Pursuits and Perspective

If you are involved in any sports or activities and particularly if you have been for a number of years, you’ll be aware that you can go through phases.  Phases of high intensity, high motivation, high performance and similarly low motivation, low intensity and low performance.

What is significant here is that these changes are a natural ebb and flow.  Changes in circumstances, life duties, family, friends, work and finances can all influence your participation.

Acknowledging this you can begin to recognise that sports or your activities are a big part of your life, a big part that can have a huge influence on you, create opportunities, offer success and become a part of how you see and identify yourself in the world.

But…they are not your whole life.  yes, you cannot imagine life without them or you feel low when deprived of them but they are one segment of your whole life.

This is not in any way meant negatively or to diminish the importance of your chosen pursuits, in fact quite the opposite.

If you took a few moments to establish and connect with your priorities in life, how many would you list?  As we grow older and life events open our eyes, we get afforded opportunities to establish what is important to us.  It may be your lifestyle or your family, your partner or your friends.  It may be your career or your service to others.  It may be to be healthy, o be injury free and to be able to enjoy life.  Whatever is on your list can help you connect to the any things that make up your happiness, give you a senseof grounding in yourself and life.

Your Psychological Needs

In our lives we have to address our psychological needs as well as everything else.  In our pursuits this concept is as valid.  Addressing just physical needs for example may leave you feeling out of sorts and not fully content.

The psychologist Glasser stated that we have 4 Basic Psychological needs, Love and to be loved, Power, Freedom and Fun.  When these needs are met, we can enjoy a sense of stability and psychological well being.  If some of these needs are not met or are lacking, there can be a sense of being out of sync, feeling disconnected.  Our psychological needs are no different to our other needs-Its like if you had not had a good meal in a few days , you may feel slightly lacking in nourishment, a part of you would be craving and signalling to you to source a healthy meal.

Obviously at certain points in your life sacrifices will need to be made and some areas may not get addressed as well as others but in the overall ‘big picture’ it would be important that you feel you cater for everything well.  

Can you see how your pursuits serve these psychological needs or how you can address them in other aspects of your life around your pursuits?  This perspective can remind you of your original motivations in your pursuits, you original intentions and help you to make better serving choices and decisions.

Clarity

Having this clarity, this sense of knowing why you are involved in your pursuits can help feed back into your efforts.  It can help you see past specific set backs, obstacles, losses or failures to remind you of that ‘big picture’ concept.

To do specific sports or activities for a lifetime there must be an acknowledgement of the internal rewards you receive, the aspects of growth you feel, the positive effect on your psychological well being, your view of yourself, confidence etcWhen you can see all of this, no matter what the results are on paper, your endeavours are worthwhile and integral part of you.  If you are solely chasing numbers, it can be fun, but it can be short lived an unsustainable.

Standing back from the details of winning or succeeding helps you to see why you might continue something indefinitely and how that can be possible and with that sense of ease you will actually have more energy and enthusiasm without pressure and you'll find your performance improves.

'I've yet to see a guy lose his card/status or form from under practice.  they all lose it from over practice, making golf the most important thing in their lives, losing perspective....the simplicity and joy from the game is lost and its a straight downhill from there.'- Paul McGinley

Heart and Mind

Our pursuits, sports or activities can be passionate fuelled endeavours.  By their nature they pull on our heat strings and this can be a great thing.  We love our chosen activities.

There is an importance in being smart, in not getting ruled by our hearts.  We may love chocolate or cake but eat it all day everyday and we can feel sick!

Recognising the value of your mindset can help you make smarter choices for training, it can help you assess, evaluate and plan more clearly.  It can also help you to walk away or re focus when needs be.  Listening to your heart is important for sure, and it brings us great joy in life, its just a matter of not being ruled by the heart to the detriment of everything else.

Remember to play

At the end of the day, we need to play and have fun in our lives.  We need to feel power which can come through succeeding and achievements and we need to feel a sense of belonging which can come from our teams or communities.  When we address all these needs we will feel at most ourselves, settled and content.  

When you find the ego gnawing away at you with negative feedback, when you feel pressurised to perform despite your better judgement.  When you feel at unease with yourself or situations it is time to reassess, to remind yourself of what is important.  

When you are most grounded in yourself and your choices, your pursuits and your whole life will flow with greater ease and success.

New Years Resolutions-Getting to know yourself....

This week as we approach the end of the calendar year and the beginning of a New 2016, we are granted with an amazing opportunity to connect, reflect and look forward.

This concept of connecting is in the sense of 'self connecting'-taking time between the Christmas period and before you go into the New Year and regular routine again to switch off your computer, switch off your phone and taking time to yourself.  It might sound a little alien if you have a lot on or people to be around but even taking an hour can be extremely beneficial.  

