Five rules to live by

A few weeks ago a very well established sports psychologist suggested that it can be valuable to write ‘your story’. 500 words on what makes you, you. 500 words was far too short to cram my ramblings into so I won’t share and bore. But what I found interesting was it became clear that I’ve lived my life to date by some very specific rules. Ones I’ve learnt from some amazing people who’ve helped guide me. Ones I never realised I had but which pop up time and time again every time a decision needed to be made or I was finding my way out of a pickle:

  1. Say yes to every opportunity. The things you’ll look back on and regret will be the things you didn’t do – not the things you did. Take a chance.
  2. Allow yourself to sulk occasionally – it will kick you out of your comfort zone and force you to look around and see what else is out there.
  3. When you find someone who believes in you, believe in them and take their advice and direction.
  4. You can’t control your environment. Don’t try to. Instead control how you respond to it.
  5. Whatever you do, do it really well. You can do anything you want – but you can’t do everything. So do a few things you love really well and the people you need to impress won’t be able to ignore you.

What are your rules?

13 new pieces of sports psychology research

Every sports psychology conference offers researchers the opportunity to share the research they’ve been working on. At the AASP (Association of Applied Sports Psychology) conference I went to lots of lectures and looked at all the posters on display. Most of the work is yet to be published so this is a chance to see what has been discovered recently. Some of it is blindingly obvious but other pieces do a little bit better at capturing the imagination….

  1. Male and female professional runners retire for different reasons. Once retired the men carry on competing, women run just for fun.
  1. Using mindfulness can help your athletic performance.
  1. How you view your ability impacts on the goals you set yourself. If you think your ability is fixed and uncontrollable you’ll set less challenging goals.
  1. Identifying as an athlete can make dealing with injuries harder and slow up your rehabilitation.
  1. Motivational self-talk can help you overcome ‘the yips’.
  1. During training for a marathon runners stay motivated, grow in confidence, but also develop anxiety.
  1. The best way to reduce your stress levels is to exercise.
  1. The higher your sporting level, the higher your levels of grit.
  1. Holding back effort (self-handicapping) is used by athletes to protect themselves from failing in their eyes, and in the eyes of others.
  1. 5% of competitive and recreational runners are addicted to exercise and those with the biggest risk of addiction are those who are more competitive, who run more days and more miles and prefer racing half marathon and marathon distances.
  1. If coaches ban alcohol use in their team the team will still use it. It they talk negatively about its impact the coach will be a lot more effective at stopping athletes drinking.
  1. Giving athletes more control over their own training gives them a more active role in learning and can increase their motivation to improve. A successful way to do this is for coaches to only to give athletes feedback when they ask for it and when they do, rather than hiding negative comments between positive ones, they offer ‘what was good, what could be better, how could it be better?’
  1. Coaches can get burnout just like athletes and this is most likely to happen when the coach is motivated by external factors (money, position, status), they think they have a high workload, when they do not get enough recovery and when they feel they have a high work-home interference.

Great quotes, thoughts and tips to keep in mind

Last week I attended the Annual Conference of the Association of Applied Sports Psychology in Indianapolis, USA. Not only was it a surprisingly cool city but I learnt some great stuff. I have a habit of jotting down quotes I love, inspiring thoughts or definitions I know I need to remember when I hear them and so below are 20 of my favourites from the week.

1. I am not a shrink – I’m a stretch

2. Burnout is feeling depleted, over extended, cynical, detached, diminished and devalued.

3. If you have one hour to solve a problem then use 55 minutes to understand the problem and 5 minutes to solve it.

4. Bad decisions make great stories. (Lindsay Thornton, USOC)

5. At the Olympics everything is a performance issue.

6. They’ve got to know you care before they care what you know.

7. Addiction is a complex situation it is cunning, baffling and powerful. (Lindsay Thornton, USOC)

8. Great teachers teach people, not sessions

9. When athletes are ready to share their story they will share (Andrea Faul)

10. Culture is the number 1 metric for success (Greg Dale)

11. Say yes to everything (CC Clark)

12. Go in with a simple plan and tonnes of examples – not a complex plan and no examples

13. Feedback should never be given in a shit sandwich – it should be given as good – better – how.

14. Sleep is a performance enhancement tool. After sleep you wake up a smarter, stronger version of yourself (Lindsay Thornton)

15. It is normal to take 20 minutes to fall asleep. Falling asleep immediately is not a good sign – it shows you are incredibly fatigued. (Lindsay Thornton)

16. High achievers go out and seek extra challenges – whether on not they have already had to overcome challenges (David Fletcher)

17. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but about learning to dance in the rain.Never impose limits on your thinking. Just deal with everything 10 feet at a time. It is all about the end goal. Focus intensely on each small step. (Cindy Abbott)

18. Surround yourself with people who push you to be the best you can be. (Matt Schultzman)

19. I have better satisfaction because of all the things I failed at. You need to have failures in your life to help push you. (Matt Schultzman)

20. Suffering = pain x resistance (Chris Germer).