A Short Course in Personal Development: Psychological Skills for Elite Performance

The four basic psychological skills for elite performance are:  relaxation; goal-setting; self-talk; and creative visualization. Here are three exercises utilizing these skills. Practised regularly they will support and enhance personal development and elite performance:

(i) Relaxation: Our ability to control our stress response has a profound effect on human performance and how we process information.

(ii) Self-Talk: The way we talk to ourselves – our inner dialogue – creates self-imposed limitations for how we view the world and what we do in the world.

(iii) Goal-setting & Visualization: This simple exercise is used by top athletes and uses creative visualization to support goal setting to create a sense of having already achieved the goal. It’s a good way to build and maintain motivation.

I use the concept of ‘personal experiments’ with coaching clients. This approach allows us to try techniques on for size, with no intrinsic sense of failure. We simply commit to the techniques for a given period of time (say two to four weeks) to allow ourselves to collect data. So give them a go and assess the results (and feel free to post any feedback). For some information, see the link to my self-help book below.


Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It

Dematerialization: Crystals & Car Keys

I’m drawn to things esoteric and recently attended a talk about crystals and crystal therapy. Much of the attraction of crystals are their symbolic associations which, in a psychological sense, make them useful tools for focusing the mind. However, when the speaker raised the subject of ‘dematerialization’ I began to shift uneasily in my seat. There’s only so much a healthy sceptic can take.

We are told that crystals have a tendency to dematerialize only to re-materialize at a later time in the place you first looked. Apparently it’s the crystals way of teaching us not to become too attached. The speaker illustrated this by telling us that a particular crystal that he wanted to show us had dematerialized, which can also be translated as ‘he lost the bugger’. Maybe not so. A member of the audience interjected to tell us that his haematite had disappeared from its pouch too!

At this point I felt the urgent need to stand up and shout ‘Oh for goodness sake, wake up and smell the smoky quartz’ but instead opted for a more gentle approach. So, after the speaker had used the word dematerialize for the umpteenth time, I asked ‘Is this the same that happens with my car keys?” Of course, this gets a big laugh and grounds the discussion. Are my car keys teaching me a lesson when they are not in the place I left them only to reappear a while later in the first place I looked and to ensure my lateness?

Do mundane household objects share the same magical properties as crystals or is something altogether more mundane at play? Well there is a more earthly explanation: our perceptions do play tricks on us. When we are tired or stressed our cognitve capacities are reduced. It’s pretty stressful not being able to find something when you need it. So, the words ‘I’m going to be late’ or ‘I’ll never find my keys’ become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not magic, it’s one of the side-effects of cognitive economy.

Habituation is one of earliest ways we learn. Quite simply, we learn to ignore the familiar. That’s why babies make fools of us all with their quests for novelty. Our grinning and gurning cease to effect the same response after a while, so we’ll add silly noises and employ an array of props and paraphernalia in order to get the infant interested again. In short, familiarity breeds cognitive contempt. Often, we don’t lose things but overlook them and when added to the stress and the self-fulfilling prophecy explains ‘dematerialization’ in a psychological way.

Suddenly as I write this I realize that my car keys are no where to be found. I look out of the window and my car is no where to be seen. Damn! Is this bloody karmic retribution for doubting the magic of crystal dematerialization? Er no, the answer again is all too mundane: I DON’T OWN A CAR!

p.s. Speaking of karma. . .before we get lost in the world of crystals, isn ‘t it wise to consider whether or not they are ethically sourced and at what human and environmental cost? No amount of washing them under a tap or rubbing them with sea salt can cleanse bloody crystals, unless of course you buy into the magical at the expense of the bleedin’ obvious.