Between the hustle and bustle and comings and goings of family and friends or even if you have spent some time alone,  you can now give yourself the gift of quality time, of consciously choosing to mark out some time for yourself.  Being online or around others is great, sharing and discussing is definitely beneficial but there needs to be value in your 'me' time, in its importance.  

Around this time of year as I mentioned you have a great opportunity to connect, recalibrate and align with your values, to set goals and targets and plans to reach them.  (To be honest doing this many times a year is super important!)  In this process, you can ask yourself what works, what is not working, you can be completely honest on what your strengths are and where you need to work a little more or need more skills or support.  

What can be difficult at this time of year in particular are all the voices!  There will be online and around you an onslaught of ideas/options/offers for the next greatest thing that will make you feel more amazing and love your life and achieve happiness.  The rest of society and the people around you are all talking about goals and plans, and this can be helpful but when overloaded it can get confusing, overwhelming and you can end up feeling burnt out and lack the energy and enthusiasm to even plan tomorrow!

So over the next few days make an effort to sit, to switch off your devices, to reflect, to meditate and to tune in.  Become aware of the concept that you have everything you already need.  That you have the strength and courage and ability to be the best version of yourself daily.  That you have the knowledge to serve your needs and those around you.  That you know what to do and even though thoughts and ego may often tell you how hard it is or impossible a task-you know how to reach your true potential.  You have all this in spades-it is just about checking in and remembering.  

This is truly the spiritual journey-'How can I be the best version of myself and how can I best serve others?'

Forget all the hype, the fads, the opinions, the talk, that will always be there in different voices and volumes.

Once you check in, once you connect to yourself and get to know yourself, you will most definitely feel more open to listening to others too, you will realise skills that you can work on and traits that others have that you can benefit from.  

Meditation


Find an upright posture for your spine and where legs are crossed and comfortable.  Set your timer for 15-20 minutes.

You can have your eyes open or closed.  Begin with a body scan, from your toes all the way around the body, observe completely how everything is feeling.  Then notice your thoughts, what is coming in and out.  Then notice your emotions, what is present?  Then turn your awareness to your breath, observing and feeling your inhale and exhale, not changing, not judging, just becoming observant.  

As you notice thoughts or become distracted bring your awareness back to your breath.  Let your breath be your anchor point for your awareness.  Each time you notice a thought or become distracted, smile and bring lightness to your observation, remind yourself with ease to re focus back on your breath.

Remain like this for the entire duration of the Meditation.  If it feels hard, persevere.

 

Reflective Journalling


In your reflections this week you are really paying attention to your needs, wants, desires and goals.  You are unique and you will have a unique set of needs to serve.  It is up to you to pave the way towards your own happiness from inside first-ultimately you know best.

Thinking of new beginnings and the start of the New Year consider the following questions and write on each, set your timer for 5 minutes for each question so you can really reflect and take time to consider them.......

**Goals: Align yourself with the concept of your true values and purpose in life regardless of the outcomes what do you want to do?

**Goals do not have to be huge external achievements, you may have a goal to be more loving, or patient for example.


-When stripped down from 5 to 3 to 1, what are your main goals going forward with the last 1 being the most important to you.

-What are your reasons for choosing the goals above?

- What tendencies do you already have that will help you achieve your goals?  What positive influences from your environment or those around you will support your goals?

-What tendencies do you have that may hinder your progress towards your goals?

-What influences from your environment or those around you may hinder your progress or may be of negative impact?

- In any of your goals and the considerations above, can you recognise how to enhance your beneficial qualities and let go of your 'un-beneficial' tendencies?  What could work for you going forwards?  

-What do you need from your environment, from yourself and those around you to keep you connected and on track to what you want most in life? 

**Remember: Learning occurs in optimal discomfort-in anything you wish to achieve for the year ahead, embrace a sense of discomfort and rise to the challenge as you learn and grow and combat perceived limitations and barriers.  If something doesn't work, adapt and change and repeat the process above.

On this journey you have undertaken you may have felt already or begin to feel a connection to something deeper within yourself.  Beyond your body and your mind there is a space.  In all our lives we must strike the balance of serving the needs of our bodies, of enjoying all our bodies can do and achieve, likewise with our thoughts and our minds-asking ourselves 'what do I need and what can I let go of?'.  Once served, once in harmony, you can connect to this space, beyond body and mind, to a sense of flow, peace and true joy.  It is certainly not easy, and we are all walking a tight rope keeping balance.  The principles are simple however, and possible!  
 

Training your Mindset

I have written about the importance of mental mindset before and having recently read The Training Think Tanks's post on one of his clients which also reflected some of my own thoughts, I was inspired to put this post together.

