out in the low times…to ensure I made the distance and achieved the goal.

And all those Ps (and one or two more in the TEDx video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lT7nEByCoM&feature=youtu.be  you’ll have to watch to find out!) helped me to achieve 3 Paragliding World Records – absolute proof of PEAK PERFORMANCE!! 

Do you put enough emphasis on Purpose, Passion, Planning and Preparation?  Because get these right and you’ll  be on the journey to your own peak performance and records of success!

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When the going gets tough – making sure your ‘dark side’ is on your side!

January 18, 2012

Reading the recent BBC article on how endurance sports are becoming more and more extreme http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16548236?postId=111448477#comment_111448477.  Nowadays a marathon or iron-man event is often just the starting point for the real ‘ultra’ endurance events as participants love discovering just how much further they can push themselves.  Equally in the continually challenging economic climate I’m hearing managers and leaders likening their work to endurance events e.g. ‘it feels like we are scaling Everest’, ‘I’m running through treacle 6 days a week’. 

And for all the physical fitness that is required, the mind also has to last the distance, as the saying goes ‘what the mind believes the body achieves’ .  This requires both good mental toughness (see my earlier blog http://sarahfenwick.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/mental-toughness-and-resilience-on-ice/) and good self-management (i.e. knowing and managing our own personality).

We will each have our own interpretation of ‘endurance’ events in our lives and we each have our own personality make up that can help or hinder us in seeing them through – whether that be to take part and complete or be a winner.  Typically the stronger (more extreme) aspects of our personality provide us with strengths to draw on especially when things are going well.  However some of these personality strengths also have a ‘dark’ or flip side.  And in the moments when things aren’t going so well and we are under pressure, feeling stressed, maybe tired, cold and hungry, what were strengths if we overuse or over-rely on them, can become our ‘dark sides’, potentially leading to dysfunctional behaviours (e.g. confidence turning to arrogance) and a negative impact on our and/or our team’s performance or even derailment.

When working with individuals and/or teams in business, sport and extreme sport/expeditions I have found using the Hogan Development Survey questionnaire invaluable in helping people to identify their potential ‘dark sides’ (Rivers of Ice Expedition Hogan Personality case study).  Once you’ve got to know your own ‘dark sides’ (some even name them and play with them – especially good in teams!) you can learn how to manage them so that when the going gets tough you learn to keep them as strengths and help you to be one of those who makes it to finish and achieves your goals.

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Business Strategy vs Sport Strategy – similar or different?

February 15, 2011

So….are there more similarities or more differences? 

Win-win is an often used phase in business, which rarely applies in sport, which is typically win-lose.  Sport is the ultimate environment for competitive strategy.  

However even with this significant difference, winning in sport can be compared to winning in business, both are very results focused, whether it’s about points scored or profit, seconds on the clock or the right product.   So let’s explore the definition of business strategy within a sporting environment and the process of sporting strategy within the business context. 

From a business perspective strategy Porter (1996) suggests ‘competitive strategy is about being different.  It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value’.  Prahald and Hamel (1990) propose ‘core competencies should be difficult to imitate’ which is congruent with Porter’s idea of strategic differentiation. Does strategic differentiation apply in the sporting context?  

Business examples of performing activities differently from rivals might include that of the low cost, no frills, airlines, who have successfully differentiated themselves from scheduled carriers, or Waitrose who combine the convenience of a supermarket with the quality, expertise and service of a specialist shop.  From a sporting perspective strategic examples of using differences in order to outperform rivals might include; creating a very difficult new movement in an ice dance routine, the unique mix of skills selection that will give a rugby team best advantage, or the rower with outstanding lung capacity

From a sport psychology perspective Butler (2000) suggests ‘strategy is a blueprint of desired action which takes account of exceptional factors (cf. differences) and anticipated possibilities.’    Butler adds that ‘A strategy should therefore facilitate and guide performance to meet the demands of each specific performance’.  Could these statements be applied in a business context?    

The desired actions Butler refers to break down into three stages, and I propose that these stages can be transferred into the business environment.

Strategy Stage 1 – pre-competition planning – determining what needs to be achieved prior to performance to facilitate optimum performance.  The following might be applicable at this stage to both business and sporting strategy; making best use of available resources (e.g. facilities, support team, equipment  cf. competencies, technology, finances, etc), physical (fitness, strength, stamina cf. environment, health, safety), mental (confidence, performing under pressure, communication cf. working under pressure, confidence, interpersonal skills), deadlines, logistics (e.g. transport, location, etc) and weighing up the pros and cons of the various options, and ‘what if’ scenarios.  

Strategy stage 2 – the competition plan – how you are going to win the day?  In order to make best decisions with regards to opportunities, risks and tactics (cf. managing opportunities and risks (Drucker, 1989)) will require analysis of team and opponents strengths and weaknesses (cf. SWOT analysis), what are your differentiators (e.g. speed, strength, skill), what are the core competencies (e.g. defence, mental toughness, communication); what are the conditions and current parameters of play (cf. market conditions, legislation, codes of conduct).

Strategy stage 3 – post competition analysis – exploration of what went well, not so well and what to do differently.  The strategic review enabling informed decisions around what activities, competencies, skills, behaviours, etc. need to be addressed so as to raise the performance level.  What should be continued?  Which ones are not so effective? How to be more effective?  What needs to change?

