By Morey Stettner
Elite athletes often lean on their coach to sharpen their mental game. They apply a coach’s tips and exercises to improve their performance.
Some of those tools work equally well for executives and entrepreneurs seeking to gain a psychological edge. Even if you’re not a top athlete, you can benefit by acting like one.
In both sports and business, success centers on concentration, confidence and goal-driven determination. To think like a champion:
Master the ability to concentrate on what matters most and you’re more likely to come away a winner. Once you set a goal, maintain a steely focus on achieving it.
“I teach athletes to change their body language and physical position to help them refocus,” said Angie Fifer, owner of Breakthrough Performance Consulting, a Philadelphia-based firm that provides performance psychology training. “That also applies if you’re slouching at your desk. Straighten your back, take a deep breath and remind yourself what you want to focus on.”
Advance in increments.
Chasing a lofty goal is exhausting, and distractions can derail you along the way. It’s better to set incremental goals and concentrate on attaining them, one at a time.
“Set a time limit to focus,” Fifer said. “Make it 20 minutes or less so that it’s doable. You can get focus fatigue if you try to do too much at once or for too long.”
Take errors in stride.
Respond to mistakes with an eagerness to learn and grow. That sounds easy, but in the heat of the moment you may react with anger or self-flagellation when you realize you’ve committed a costly blunder.
“The easiest form of self-sabotage is to focus on what’s going wrong, not what’s going right,” Fifer said. “If you berate yourself for a mistake, it doesn’t do you any good. Ask, ‘What can I learn from this?’ and move on.”
Identify what works.
Before pursuing an ambitious goal, assess how you’ve attained similar objectives. What strategies did you use? What actions and behaviors worked to your advantage — and what stymied you?
“It’s important to understand your process that leads to success,” said Brent Walker, associate athletics director of championship performance at Columbia University in New York City. “When people miss outcomes and lose confidence, they engage in behaviors that don’t lead to success.”
Just as great athletes identify steps that maximize performance, salespeople might look back and analyze what they did to reach the top of the leader board in their best month — and follow the same blueprint to resume their torrid production.
Know what you want.
Coaches prod athletes to excel by having them pinpoint what they aspire to achieve and what concrete actions will get them there. Expressing an overly vague goal, by contrast, can lead to trouble.
“Clarity of vision is a really big thing,” said Jonathan Armold, a minor-league pitching coach for the Texas Rangers.
To help a player execute a pitch, Armond likes to ask, “What’s your vision for what you want to do with that pitch?”
“If he responds, ‘I want to throw a strike,’ that isn’t good enough,” Armold said. “It’s better to have a clear vision like, ‘I want to hit the top part of the strike zone with my four-seam fastball and deliver it hard.’ “
Similarly, if you’re about to negotiate a high-stakes deal or give a major presentation, paint a vivid mental picture of the desired outcome. See yourself making a bold offer — and staying quiet afterward — or wowing the audience with a rousing anecdote that drives home your main message.
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This content was originally published by Investors Business Daily. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Investors Business Daily