What Drives Extreme Athletes to Risk Life and Death?

for full article click What Drives Extreme Athletes to Risk Life and Death?

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A new Sundance film called “The Summit” explores the psychology behind what happened on the deadliest day on K2, known as the world’s most dangerous mountain. On August 1, 2008, 25 climbers set out to summit K2—11 people died in the pursuit to stand on the mountaintop. Why? What drives extreme athletes and mountain climbers to risk life and death? Can athletes push the limits of what is humanly possible without succumbing to what the filmmakers describe as “summit fever,” which is an urge to take life-threatening risks to summit even if it means trying to get back down the mountain and find your way home will kill you.

Are you a novelty seeker or someone who has a strong “Need for Achievement” (n-Ach)personality? I am both. The need for achievement personality trait is characterized by an enduring and consistent concern with setting and meeting high standards of achievement. This need is influenced by internal drive for action (intrinsic motivation), and the pressure exerted by the expectations of others (extrinsic motivation).

How much of the drive to summit K2 comes from an intrinsic drive to achieve personal best, and how much of it is driven by a lust for fame and glory? It’s always going to be a tightrope walk between intrinsic and extrinsic drives when setting out to achieve something extraordinary. Each of us must navigate what motivates us and try to maintain a healthy balance between hubris and humility.

As an ultra-endurance athlete, I got sucked into the ‘excelsior vortex’ of wanting to push myself ever higher and farther, even at the risk of killing myself. Pushing my mind and body to the absolute human limit was a rush and became like a drug for me. Everything else in my life fell to the sidelines. For over a decade of my life, I obsessively pushed the envelope to break new ground by doing things like winning 3-triple Ironman triathlons, running 135-miles through Death Valley in July and breaking a Guinness Book of World Records by running 154-miles in 24 hours on a treadmill at Kiehl’s in Manhattan.

“The Bigger the Dream. The Bigger the Risks”


Sport Imagery: Athletes’ Most Powerful Mental Tool

for full article  Sport Imagery: Athletes’ Most Powerful Mental Tool

Are you using mental imagery to maximize your sports performances?
Published on November 6, 2012 by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. in The Power of Prime
If you do anything to work on the mental side of your sport, it better be mental imagery. Why, you ask. Because there is no more powerful mental tool than mental imagery and it can have a huge impact on your sports performance.

I say this with such conviction because it had that effect on me when I was a young athlete at Burke Mtn. Academy, a private boarding school in Vermont devoted to developing world-class ski racers (it was also the first full-time sports academy in the U.S.) One summer I took a course at a local college that introduced me to the power of mental imagery. I applied it to my sport as part of my final project for the class and then continued to use it throughout the following fall and into the competitive race season. The results were nothing less than spectacular. From doubt came confidence. From distraction came focus. From anxiety came intensity. From timidness came aggressiveness. From inconsistency came consistency. And, most importantly, from decent results came outstanding results.

When I studied mental imagery in graduate school, I learned why it is so powerful. Imagery is used by virtually all great athletes and research has shown that, when combined with actual practice, improves performance more than practice alone. Imagery also isn’t just a mental experience that occurs in your head, but rather impacts you in every way: psychologically, emotionally, physically, technically, and tactically. Think of mental imagery as weight lifting for the mind.

In my more than 25 years of work with professional, Olympic, collegiate, and junior-elite athletes, mental imagery is the tool that I emphasize the most with them and the one that I have seen have the greatest impact on their performances. Here’s the bottom line. If you aren’t engaged in a consistent mental imagery program, you’re not doing everything you can to achieve your athletic goals.

Keys to Quality Mental Imagery

There are four factors that impact the quality of mental imagery: perspective, control, multiple sense, and speed. You can develop each of these areas so you can get the most out of your imagery.

Imagery perspective. Imagery perspective refers to where the “imagery camera” is when you do imagery. The internal perspective involves seeing yourself from inside your body looking out, as if you were actually performing your sport. The external perspective involves seeing yourself from outside your body like on video. Research indicates that one perspective is not better than the other. Most people have a dominant perspective with which they’re most comfortable. Use the perspective that’s most natural for you and then experiment with the other perspective to see if it helps you in a different way.

Control. Have you ever been doing imagery and you keep making mistakes, for example, a basketball point guard sees the ball stick to the court while dribbling or a golfer sees her ball pop out of the cup? This problem relates to imagery control, which is how well you’re able to imagine what you want to imagine. It’s not uncommon for athletes to perform poorly in their imagery and it often reflects a fundamental lack of confidence in their ability to perform successfully (when I started using imagery as a youth, I couldn’t go three gates in a ski race course in my head without falling!).

If mistakes occur in your imagery, you shouldn’t just let them go by. If you do, you’ll further ingrain the negative image and feeling which will hurt your performances. Instead, when you perform poorly in your imagery, immediately rewind the “imagery video” and edit the imagery video until you do it correctly.

Multiple senses. Good imagery is more than just visual, that’s why I don’t like to call it visualization. The best imagery involves the multi-sensory reproduction of the actual sport experience. You should duplicate the sights, sounds, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that you would experience in an actual competition. Visual imagery involves how clearly you see yourself performing. If sounds, such as the quarterback calling the play at the line of scrimmage, are important, you would want to generate them in your imagery. If you get nervous before an actual competition, you should get nervous in your imagery (and then take steps to relax).

The most powerful part of mental imagery is feeling it in your body. That’s how you really ingrain new technical and mental skills and habits. A useful way to increase the feeling in your mental imagery is to combine imagined and real sensations. Imagine yourself performing and move your body along with the imagery. You see world-class athletes doing this before competitions.

