My vision quest for many years has been developing a powerful approach to high performance sports psychology coaching. I developed what was missing for me as a young man. Knowing what I now know would have made a world of difference for me as an athlete and young man. I saw glimpses of potential greatness at times, but didn't know how to manage my thinking to perform consistently at my highest levels.
I was both confident and not confident at times. I performed well and poorly at times. I was motivated and not motivated at times. I couldn't consistently perform at levels that I knew were possible for me.
I was a highly analytical young man. If there was a problem to be solved, I approached it analytically. The saying goes, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." I analyzed my situation from every possible angle. I became an expert in understanding the problems of under-performance, but didn't know how to fix my thinking. Simply working harder on what I already knew didn't work.
My experiences as an athlete invited me on a 40+ year vision quest to find a sports psychology approach that worked quickly, powerfully and consistently with all types of athletes and sports.
One of the most powerful influences was my four years as a Jesuit seminarian. In the Jesuits, I learned the power of deep meditation, imagination, and prayer. One of the core practices of Jesuits is silent retreats for up to 30 days at a time. Deep silence creates an opening for insight and transformation.
As a management consultant, I learned the power of questions to shape conversations and cause a potential shift in thinking. I read a book by Gerald Nadler, PhD entitled Breakthrough Thinking that opened up new ways of looking at problems. Gerry became a good friend over the years, and we wrote a book together entitled Smart Questions: Learn to Ask the Right Questions for Powerful Results. If we want to think differently, we need to ask different questions. If we keep asking the same questions, the same results will continue to come.
Hypnosis has captivated me since I was a young boy. I read a book on it that I borrowed from the library. Learning how hypnosis could cause a major shift in thinking and behavior was a revelation. Hypnosis still fascinates me because it gives access to parts of our minds that typically remain hidden. When we start accessing our unconscious mind, all sorts of new possibilities of thinking, behaving, and growing open themselves to us.
The most important psychologist I came across in my graduate studies was Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist. His ideas about the unconscious mind, the shadow, archetypes, dream interpretation, active imagination and the collective unconscious opened up new areas of exploration for me and continue to influence how I think and practice.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a method of understanding how people think, using the links between the words they use and the way that the words connect with their body, senses, emotions and imagination. It may sound complicated, but the core idea is simple. If I say the words “water hazard” to a golfer, she will create a picture of it in her mind, even if only for a fraction of a second. That picture will create a specific mental, emotional and physical state in her which may or may not be the state in which she performs at her highest levels.
Everyone has unique ways of connecting their words, body, emotions, senses and imagination. NLP helps me understand how clients understand their world and their sport and how they manage themselves as they train and compete. We can often make some dramatic changes in how athletes think and feel by causing a shift in the way they use their imagination and their internal conversations.
My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, is an astonishing account of how the brain functions. Taylor is a brain researcher who suffered a stroke. Her book is the story of her experience and her recovery. Her account added tremendous insight for me about how the two hemispheres of the brain perform the imaginative and analytic functions.
The combination of my influences and experiences lead me to a powerful high performance sports psychology system that combines meditation, self-hypnosis, breakthrough thinking, Jungian psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
Sports can be simply for recreation or fitness, but they can also be more than that. Sports can teach us powerful lessons about ourselves and life. Sports often provide clear, meaningful and startling feedback about our approach to sports and life.
Learning to play golf was a crucial influence for me that taught me important lessons about sports psychology coaching. I've been an avid golfer ever since I finished graduate school. I’ve played in many amateur tournaments and have enjoyed my share of success. I thoroughly enjoy golf as a sport, but I also used it as a laboratory to develop ideas and techniques for helping build high performing athletes and coaches.
I started competitive pistol shooting a few years ago and have enjoyed learning and developing in a new sport that's very different than golf. Action pistol shooting is mostly a combination of speed and accuracy which makes for a significant challenge and a very different focus than golf.
My athletes continually challenge me to keep learning, refining and expanding my repertoire of techniques, tools and methods. They are all unique in significant ways and I've found that with some coaching, they're all able to tell me where we need to focus and what we need to do to draw the best out of them.
The most important skill I've learned is to listen to them deeply because, deep inside, we all have the answers to what we seek. We sometimes need someone to walk with us and help point the way forward when we're unsure of our footing.