I have now completed all six sessions of the Peak performance: A mental conditioning program with Sports Psychologist, Michael Inglis. Throughout the course I have enjoyed applying the theory of peak performance to my life, but have wondered whether this momentum can be sustained. In our final session Inglis had a strategy for this. He asked us to develop a mental training practice plan using our performance values; in my case creativity, curiosity, gratitude, collaboration and compassion.
The first step was to plan how to engage with these values regularly. I decided to create a graphic that I would display at my desk, to remind myself daily about my commitment to these values (see above). Of all the values I think creativity is going to be the hardest one to implement. I often shy away from situations where I might fail or embarrass myself. Since participating in Inglis’s course, I’ve realised that I need to get more comfortable with this discomfort; I’ve got to bite the bullet and get on with it. This thinking has triggered a new exploit in the pursuit of engaging with my values. I have started football (soccer) training with a local women’s team. I have been practicing pushing my skills just beyond their limits and sitting with the uncomfortable thoughts of, “what if I fail?” and, “what if I look stupid?” It’s going well so far. That’s not to say I haven’t been making mistakes, but reframing them has enabled me to move on and not dwell on them. I’m trying things I would normally avoid, too, and it’s paying off. I am loving my new routine.
Once we had written our plans of how to engage regularly with our values, Inglis asked us to write a basic plan for mindfulness practice. Mine involved listening to the Buddify2 mindfulness app and the Smiling Mind Sports Meditations from Cricket Australia. I also committed to mindfully eating all of my meals, which has largely, but not entirely helped me to make healthier food choices. I have also been doing mindful body scans when running and mindfully stretching post-workouts, which are incorporated into my plan, too. Inglis asked us to retake the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) that we had taken with him previously. I thought my mindfulness had been relatively high before, so was surprised to see that it had gone up by a significant amount (16 points). Overall, I am enjoying the novelty of applying mindfulness to my performance.
Giving that a central theme of the course is becoming comfortable with the discomfort, Inglis also asked us to list our performance obstacles in our plans. In my case these revolved around all of the internal processes we had explored on the course: thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. My thought obstacles are about being too old, too injured, not good enough. My emotional obstacles are about embarrassment, guilt and fear. My physical sensation obstacles are generally tiredness and discomfort when stretching or doing resistance training. Inglis asked us to reflect on whether we could apply acceptance to these unpleasant internal states. He also asked if we were willing to experience these internal states and perform well. On reflection I have been doing well at both of these post Inglis’s training. I’m also seeing the relevance of this approach to other domains of my life, such as parenting and in my work. It’s opened up a fascinating new perspective on my life in general.
Our plans also included identifying avoidant behaviours and alternative behaviours we could use to counter our avoidance. On reflection I found that prior to Inglis’s training I had avoided pushing myself, developing new skills and even, at times, trying. I would make excuses for not getting out of bed to exercise; “it’s too cold,” “it’s too windy,” “it’s raining too hard”. Melbourne weather provides a wonderful plethora of excuses for anyone who is inclined to avoidance. I’d also avoid resistance training and stretching because I was too time poor. Inglis has helped me to counter these behaviours by engaging with my values. I incorporated strategies around each value into the graphic I created as a daily reminder. I feel like these strategies are gateway to me becoming my best, when I am persistent and focused. In fact, Inglis’s mental conditioning training has changed me enormously in a number of ways.
After six weeks of mental conditioning I know my performance values and how they can support me. I have experimented with them in a number of ways. I no longer worry about what other people think of my performance. I notice negative self-talk, but recognise that thoughts are not facts and let them go. I notice when my emotions are controlling my behaviour. I notice physical sensations that detract me from peak performance. In short, I am more self-aware. Inglis’s mental conditioning training has allowed me to recognise the discomfort and become comfortable with it. I guess that means that Inglis’s mission is accomplished. Mine on the other hand is just beginning.
The Peak Performance: Mental Conditioning Program runs once a week on Wednesday evenings for six weeks and is held at The Mind Room in Collingwood. For more information, visit: http://www.themindroom.com.au/classes/