You may have heard of the term 'Mental Strength' before but it is something I see missing in people's training regimes or approach to life, and I think it is often over looked, under valued or mis understood.

In your everyday life there are most definitely things you can do to enhance your mental strength and develop skills for dealing with ups and downs of life, of training, of performance etc.

To clarify in terms of this post, I will provide my own experiential definition of mental strength,

'An ability to think, feel and act in unison and an ability to maintain a clear perspective of reality and to remain true to your values/beliefs in the face of adversity or doubt whether from yourself or others.'

So to me I feel that mental strength is the ability to observe your thoughts and cultivate thoughts that are in line with how you feel and how you act and that these thoughts, feelings and actions match your true values and beliefs. In short-keeping it together!

That even when faced with obstacles from yourself or others you can keep the ability to do what you believe in or act in the way you value.

That an individual can remain clear on the present situation or the steps needed to be taken for progression without getting lost in hypothetical or drama.

Think about performance or training and how you approach these, can you look at your thoughts or reflect how you were thinking during a given session, did you think and act how you would have liked? If there were distractions such as a crowd watching, a bad day at work, or your training partner is late or you don't feel physically on form, did you respond appropriately to aid a positive experience and effective learning?

To further understand my definition a little more I will draw on a little yogic philosophy which shows that states of mind that put us at 'un ease' are those such as doubt, fear, anger, greed, bitterness, jealousy etc. So it can therefore be understood that we cannot stop ourselves from feeling or being in these states but what we can do is observe their occurrence and when noticed encourage a response that effects us moving forward in a positive, beneficial and helpful manner.

To apply this to your life or your sports or training, consider the following;

1. Can you notice if your thoughts or feelings that you have at a given time are creating a sense of 'un ease'?

2. Can you observe that sense of 'un ease' and then without putting any more thought of distractions, get to the root of why you feel that way.

3. Can you now acknowledge your feelings and accept them and without ignoring them or running away from them understand that it is completely human to feel different ways and then allow yourself to move on?

4. Can you keep your focus then on what it is you wish to do, how you wish to act?

Taking the above steps, for example in a training/performance context, as you begin, are you aware of how you are feeling? Are you aware of what thoughts are present? Are those feelings and thoughts creating a sense of 'un ease'? For instance are you nervous/anxious/ stressed? Are you thinking that you cannot achieve what you are about to do? Is there doubt? Are you distracted by others or your surrounding environment? When noticed we can see that perhaps these feelings, thoughts do not help us in a positive way.

Once noticed you could assess why you feel that way, 'ok I feel afraid because im trying a new skill or I feel doubtful because I'm not confident in my ability today or are you distracted by your friend who looks stronger etc

So here is where a lot of people hit the stumbling blocks, on noticing our thoughts or feelings of 'un ease' we create more un ease maybe because we are ashamed of thinking that way or embarrassed, or annoyed at ourselves for being that way. All that does then in the situation is create more anguish, perhaps anger or frustration. Another reaction here is to ignore those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and not address them, but this is like avoiding that area under the couch every time you sweep and one fine day you find a big mess!

What will help you is in step 3, acknowledge the fear, the nerves, the doubt, whatever it may be for you and realise that is completely normal and in doing that allow yourself to now choose to adopt more productive, positive ways to think in the situation and move on to step 4. So for example a climber may have now noticed 'ok I am a little nervous and hesitant but that's ok, I've tried this problem before or I know my friends will spot me, or I'm confident I won't fall this time'.

Whatever solutions you create to the original feelings or thoughts holding you back is the key to your progression going forwards. Realising that it is ok to feel frustrated or doubtful or fearful but in that realisation not allowing them to consume you or your potential for learning and being involved in the situation.

In the realm of mental strength, this is where the gold is, how you can effectively listen to, move on from and learn to deal with unhelpful thought processes and barriers.

Think of how you have felt or thought about your body image for example, or your ranking in relation to your peers, often if negative thoughts around these issues go un noticed over periods of time or become more consuming they can play an adverse effect on your progress and experience and ultimately hold you back.

This is what is most amazing, we can choose how to think, we can choose how to respond to situations, we can choose how to deal with challenges.

A lot of emphasis is placed on our physical strengths, our physical training and approaches and I know a lot of people who talk about these topics and share knowledge, but how often do we address our mind set during a training session or during a performance? How often do you take time to notice what thoughts or mindsets you often have and maybe ones that could help you achieve your goals quicker or in a less stressful manner?

It is not about right and wrong, it is not about changing who you are, but about allowing you to enjoy yourself more and adopting attitudes and thoughts that will make things easier for you.