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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Preparing for Peak Performance

Witnessing the commitment, focus, fortitude and performance of the world’s best athletes competing in the recent Winter Olympics and Paralympics was inspiring. Athletes train their minds and psyche as well as their bodies so they can be the best in the world. So what can the business world take away from sports psychology to apply to developing winning business strategies, particularly in a still challenging economic environment?

The field of sports psychology recognises that succeeding requires a holistic approach of mind, body and spirit. Controlling emotions and gaining self-confidence are as important as game strategy, muscle building and skill.

Here are some of the techniques used in sports psychology and examples of how these can be applied in a business setting:

Goal setting

Writing down a goal and referring to it daily re-enforces the goal so it’s more likely to be accomplished. Repeating it out loud daily and having it at the top of one’s mind engages the subconscious mind in finding ways to achieve the goal. Effective goal setting in sports as well as in a business context includes developing skills for achieving results, identifying target dates for attaining goals, identifying goal-achievement strategies, and regular evaluation of the goal. Goal setting, while a left-brain activity, is closely linked with right brain activities, such as emotions, patience, optimism and learning to overcome obstacles.


Imagination plays an important role in achieving a vision and realising one’s dreams. Visualising success through imagery is one of the techniques athletes use to get them into a state of peak performance. This puts the athlete into a relaxed state, enhances mental preparation and helps manage anxiety. An effective application of visualisation in business is with sales staff. Perhaps more than any other field, sales requires a strong positive mindset.

Positive thinking

Your inner dialogue affects self-confidence and your ability to deal constructively with obstacles. Creating a positive mindset requires positive thoughts and self-talk. This includes recognising negative or irrelevant thoughts, identifying the thoughts that are sabotaging, or envision failure and catastrophe, and replacing them with affirmative and positive thoughts. In a business environment, these techniques are as useful for managers trying to build confidence in a work-group, as they are for individuals. By focusing on progress already made, keeping feedback constructive and instilling confidence, a team or individual magnifies their chances of achieving their goals.


Being able to focus energy and awareness helps athletes maintain mental intensity and concentrate on doing their best. The ability to block distractions; whether from a crowd or other competitors is an important advantage for maintaining the steely mental discipline required for achieving peak performance. It also requires an ability to stay focused and to re-focus in spite of setbacks. (Such as the other team scoring.) In a business setting, applying this technique involves creating an environment that minimises distractions so that staff can concentrate on their work. It can also help you to focus on your goal despite downbeat news about the economy, or temporary setbacks in landing the latest contract, or job.


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