Conviction, Expectation and Desperation: Tools and Trouble

By Shannon Thompson 

“The demon you can swallow gives you its power. The greater life’s pain the greater life’s reply.”

-Joseph Campbell

Conviction has always come upon me by surprise, calling me to face her with sharp insistence. There’s something urgently real about her; she stings with the edge of fleeting time. “Be you now,” she demands. There’s a fierceness to her tone, and a tremor. This is not play, practice, or make believe, but real life. This is a sudden inner battle of dire import. You must win.

Have you felt the call of conviction? Light as a feather in the small of your back, “as urgent as a knife?” My first memory of conviction was while trail running last autumn. I’d recently adopted the habit of always seeking the fastest line on every trail, especially if it’s technical. I trail run competitively, and this habit teaches me to see lines quickly, and also helps me become more agile at...

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Planning to be Free: How to Develop a Mental Performance Plan

By Shannon Thompson

“How well have you prepared to be free?” ~ Michael Gervais

Most of us, regardless of our craft, have experienced the feeling of effortless excellence. I’m sure that many of you can remember moments when you’re challenged but you know you can meet the challenge before you. Known as moments in “flow state,” these experiences are infrequent for most, and elusive. Often our best performances arise from them. These moments tattoo our memories with such fulfillment that we continue to work day after day with the hopes of encountering another one.

My primary role as a mental performance consultant is to help athletes attain such optimal performance states consistently. The information and exercises below are designed to begin this process. The content to follow is framed in sporting terminology, but you will quickly see that it is applicable to any field. We will begin by exploring “who” you want to be, and also who you...

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The Intentional Life: The Virtuous Cycle of Mindfulness & Clarity

By Michael Mrazek, Ph.D. and Alissa Mrazek, Ph.D. 

Consistently high performance doesn’t happen by chance. It starts with having clarity about who you are, what you want, and how you’re going to get it. This kind of clarity allows high performers to be intentional. They stay focused on what truly counts. Moment-by-moment, they direct their minds to the things that truly deserve their attention.  

Being intentional about where you focus your attention is a key element of mindfulness. Mindfulness is fundamentally about using attention effectively. Attention is like a spotlight, and where you shine it is the single best predictor of what you’ll experience. By practicing mindfulness, we get better at focusing our attention and releasing distractions. Yet to understand how to apply mindfulness in your life—and to appreciate why it is so intricately tied to clarity—you must understand the concept of an anchor.

You can be mindful of...

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Partner Science with Your Activity Tracker for a Lifetime of Motivation

By Michelle Segar, PhD

Are activity trackers – whether worn on the wrist or accessed as an app in a smartphone – really all we need to get motivated and stay that way? Science supports a finding that sock drawers full of discarded and abandoned trackers hint at: for most people who start tracking, the app alone does not promote long-term motivation and sustainable behavior change.

While trackers are an exciting, they aren’t magic. Just like any new approach or tool to becoming more active (remember NordicTrack?), wearables and activity trackers are simply new ways to encourage movement. Once the novelty wears off and life gets busier, the potency of wearables to motivate can decrease.

But there’s good news: Whether you’re just embarking on including exercise in your life, or you’ve had failure after failure, a few simple, science-backed principles provide a solid foundation for a lifetime of success—and your app can help.

What Science...

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How Lowering your Expectations Might Help You Achieve

By Donna Hemmert

“Perfect is the enemy of Good”  ~Voltaire

I remember the first time I led the launch of a major website back in the 1990s. Launching this site was a vast job and I really wanted everything to be PERFECT. We spent months planning, designing for every contingency while checking and double checking every piece of content. While the website was quite stunning when it finally launched….it actually didn’t much matter. We were latecomers to the marketplace and were never able to catch up and make our mark. What I learned from that experience is that sometimes good enough is, well, good enough.  While striving for excellence can often be appropriate and fruitful, striving for perfection has some very real pitfalls including reduced productivity, fear of failure, and reduced creativity.

Perfectionism can slow you down

Perfectionists often try to avoid mistakes, which can lead to risk aversion. Being risk averse can certainly cause...

