Here in the UK we are all still basking in the reflected glory of our athletes Olympic endeavours. But, we wonder, are there any lessons we can learn from top sports stars when it comes to dealing with the slings and arrows of daily life?
One thing many of the top performers at the games seem to be able to do at the moment of greatest pressure is to stay calm. This does not simply happen by accident. Take Michael Phelps for instance. He uses a technique called emotional conditioning to help him compete. It involves visualising the perfect race and Phelps has been quoted as saying that he does this with his eyes closed to help him stay focussed on his ultimate goal.This way outside influences and pressures do no penerate the “bubble” you build up around yourself. These kind of visualisation techniques have been popular for some time but is there any prooof that they work if you are not a super-human athlete like Phelps? Well, yes, it appears so. Research in the publication Psychological Science demonstrated that folk who were given a “lucky” golf ball before they started putting actually performed better than those who were not, suggesting that, on the assumption putting abilities were roughly equivalent, the psycholigical effect of knowing you were using a “lucky” ball made a difference.
Another important element in performing to your maximum appears to be avoiding negativity. When things are tough it can often be very easy to succumb to pressure or the feeling that you are just not going to be able to manage a task or tasks. Remember what Usain Bolt said after his victorious 100 metres race. He has a notoriously slow start and this had begun to create some self-doubt. Instead his coach told him not to worry about his start, but rather to concentrate on what he does best – the mid part and end of the race. The result? Three more gold medals, proof that concentrating on the positives is much more effective than dwelling on the negatives.
No matter how posiive and driven you may be, there are inevitably times when you will not succeed in your chosen endeavour and therein lies another key to continued improvement. It is essential that you do not dwell on failures – simply accept them as part of life and move on to the next challenge. Psychologists claim that it is key to put failures or disappointments into perspective, failing which there is a real risk that they can be allowed to drag you down. Think of golfers as a prime example. No matter how telented they are, it is a fact of life that they will lose much more often than they will win. This applies even to the greatest like Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods. What they are able to do is to acknowledge this as a fact and move on towards that next triumph.