I propose that this sporting strategy process is equally applicable in a business context and is consistent with Porters (1996) suggestion that strategy involves creating best fit for company activities (e.g. having the right players in the right position for their skills and competencies), trade-offs (e.g. physical advantage of younger vs. skills expertise) and informed choices which are as much about what not to do as about what to do (e.g. whether or not to play a wild card at a world championship such as a young inexperienced player)

Whether they are gold medal winners or world record breakers, top sports performers and teams like highly successful businesses discover and maximise the potential of their differentiators.  Therefore whether developing strategy in sport or business the questions are likely to be similar, for example ‘what would you do differently if you were a new entrant to the market? Or, What would you do differently as a new entrant to the football premiership or America’s Cup? 

Butler, R. J. (2000) Sport Psychology in Action, Arnold, London

Drucker P.F. (1989) Managing for Results, Heinemann Professional

Porter, M.E.  (1996) What is Strategy, Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec

Prahald C.K.& Hamel G. (1990) The Core Competence of the Corporation, Harvard Business Review, May-June

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Purpose, Planning and Preparation Produce Peak Performance – a revised 5 Ps

February 2, 2011

Last week we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Totem which was absolutely amazing, literally high performance at it’s very peak, leaving me open mouthed, thinking ‘how do they do that?’.  Businesses might learn a great deal from Cirque du Soleil’s approach to successfully delivering such a fantastic performance, one that exceeded expectations on all levels, especially given the high risk element of many of the performances.   And  Cirque to Soleil produce more than fantastic performances – the whole organisation is a very successful business in its own right.

The 5 Ps (planning and preparation prevent poor performance), is an often cited mantra with regards to delivering a vision, initiative or project; achieving goals, targets or objectives.  So if that’s how to prevent poor performance, you might only end up achieving mediocre performance (remember you get what you focus on i.e, ‘preventing poor performance’).  So I think the emphasis should be shifted to ‘how to achieve great performance’ such as Cirque du Soleil’s which was polished, professional and beyond expectation.   So my suggested revision is to positively focused 6 Ps ‘Purpose, Planning and Preparation Produce Peak Performance.’  If anyone reading this has a different/more interesting positively focused revision I’d love to hear from you. (Thanks to Liz Gooster  for  suggesting ‘Produce’)

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Medals or money, what motivates you?

January 20, 2011

An recent article raised some interesting points in both sport and business about whether people are motivated by the ‘will to win’ or performance bonus  (The Road to 2012, Owen Slot, Saturday Times, 15 Jan 2011).  In Beijing there were some very large Olympic Medal reward purses.   All the Russian athletes and coaches got €100,000 and medallists the added bonus of a BMW, for the Americans and Germans  it was about £15,000/gold medal,  for the Chinese a massive $1 million/medal and the  Greeks and Thais about £200,000.  And yet motivated by their ‘will to win’ and underpinned by the team GBR values the fantastic athletes that made up team GBR exceeded expectations coming 4th in the medal table.

This got me reflecting on my own sporting motivation.  I competed at World Class level in paragliding from 1992 – 1997, a minority sport, with little media interest and the stars of the sport aren’t known outside the sport.  I was sponsored (with equipment  and travel expenses) and there was a small bonus for good results (pocket money compared to the sponsorship deals of mainstream sports stars).  I won World and European Championship Medals and set 3 World Records.  Like the majority of performers I wasn’t doing it for the money……I was addicted to and loved my sport and I loved it even more when I did well.   This is intrinsic motivation at it’s best and it is a very powerful form of motivation.  If we enjoy what we are doing, we want to do more of it, and the more we do, the better we are likely to be whether in sport, business, performing arts,  hobbies, etc – the best form of motivation is doing what you love to do.   

For me the financial performance bonus was a ‘nice to have’ whereas paragliding became an addictive ‘must have’ and I suspect this is the same for the majority of competitors, not least because you need to experience that enjoyment to put in the years of dedication to get to the point where financial rewards might become motivational competition.

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Want support to achieve your 2011 goals? Tips to find the best….

January 4, 2011

Made your New Year resolutions, now looking for great support to help you achieve your 2011 goals, and you might be feeling confused by too much choice.   As the coaching and lifestyle industries expand, providers are entering the market at an unprecedented rate and the standards of service range from excellent to very poor.  Here are some tips for choosing a professional service provider:

1. Check out the provider (e.g. web search, professional associations, Trading Standards), and ask questions.  Be confident you know whether they:

  • have the relevant experience, training, qualifications and/or accreditation for your needs
  • keep their skills and knowledge up to date
  • have membership of professional body, with Code of Conduct, Ethics and complaints procedure 
  • use an appropriate title (NB providers using protected titles must be registered with Health Professions Council www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/professions or other regulator www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/regulators/)
  • are insured to practice

2.  Before you commit

Discuss:

  • your expectations, challenges, issues and what you want to achieve
  • fees, payment terms, frequency and estimated duration of the service provision
  • how progress will be monitored and evaluated

And ask yourself: Is this beneficial for me right now?  Don’t be coerced into committing unless you are satisfied that the service is of use to you.

3.  Be aware:

  • if you have any doubts about the service, discuss these with your provider, and if still uncertain, seek advice from their professional body. 
  • many of coaching and lifestyle professions are unregulated however good providers are likely to belong to and be accredited by a professional body which requires evidence of a minimum standard of fitness to practice.
  • be wary of providers
    • with memberships which only require payment of a fee (i.e. do not set a minimum standard)
    • who hold ‘certificates of attendance’ rather than ‘certificates of competence’ or other appropriate qualifications.

And finally I’d like to wish you all the best in achieving your 2011 goals.

 

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