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Habits: Use Less Willpower and Rock Your Life

By Donna Hemmert

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”
~ John C. Maxwell

When Fall rolls around, much like New Year, I find myself doing a mini “reboot” of sorts. For me, as kids head back to school and all the tomfoolery of summer fades away, I want to hone my habits and get back on track where I may have begun to wander.

 When you look at the statistics on New Year’s resolutions, they clearly are not as effective as we'd like. Only about 8% of those who make New Year’s resolutions keep them. So if they don’t work in January, they aren't going to work in September. Given that, let’s look at some useful “best practices” that can help us to follow-through and attain what we desire.

When I think of follow-through, I ultimately bump into my own relationship with my willpower. But there is more to it than simply deciding something and then trying to brute force our way through...

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Wake up to Your Own Courage

By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener

In only a few hours I have to head to the hospital to have surgery. Don’t worry; it is a minor procedure hardly worth mentioning. I mention it only because I am mildly nervous about it. Despite its routine nature there is much about which to be concerned. There are the practical worries, such as the risks of infection or the certainty of physical discomfort. There are the irrational fears; in my case, this means an almost panic like reaction to needles, IVs, and other pokey medical instruments. Finally, and perhaps most profoundly, there is the creeping fear of the unknown. What will the surgery be like? How graceful will I be under pressure? What complications will arise? What will the recovery be like?

I mention my impending procedure—and the fears that surround it—as an entrée to discuss the topic of courage. When most people think of courage their minds jump to limited and (dare I say?) masculine archetypes. The word...

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Your Procrastination Is Telling You Something

By Emily vanSonnenberg, M.A.P.P.

If you’re not pursuing what you say you want, then let me ask: do you really want what you say you want?

Let me begin by acknowledging that this article may hit hard. It may make you uncomfortable. It may challenge you to untangle topics you have, well, procrastinated addressing. Why? I believe most people (including you!) are capable of pursuing the goals and ideas their mind can conceive of. But not by procrastinating!

Researchers in Psychology define procrastination as voluntarily delaying an intended task despite expecting to be worse off for doing so. We procrastinate when we delay beginning or completing an intended course of action.(1) Procrastination exists in almost every culture, is found to affect 95% of the population, and 20% of individuals suffer from chronic procrastination.(2) Moreover, the effects of procrastination tend to be grim: showing negative impacts on stress, health, wealth and happiness.(34)

Procrastination can...

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May I Help You Find Your Courage?

By Shannon Thompson

“On the other side of every fear is freedom.” – Allan Watts

Alyssa leaned on the table between us. Blond hair, tired from trying to tease a smile from her freshman face, hung unnoticed over her eyes. The efforts of her elbows to dent the wooden table surface appeared as fruitless as the problem she was currently describing. “I used to be an actress!” She told me with disbelief. “I loved performing. I don’t know where that person went. Now I just hate it out there.” Alyssa had come to see if I, a mental performance consultant who specializes in athletes, could help her.

Alyssa plays golf for her college team. She’s been experiencing severe anxiety on the golf course since arriving at school. “I used to love having people watch me,” she said. “Now, I just wish they wouldn’t. I’m terrified I’m going to make a mistake.” Alyssa’s performance has been steadily...

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Not Necessary: The Myth About Motivation

By Shannon Thompson

“I want to want to run,” he told me, dark eyes hard like the internal wall he felt he was up against. “Sometimes I drive to the track, and then I sit in the car, and I just don’t want to do it. I turn around and drive home again.” This is a familiar pattern for many of us. You might recognize it when you linger around the house before leaving for a jog, or in the sudden need to organize the kitchen cupboards before you can sit down to work. It’s in the best of our human nature to want to want to do many things that are good for us. However, often when our motivation is lacking these well-intended tasks do not occur. This article discusses the subject of motivation – the desire to act – and how to grow motivation even when you’re sure its seeds are irretrievable within the winds of your whims. I’m going to explain the key to breaking this pattern, which is simply that you don’t need motivation in...

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