Hacking the Mind and Body for Performance: The Art of Sport Psychology Training in Sport, Business, and Life.

The formula for optimizing performance in any arena can be defined in two ways:

For example, an executive experiencing a performance slump due to high stress, can spend a great deal of time and money increasing their knowledge and practice of relaxation techniques to calm their system. But, if the individual has the perfectionistic belief that, “no matter how hard they work, it’s never good enough to satisfy others’ expectations”, then old habits die hard, and they’re likely to continue the same patterns of over-working causing stress.

The most efficient way to optimize performance is to reduce the interference, which in this case is the individual’s unhelpful beliefs, that leads to over-compensation in daily action, and causes immense stress. Only when this internal interference is removed can the addition of relaxation techniques create lasting impact.

A note on self-help books: I often hear people say, “I read this book, tried a few things, it helped for a while.”

Self-help books and basic mental coaching focus on optimizing performance using the formula “capacity PLUS knowledge.” I often hear people say, “I read this book, tried a few things, it helped for a while.” This form of training acts as Band-Aids, quick fixes that can help momentarily, but without working to remove the interference first that is the root cause of your dilemmas or in other words, hacking the mind, lasting resolve and impact will not take shape. This is what I work to achieve with my clients, whether they are athletes or corporate professionals.

A Psychiatrist’s Approach: A note on Medication
Treating an inefficient mind and body with medication adds to your coping repertoire, but the interference creating inefficiencies are still present and the same thought patterns and compensations are still in play. Therefore, with this treatment, you rely on the medication to blunt the symptoms caused by the interference, but you will never resolve the symptoms. In extreme cases, medication can be necessary, but for high functioning, high-achievers I believe reducing interference and hacking the mind and body will achieve the best results long-term.

When there is stress or anxiety there will be compensation in some way that is not conscious, which ultimately over-time creates roadblocks to peak performance.

In sport for example, a golfer who is worried about performing poorly, will focus on “not making mistakes” and will over-compensate with a controlled, rigid swing, guiding the ball, subsequently derailing performance, hitting poor quality shots.

In the central nervous system we have instinctual processes:

When we reduce interference (mental or physical) we stop blocking those instincts, opening the mind and body to experience flow or fluidity in movement and focus.

This is what hacking the mind and body to optimize performance is all about.

Switching Focus to Reduce Interference in Sport
A simple example of this process in action can be found in Timothy Gallwey’s philosophical book, “Inner Game of Tennis,” Gallwey introduces the concept of “bounce-hit” an exercise to increase concentration and remove self-imposed negative interference. The tennis player is asked to say the word “bounce” as the ball bounces into their court, and “hit” when the racquet hits the ball. He or she is asked to be as accurate as possible and are told if they were too early or too late (which only helps increase the power of the exercise). Gallwey noticed that when the players focused on this exercise, they were less aware of their technique, which improved their execution of the shot. Essentially, the players have removed interference by changing their focus in a very deliberate way, allowing them to focus in the moment on their objective, opening the mind and body to playing naturally from instinct and performing better.

The greatest interference is established when we try to “control the uncontrollables”

Switching Focus to Reduce Interference in the Work Place
We experience stress when we feel that situations are out of our control. Naturally, the sub-conscious compensation is to focus on controlling everything around us. The greatest interference is established when we try to “control the uncontrollables” (the macro-forces or other people’s impressions or reactions). When this happens, we become detailed-oriented and lose perspective on what creates impact in our role. A deliberate switch toward things we can directly control and influence is required on a daily basis and this takes priority planning and conscious effort that I work to achieve with my clients.

This process re-builds trust – in one’s strengths and ability to do what works for them under pressure and to bounce back from mistakes without panic when things go wrong. When trust in your processes is re-established, you can work instinctually and creatively, experiencing flow in the work place.

The process I describe here isn’t the easy route, it takes time and conscious effort to change over-compensations and negative habits, but it leads to lasting change.

When hacking the mind, you get out what you put in, and that is so much more rewarding than any quick fix.

Visit Dr Jay-Lee today to find out how you can optimize your performance in sport, business, or life.

Dr Jay Lee

By Dr. Jay-Lee, Psychologist, PhD Sport & Exercise Psychology for Mental Notes Consulting, based in Singapore, focused on psychological skills training for athletic performance enhancing, health and well-being counselling. Contact Dr. Jay-Lee at https://jay-lee.com