Love 2.0

Love 2.0, as the title implies, provides a new and unique perspective on love. Barbara Fredrickson is one of the foremost researches on positive emotions, and her investigations of love provide a fascinating picture that is quite different than our (or at least my) romantic notions of love. In short, Fredrickson demonstrates biological, physiological, and neurological evidence that love happens in moments of connection rather than as an enduring bond that lasts a lifetime. Thus, familial, husband-wife, and parent-child connections last (or not) over time based on the extent to which the people involve regularly relate to one another in a caring and compassionate manner.

All well and good, but what does this have to do with performance? I would argue a great deal. I cannot think of an example of a performer who performs in isolation. Most athletes have a coach. Most performers have an instructor or mentor. And the exceedingly few who do not perform with others or with a coach/instructor have a support system of people who make it possible for the performer to devote the time and energy necessary to hone skilled performance. In all cases, the new ideas presented in Love 2.0 can help to sustain, grow, and balance the relationships necessary for performance.

Further, Love 2.0 begins and ends with self-acceptance. The meditation practices and other suggestions for incorporating more love and openness in one’s life not only create a more balanced, focused, and inspired individual; but they also create a sense of ease, comfort, and confidence in oneself that provides a foundation for motivation, consistent performance, and resiliency.

See it – Feel it – Trust it

One of the simplest and most effective ideas I teach is called Cook’s Model of Concentration after the model’s creator, David Cook. Cook’s model is a strategy to prepare oneself either pre-performance or pre-skill execution.

The model utilizes a funnel analogy in which concentration starts broad and gradually narrows as the performance of the skill nears. At its widest point, the performer observes the situation and takes note of anything relevant to the task (e.g., opponent/defense, potential distractions, weather, etc.). Next, concentration begins to narrow as irrelevant aspects of the environment are ignored and the performer begins to prepare a strategy to meet the demands of the task. Once a strategy is developed, the performer visualizes executing the strategy and the task/skill, emphasizing the feel of the performance. Finally, at the narrowest point of the funnel just prior to and during skill execution, the performer enters the trusting mindset where they have committed to their strategy, seen and felt themselves performing the skill, and can now turn off their mind and trust their body to execute the task.

Although this may sound elaborate, Cook’s Model can be shortened to See it – Feel it – Trust it and is extremely effective at allowing performers to go through a pre-performance routine designed to grow their confidence and increase the likelihood of successful skill execution.

With practice, See it – Feel it – Trust it can be completed within the space of one or two centering breaths and can be applied to just about any performance situation. If you regularly practice See it – Feel it – Trust it, it will become automatic and have a positive impact on your confidence and your performance.

Confident like a kid

When did you stop being confident in yourself?

For far too many of us, we may not even be able to remember.

I live in a neighborhood with many kids from newborn babies to early teens, and two things stand out:

1) The youngest kids are full of confidence, and

2) The older kids quickly begin to lose their confidence

The first statement begs the question, “How do you know a baby has confidence?” Because they are willing to try anything. That is confidence. When it doesn’t go right? They try again.

Older kids begin to lose this as they (and those around them) quickly move from accepting any attempt as a positive to judging and evaluating the quality and nature of the attempt as good or bad. And the scary thing is when I say “older” I’m talking less than 2 years old for many kids.

The young kids understand the true meaning of confidence. It is not about where you have been or where you are trying to get to, it is the willingness to accept yourself as you are.

Confidence literally means “with trust” or being true to oneself. Accepting yourself as you are gives you the willingness to try new things without the risk of your attempts being “good” or “bad.”

As with kids, your confidence does not (and should not) have to come from your past successes or failures.

Confidence does not have to mean you believe you will have success in the future.

It is simply accepting yourself where you are right now and being willing to accept that this means sometimes things will work out the way you want them to and sometimes they won’t.

And in either case you try again.

Focus: Confidence

Confidence, or lack thereof, is one of the most common challenges that sport & performance psychology consultants are asked to assist with. In order to address confidence, it is first necessary to understand it. Simply put, confidence is pre-knowing that you are capable of meeting the demands of the task/challenge you are facing. Confidence is different from arrogance or cockiness, which are both more often an overreaction to uncertainty: not knowing that you are capable of meeting demands and attempting to cover this up with (over) assurance. Another key difference is that confidence is internally focused, about knowing what you can do. Arrogance and cockiness are externally focused, falsely thinking that you are better than some external opponent or criterion. This is an important distinction because I have seen many people sabotage their confidence because they did not want to be perceived as cocky or arrogant. Because confidence is internally focused (self confidence), there is no risk of true confidence being misperceived as arrogance or cockiness.

Perhaps surprisingly, confidence can effectively be built through two points of focus. Of course, this does not mean it is easy to be consistently confident, but these are the tools to begin building your skill of confidence. These points are once again thanks to Dr. Rick McGuire.

1) Competence Builds Confidence

If you want to feel confident, the first step is to actually develop your skill so you have something to be confident in. While this may seem self-evident, we have all seen people attempting something where they clearly are not highly skilled still become frustrated that they are not performing as well as they “should.” The person on the basketball court that screams and curses every time the shot is missed…on the golf course cursing out their clubs for every shanked shot…the tennis court…the boardroom…the performance stage. Unfortunately for these folks, they are performing exactly as they “should” because they have not put in the time to build competence. Develop your skill, realistically appraise your skill level, adjust your expectations accordingly (you are not the person on TV for a reason), and watch your confidence blossom.

2) Focus Confidence on the Performance, Not the Outcome

In short, this means that even when we are capable of doing something it is not always going to turn out the way that we would like. This is the reason sports and performances are so captivating. We never know what is going to happen. It is also the reason so many people feel like their confidence is a mysterious force that comes and (more often) goes. If your confidence is wrapped up in outcomes, then just like outcomes sometimes it will be there and sometimes it will not. Do this long enough, and it is not there very often because we are constantly reminded of the unpredictable nature of performance, and this undermines our outcome-focused confidence. Focusing on the performance, on the other hand, puts confidence directly in our control. While we may not always get the outcome that we desire, we can always have a successful performance. Through our effort and will we can deliver all the capability that we have to deliver, and perform to the best of our capabilities on that particular day, at that particular event. Focusing on success will develop consistency in both our performances and our confidence.