Latest research on those performing in extreme circumstances….

ben-saunders 

Researchers will often look at a large group of people to find the similaries or differences between them to link together why something does or doesn’t happen. Some researchers however study very specific and specialist groups of people, often doing something quite extreme, to see what we can learn from their exceptional experiences. A group of researchers at the latest Sports Psychology conference in Leeds in December showed their research on those in the military and taking on polar exploration for just this reason. As a result we learnt about stress in difficult situations, about personal growth, about success and what motivates people to climb mountains.

On stress in difficult situations…

Polar explorers have certain stressors they expect. These are around the environment, operations, role related goal differences and the social side. How well they deal with them depends on how well they had planned, the routines they use, their previous experiences and the social support they have. The main problems they had though were unanticipated and came from personal differences between team members and caused significant tensions. Those  going into environments like this need to discuss and consider how they will deal with personal differences before they begin their trip. A separate piece of research by the University of Portsmouth backed up this idea. They studied 10 members of the military during a 2 month Antarctic expedition and as a result recommended that time should be set aside pre-expedition to fully prepare for the physical and social environment that they are moving into. In particular, identifying and discussing potential expedition scenarios and agree on a plan as to how to respond and support one another if required.

On personal growth …

In studying a polar explorer preparing, doing and recovering from a 105 day polar expedition, researchers at the University of Northampton found that the key areas of growth for someone taking on this extreme type of journey were in problem and emotional solving, coping, positive interpretive processes, hardiness, optimism, conscientiousness, reflection and resilience. Further research suggested that those with high levels of conscientiousness and openness would have higher levels of growth from experiences like this.

On being successful…

Researchers at the university of St Mark & St John and Ulster University looked at those who completed and those who withdraw from a specialist military training course. They found that the successful ones had high levels of determination and a perceived ability to cope. Those who withdrew were more likely to lack confidence and had limited intrinsic motivation. They figured that the process overall could be more successful if the trainees’ confidence was enhanced.

On feeling a lack of stretch in day to day life…

Researchers at Bangor University examined why some people choose to go high-risk mountaineering. They found that mountaineers are not motivated by sensation seeking but are actually continually striving to reach their ‘limit’ (either physical or mental) and feel they are unable to do this in their everyday life so they take on mountains instead. They found the mountaineers were seeking out, experiencing, and the controlling the intense fear as a way of freeing themselves from their anxiety in everyday life.

Three take away points…

  1. Before going onto any type of expedition fully prepare for the physical and social environment by identifying and discussing potential expedition scenarios (including personal differences) and agree on a plan as to how to respond and support one another if required.
  2. Key areas of growth for someone taking on a polar exploration can be in problem and emotional, solving, coping, positive interpretive processes, hardiness, optimism, conscientiousness, reflection and resilience.
  3. Building your confidence before going into a competitive environment and having intrinsic motivation will help you succeed.

 

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