Category Archives: MINDFULLNESS

H.A.L.T. BEFORE YOUR ARGUMENTS ESCALATE!!

image taken from express.ok.uk

image taken from express.ok.uk

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Master NLP Practitioner, I’ve worked with countless couples and families since 2000.  In my work with them, I’ve learned how incredibly important it is to encourage them to discuss inflammatory topics when they are in resourceful states; it is the difference that makes the difference.  When couples or families are in resourceful states, each person is feeling calm, centered, open-minded, and desirous of hearing what their loved one wants to share and say; they seek first to understand, then to be understood. They know in their heart  that they have the resources within them to remain safe, fully present, and grounded even if their partner or family member says something that they wholeheartedly disagree with.  They also know that they are deeply lovable and worthwhile regardless of what is being said.

Unfortunately, couples and family members discuss feelings and other touchy subjects when they’re not in resourceful states.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve witnessed this misstep all too often, and I’ve seen couples and family members escalate the tension between them and saying and doing things that only serve to damage the safety and trust that serves as the foundation of their relationship.  As a result, I encourage them to be mindful of the following acronym:  H.A.L.T.  The letters in this acronym stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

Whenever a person is hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, they’re prone to hearing things in a distorted way.  They are vulnerable to seeing the world and their relationship through a dark prism, and they’re going to take assume the worst and/or misconstrue what’s being said simply because they’re not in a resourceful state.  On the contrary, they’re in an imbalanced state of mind and body, and therefore they’re unable to hear, think, and respond accurately or constructively.  In addition to being mindful of whether or not you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I want to invite you now to consider what other states make it very challenging for you to truly listen and talk to your loved one without the likelihood of tensions between the two of you blowing up in your faces.

If you’re a woman, for example, I wonder if the day before your menstrual cycle or throughout your menstrual cycle you’re more likely to enter into a state of mind and body that makes you far more prone to misconstruing what’s being said or more vulnerable to seeing the people around you in a negative light.  If you’re a man or woman who is on medication and happens to experience withdrawal symptoms when you forget to take it, I wonder if this is a time when you’re more likely to be irritable, agitated, and unable to have a constructive conversation with the person you love.  If you’ve just received bad news, I wonder if this is a time when you’re not in enough of a resourceful state to have a challenging conversation.

Starting today, if you’re in a relationship and there is a challenging topic that you or your loved one wants to discuss, ask yourself if you’re in enough of a resourceful state to have the discussion without losing your cool.  Ask yourself if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and/or any other emotion that will make it too difficult for you to be fully present, calm, cool, and collected to talk about something that might trigger you.  If you’re not in a resourceful state, I want to invite you to tell your loved one that you’d like to take a time out and revisit the topic in a  mutually agreeable amount of time to avoid unnecessary hurt  and preserve, instead, the well being, safety, and trust that keeps your relationship thriving.

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog.  I hope that you found it thought provoking and instructive.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/ Master NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist

 

Checklist for Hidden Anger

Image taken from rottentomatoes.com

Image taken from rottentomatoes.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve often met with clients of mine who seem determined to put on a happy facade and deny their own anger.  Unfortunately, when they bury or hide their own anger from themselves, it can come out sideways or morph into anxiety and depression.  Instead of burying or denying your anger, it’s far healthier to acknowledge it’s presence and find safe ways to discharge it.  In addition, it’s far healthier to see anger as a metaphorical alarm clock that is signalling to you that beneath your anger you may be feeling wounded, hurt, powerless, ashamed, afraid, etc.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve learned through years of experience to hone in on the many signs of hidden, unexpressed, systemic anger.  These signs include the following:  obsessive preoccupation with the completion of imposed tasks, habitual lateness, a liking of sadistic or ironic humor, aloofness, impatience, closed off body language, unconsciously turning their hands into fists, contemptuous glares, sarcasm, cynicism, and flippancy in conversation.  In addition to these hidden signs of unacknowledged, unexpressed anger, people who carry with them the heavy, toxic burden of anger are prone to sighing a lot, yawning, getting drowsy at inappropriate times, slowing down their movements, speaking in a monotone voice, getting tired more easily than usual, withdrawing, isolating, and sleeping more than usual, maybe up to 12-14 hours a day, and being prone to boredom and apathy.

Other signs of hidden anger include over politeness, constant cheerfulness, smiling while hurting, and an attitude of grin-and-bear-it.  In addition, people who tend to deny or hide their anger rationalize or minimize their emotions, become excessively irritable and agitated over trifles, hold onto grudges, struggle mightily to forgive others, make cutting passive-aggressive comments, see things in black and white, and carry around a chip on their shoulder accompanied by a sense of injustice and self-righteousness.  On another note, they are also prone to having disturbing or violent dreams, clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth while awake or sleeping, and have facial tics or spasmodic foot movements that they’re entirely unaware of.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve also learned over the years that people who hide their anger from themselves often experience health problems, such as a chronically stiff or sore neck, aching shoulder muscles, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, etc.  Their bodies become physical manifestations of the anger they keep locked inside of them.  People who hide their anger may even experience chronic depression and extended periods of feeling down for no apparent reason.

Finally, another sign that people are hiding their anger is the many ways they act out in self-destructive ways: Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their anger; Others have marital affairs; Finally others refuse to get help of any kind to angrily protesting to those that love them that they are no longer accessible to them and that they would prefer to be alone and disconnected rather than connected and within reach.

