As a sport and performance psychologist, or “Optimizer” as I have sometimes been called, I am frequently asked what it is I do with elite performers in sports and how it relates to business.
I believe all of life is a performance. In the very sense that whether we’re giving a presentation, in an interview, at the trading desk or a big meeting every minute is an opportunity to improve how we do what we do, be our best, and enjoy life with greater depth.
As Thich Naht Hahn said, “life is only available in the present moment.” In my life and in the lives of the people I coach, I work to help each moment be more meaningful, each performance more powerful, and the ride more enjoyable.
At SportStrata we apply the principles of performance psychology to business people and entrepreneurs. Because we believe that we have to understand someone’s work to help them optimize it. We get to know high performers as we work to coach them towards improved performance.
An example of this is an experience I had on a drill with the New York Fire Department and ran into an actual burning building. I had instruction from the absolute best so I knew what to do. I had mentally practiced using the psychology skill of visualizing, which science bears out improves our actual performance.
Feeling ready, I entered the burning building. But life throws us curveballs! All of a sudden I found my heart beating out of my chest and my thoughts disorganized. This is the natural human response of physiological arousal. But just like the elite performers we train, I had anticipated this and I was prepared. I found my breathing, practiced adaptive self-talk, and got myself back in the present moment.
Carol Dweck, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of mindset, has data to show that people generally respond to stress as a challenge or a threat. The more we learn to view it as a challenge the better off we are. Those who see it as a threat run or even worse, freeze.
Hopefully you are not running into a burning building… but we all have stress in our business lives. We all have internal and external demands that can overwhelm us and cause us to perform less than optimally whether at home, work or in social settings. Through performance psychology and mental performance coaching in various aspects of business there are techniques that help us be at our best in any fire, large or small.