Speed. The ability to adjust the speed of your imagery will enable you to use imagery to improve different aspects of your sports performance. Slow motion is effective for focusing on technique. When you first start to work on technique in your imagery, slow the imagery video down, frame by frame if necessary, to see yourself executing the skill correctly. Then, as you see and feel yourself performing well in slow motion, increase the speed of your imagery until you can perform well at “real-time” speed.


Seattle Seahawks Team up with Sport Psychology

When Pete Carroll was fired by the Patriots following their season in 1999, he had only one option: to move forward.  Carroll did just that and came away with a whole new frame of mind. He’s been with the Seattle Seahawks since 2011, and so has Mike Gervais, a high-performance sport psychologist. Both men understand that winning a game or building a successful team isn’t just about what happens on the field. In a “suck-it-up” NFL culture where players are all too aware about their personal well-being and lives being uncared for, they’re bringing a softer side to football. The idea is that happy players make for better players.  And that idea works.

Focus on the mental training and needs of the players through meditation sessions where the players are encouraged to be introspective and visualize their goals is hugely important. “Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice,” Russell Okung (Seahawk Offensive Tackle) says. “It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”

Dedicated to the mental well-being of their team, Carroll and his colleagues pride themselves in finding players with positive attitudes. If you take one look at their Quarter Back, Russell Wilson, you can see the success that it has brought to their team. “I truly believe in positive synergy, that your positive mindset gives you a more hopeful outlook, and belief that you can do something great means you will do something great.” This is nothing but the truth from Wilson. He’s known for setting goals and records alike; achieving and even surpassing them. In 2012, his first year in the NFL, Wilson led the Seahawks to the playoffs; one of only 6 rookie QBs in NFL game history to win a playoff game. He finished the regular season ranked #4 in NFL passer rating and tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdowns scored by a rookie. To top it off, Wilson has even started his own charitable organization: The Power of Mind Foundation.

The “experiment” going on in Seattle may have other NFL teams scratching their heads, but the goal is to change the way that the football franchise approaches the well-being of the players. There’s a public stigma about psychologists: in order to work with one, something has to be wrong. Fortunately, the Seahawks are paving the way in proving that this idea holds little value.

Full Article: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine

Why Relaxation and Visualization Doesn’t Work for Athletes

Why Relaxation and Visualization Doesn’t Work for Athletes

How do You Cope with Nerves? What do you or your athletes do when feeling nervous or scared before competition? Naturally, you want to relax so you can feel less nervous or tight, right?

You or your athletes might use breathing, stretching, and mental rehearsal to cope better with pressure moments in competition. But is this approach working for you?

Relaxation techniques or positive visualization might not be the answer. However, this is what most athletes do to cope with the nerves.

Using relaxation techniques and visualization is often a Band-Aid for the tension and anxiety–not a long-term solution.

Relaxation May Not Always Work

Here’s a recent example to highlight how relaxation training is not always the answer to anxiety. Michael wrote in to say:

“My whole life I’ve been regarded as having an excellent physical game, but in the big moments, a lot of the time I come up short mentally. I struggle with confidence in big tournaments. I use breathing techniques, visualization, and self-talk to try and consistently bring out the best in my game. Occasionally this works, but more often than not I see myself succumb to the pressure of big moments. What’s the best approach?”

Why are relaxation techniques not working for Michael? Two reasons. He lacks confidence and he’s afraid to lose or perform badly.

My Philosophy About Mental Toughness

If you are a regular reader of our mental game tips, you know my philosophy about improving mental toughness…

High confidence, focus, and composure help athletes develop mental toughness in sports.

Relaxation training is not a long-term solution. Michael needs to work on his confidence and understand why he struggles in pressure moments.

Michael, like with many athletes, has been competing most of his life. Why do many athletes lack confidence despite having great physical skills and 10 or more years of practice and experience in sport?

Michael under performs in completion and now sees himself as a choke. And his solution to the problem–relaxation and visualization–is not working for him.

If you can relate to Michael’s situation, what steps can you take improve confidence and cope better with pressure?

4 Tips for Competitive Confidence

1. Rely on your years of experience for confidence, not the last play or shot. Confidence is based on several years, not immediate performance.

2. Uncover what’s killing your confidence, what I call the confidence-killers, such as doubt, high expectations, self-critical thinking, etc. and over come them.

3. Take greater control of your confidence; don’t leave it to chance. Be proactive with your confidence instead of reactive: allowing your last shot or play affect confidence.

4. Understand that self-confidence comes from within and not other people, that’s why it’s called *SELF* confidence.

If you want to improve your mental game quickly, check out our sports psychology coaching programs for athletes.

How To Simulate The Pressure of Competition in Training

click link for podcast How To Simulate The Pressure of Competition in Training

Dr. Patrick Cohn, golf psychology expert and author of the “Golfer’s Mental Edge” CD program, teaches amateur to tour professional golfers how to improve their mental game of golf using golf psychology strategies developed over the last 20 years of his career.

In this week’s golf psychology session, mental game of golf expert and author of The Mental Game of Golf, Dr. Cohn, answers a question from a golfer about how golfers can simulate the pressure of competition in practice situations, particularly in putting .

Michael Jordan “Failure” Commercial

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This commercial gave me chills when it first came out. Still does….
I have this quote on a poster hanging in my office…

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.
I’ve lost almost 300 games.
26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.”
― Michael Jordan

How Meditation May Change the Brain

for full NY Times article click here  How Meditation May Change the Brain

Over the December holidays, my husband went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Not my idea of fun, but he came back rejuvenated and energetic.

He said the experience was so transformational that he has committed to meditating for two hours daily, one hour in the morning and one in the evening, until the end of March. He’s running an experiment to determine whether and how meditation actually improves the quality of his life.

I’ll admit I’m a skeptic.

But now, scientists say that meditators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.