Achieving Flow in Sport

Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who popularized the term Flow and demonstrated how anyone could achieve focused contentment, died recently. In light of his passing, I felt compelled to write this post as his work has profoundly influenced both my life and coaching philosophy.

The Psychology of Flow

Flow is a state of mind in which a person becomes fully immersed in an activity. In this mental state, people are experiencing joy as they become fully involved and focused on what they are doing.

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi

“The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost,”

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi
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Is Perfectionism Limiting your Performance?

Have you ever wondered if you are a perfectionist?

Chances are, you would consider perfectionism as a positive trait – who doesn’t want to be perfect?

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is defined as a broad personality style characterized by a person’s concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations (Stoeber & Childs, 2010).

Here are some signs that you might be a perfectionist:

  1. Procrastinating on a task until you know you can do it perfectly
  2. Deem the results as the most important part of completing the task, you disregard the process you take to get your results
  3. To view a task as incomplete until it meets your expectations
  4. Take a longer time to finish a task that others typically take lesser time to finish

(Haase, Prapavessis & Owens, 2013)

How does Perfectionism limit your Performance?

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Asking the correct questions…

Imagine that you are trying to complete an assignment, learn a skill or to achieve a certain milestone.

The undertaking seems more difficult and requires more effort than you initially assumed.

As a result, you are somewhat frustrated and might be asking yourself one of these questions…

AB
“Why can’t I get this right?”
“Why do I have to do this?”
“What have I done wrong?”
“What can I do differently?”
“How can I break this down into simpler steps?”
“What can I learn from this?”

What’s the difference between these two groups of questions?

Would you feel and respond differently to questions from group A compared to group B?

What if you are a coach, what sort of questions would you ask your athlete?

Will they resemble questions from Group A – “Why can’t you get this right?” or Group B – “What can you do differently?”

Like most people, you would likely be more cognitive and solution-focused when you ask yourself questions from Group B.

Meanwhile, questions from Group A are likely to compound your frustration. You may even respond defensively when these questions are directed at you.

So what’s responsible for this difference in the way we feel and respond to these questions?

An understanding about how different regions of our brains respond to these questions will give us a better idea!

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