In the last article, we discussed how to enable higher performance in your athletes through Mental Training. But let’s not forget about Coaches. In our experience, coaches can be more stressed than their athletes and also need to invest in their own well-being to maintain high performance.
By and large, coaches are much like the athletes they train: They’re driven and have spent a lifetime working within a minuscule margin of error, thereby rendering them accustomed to high levels of stress. Coaches tend to have high standards for themselves and for what they personally expect out of their lives, both on the field and off. While they can choose to measure their ‘success’ in accomplishments or in overall satisfaction, these two measuring sticks can often seem at odds with one another.
All this constant measuring, stacking up, and staying between closely placed lines can do serious damage to a coach’s overall physical wellness and mental well-being. And, like most driven individuals, coaches can easily become stuck when trying to juggle these stresses: they can’t simply ‘relax’ (it’s not in their DNA!), but they also can’t keep pushing forward with no end in sight.
When I first learned about mental performance training, specifically meditation, I was an energetic, driven, successful, 26-year-old professional athlete. The last thing I wanted to do was relax. I wasn’t even sure how to relax. The only reason I even tried meditation was because my mentor, Dr. James Hollingsworth, hadn’t steered me wrong before. I trusted him when he told me meditation would change everything.
And it did.
Meditation is a mental exercise that can come in many different forms or techniques. Here at Positive Performance, we teach meditation as a focusing and breathing exercise that allows you to train your brain to let go of thoughts. Typically the meditator lays or sits in a quiet place and slowly starts paying attention to their breath. This simple exercise strengthens the mind’s ability to focus and let go- two very critical skills necessary for peak performance and stress management.
Meditation was incredibly hard at first. Like almost all high performing individuals, it was hard to wrap my mind around the idea that doing nothing was actually productive. It was hard to sit still. It was hard to keep my mind from wandering into the ether. But, slowly, I started feeling my mind shift. And the result wasn’t what I expected.
This was the most surprising benefit for me. As a driven person, I believed that keeping control was the one thing I could, well, control, and that that control would maintain my success.
To some degree I was right: keeping control gave me the disciplinary strength that is so CRITICAL to success, athletic and otherwise. But, at some point, the need to be in control becomes counterproductive; it starts working against you.
It was scary to give up control but, once I did, I realized that I never really had control in the first place. I had fear. Fear isn’t always bad—for example, it can lead one to over-prepare so you’re ready for anything—but it’s not something that should dominate your life.
One of the interesting things about the human mind is that we can separate ourselves from our thoughts. But it takes practice. Normally when we FEEL angry, we ARE angry. When we FEEL sad, we ARE sad. Through meditation you can learn to get a little distance from your emotions and choose to become them, or not. This is an unbelievably powerful and useful skill.
As humans, it’s difficult sometimes to truly identify what we’re feeling. Is it anxiety? Sadness? Frustration? Emotions can sit under the surface and linger there, affecting our lives without us even realizing it. There is a tremendous amount of freedom that comes from precisely identifying what our emotions are and then consciously deciding how to handle them.
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During my meditation sessions, at the close of my breathing exercises, I visualize my goals as if they are happening in the present moment. In that relaxed state, I am right THERE, experiencing whatever it is I want to happen in the future. When I’m done I feel even surer that my goals are within reach.
An added bonus: I’m able to bring that relaxation and clarity of mind with me throughout the day and use those tools to continuously work on my goals. Who knew doing nothing could be so productive!
It creeps up on the most confident of us: self-doubt. Even if you’ve experienced myriad success and you’ve learned to push those deprecating thoughts aside, they still manage to wiggle in!
Self-limiting thoughts come back persistently but, with meditative practice, they won’t return with as much strength. That’s why meditation is a practice, not a one-time remedy.
For these reasons, Positive Performance recommends the coaches we work with to practice meditation.
Meditation can be an intimidating endeavor and, like most anything worth doing, it isn’t necessarily easy. We’ve made it simple with our free 5-day Coaches Meditation Challenge.
When you register you’ll receive daily emails, one per day for five days in a row, each containing a new meditation to try. We’ll walk you through everything; all you have to do is sign up and make a small commitment to trying something new.
You've made it clear you love your team. You already do so much for them. But, now, I invite you to do another, less obvious thing for them: Take good care of yourself.
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