In our work with student-athletes, we often hear about how fear, doubt, and self-judgement get in the way of optimal performance. Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life by Amy Baltzell, PhD, gives readers a variety of tools to prepare performers to think more effectively on the way to achieving big goals. Specifically, Baltzell discusses reconnecting with the joy, passion, and love for your sport or performance area in order to be your best. The book offers tools to build a championship approach, prepare for performance or competition, and how to approach competition day. Over the next six weeks, we will tackle different concepts and strategies to help you to find your sweet spot. In our next blog of this series, we discuss the importance of creating positive emotions.
Dr. Barbara Fredrickson has extensively studied positive emotions and proposed the Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotion. Fredrickson asserts that experiencing positive emotions allows us to be more aware of what we can bring to the present moment that can have an impact. She explains that as we broaden our present moment responses, we build a deeper “thought-action repertoire” where we can be more engaged for longer periods, we are more open to learning and growing creatively, and we actually want to be doing what we are doing. Therefore, when things inevitably get tough, we have more skills and tools to draw upon and can get through those moments more effectively. Baltzell further explains, “so when the challenges hit – and they will – we will be more resilient and able to handle them. And this directly relates to preparing for our big moments. We need to build our personal resources to get ready for the times when we are faced with high expectations and highly skilled competitors.”
So, how do we create positive emotions? The first step is to start paying more attention to the good things that we have going. Think about and pick out three good things that you create or happen to you as a person and three good things regarding training or competition each day. This exercise pushes you to see past your 2% blinders and start to create a habit of noticing the good things. One example of how we use this in our consulting work is to have athletes who are struggling to find the joy in their sport, think about something they love about their craft. We have them remember a time they were enjoying the game and then think about what they could bring to their current situation to reconnect with that joy. A lacrosse player might really love making moves offensively to score goals. But in her current role coming off the bench, she might not be able to create much as much offense as in former roles. Connecting back to her joy, visualizing going to goal, getting hyped on scout team, and making each drill game-like could help her to get back to that joy and play up to her potential!
It is important to remember from our first blog in this series that enjoyment and achievement are not mutually exclusive – we can have both! And in fact, both research and experience suggest that performers who are willing to create and focus on positive emotions actually perform better than those who focus only on achievement.
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