In my professional experience, hidden anger that’s been cast in the shadows must come to the light to be addressed.  It’s an emotion that can be worked through, often relatively quickly and effortlessly.  If you or someone you know is hiding your anger to yourself or showing signs of hidden anger that you weren’t aware of until now, rest assured that I have the expertise and resources to help you feel more serene and more at ease.  You’re welcome to call me or e-mail me anytime to arrange a time to visit with me in person so we can work together in helping you feel much better.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I hope that you found it useful and informative!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

 

 

BEWARE THE EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS

Imgae taken from timesofmaldta.com

Image taken from timesofmaldta.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve learned from life experiences as well as from working with my clients that  life is inherently impermanent; nothing lasts forever.  Seasons come and go, youth gives way to old age, beauty gives way to wrinkles,  life gives way to death, and because everything eventually dies, all relationships come to an end.  A lot of us, however, turn a blind eye to how fleeting our lives are, and how ephemeral our good fortune is. We blissfully assume that the strong winds that we have at our backs will carry us forward for the rest of our lives. In addition, we become too attached or overly identified with these winds, and we believe that they represent the sum total of who we are. Gil Gronsdal, in a talk that he gave on Equanimity in 2004, referred to these winds as the “EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.”  These winds include praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, and fame and disrepute.

As for the first of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I believe that becoming overly invested in Praise can tend toward conceit, and it can also compel us to seek out external validation from others rather than look inward for internal validation.  This habit can feel very dis-empowering over the long haul, as our sense of self becomes more and more dependent on what other people say about us.

As for the second worldly wind, I believe that shouldering too much Blame can lead us to develop a shame-based sense of self. We are not the sum total of our mistakes.  I believe that we would make far better use of our time, energy, and resources if we tabled the blame and instead, with self-compassion and self-forgiveness, thought of ways to learn from our mistakes so that we can do things more effectively the next time around.

As for Success, the third of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  When I see my clients and people in general become too attached to their own successes, I notice that they become prone to becoming  arrogant, entitled, grandiose, and narcissistic.  Often times, what lurks beneath this inflated facade lies is a profound fear of failure or being exposed as frauds. They’ve become so attached to their success and defined by the trappings of it that they’re fear of falling off the mountain top paralyzes them with self-doubt, and soon enough their performances go down the tubes.

As for Failure, the fourth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  I believe that the  more we identify with failure, the more we feel intrinsically incompetent and inadequate.  Soon Failure becomes an integral part of our life story.  We see ourselves as the sum total of our life experiences  through this dark prism, and therefore we conclude that the winds of life have always gone against us.  This belief system often creates a victim mentality in us, and we walk around with a chip on our shoulders and/or have a contempt for other people  and/or have a deep-seeded contempt for ourselves.  For those who have become overly identified with failure, they’ve been unable to step back and recognize that although they’ve experienced failure, they never had to allow these experiences to define them as people. We are not, after all, our behaviors or our life experiences.  The essence of who we are transcends these fleeting moments.

As for Pleasure, the fifth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  I believe that the experience of pleasure is wonderful!!  However, when a person seeks personal pleasure only at the exclusion of everything else, his or life often lacks depth, connection, meaning, and purpose.

Reacting to Pain, the sixth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  When we experience pain, it’s our natural tendency to contract, resist the pain, and focus on it.  Unfortunately, when we resist our pain, the pain is likely to get worse.  In addition, when we focus on our pain, it tends to expand.  Although it seems incredibly counter-intuitive, the key to managing pain is to acknowledge its presence, welcome it, and be present with it.  In addition, practice the art of equanimity, equanimity arises from the power of observation, to see your pain with patience, understanding, and compassion.  Finally, remind yourself that you are not your pain; There is a soul or light inside of you that is separate from your pain and watch it from a distance, and when you learn how to do this, you pain will subside considerably for you.

As for Fame, the seventh of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS:  As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve had the privilege of working with famous businessmen, businesswomen, actors, actresses, and professional athletes.  As a lay person, I’ve also watched the rise and fall of businessmen, politicians, actors, actresses, and professional athletes on television and read about it in the newspapers.  I imagine that you, like me, have all watched these famous people navigate their ways through the fame machine and come out the other side with a distorted sense of themselves and a warped world view.  In addition, many of them appear to me to be emaciated, ghostly, and like they’ve unnecessarily subjected themselves to multiple plastic surgeries while in their 20’s no less.  To me, these are clear signs that these “stars’ got lost somewhere in the darkness, and they lost their center of gravity.  In other words, they become imbalanced and, like a leaf carried away in no particular direction in one of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, they got caught up and then lost in the gravitational vortex of fame.

Finally, there is the eighth of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, and that wind is the wind of  Disrepute.  When I’ve seen people fall into disrepute, they often feel deep shame and  feelings of personal despair and disgrace.  They’ve become so attached to standing atop a pedestal and being seen as larger than life that their fall from grace crushes their ego.  They’ve spend so much time cultivating a make believe image of perfection that being seen warts and all makes them want to crawl into a hole and hide forever.  Now they feel like leapers, exiled,  shunned, and  rejected from family, friends, and foes alike.  Often times the people who have fallen into disrepute are the very same people who once enjoyed the spoils of fame.  Just as their egos and identities became too attached to their fame, now their sense of selves have become too entangled with their broken reputation.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve found that there are many ways to avoid getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS.  The first antidote that comes to mind is having the wisdom to know that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the eight winds.  When we know this, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst.  In addition, another piece of wisdom that can protect us from getting caught up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is the awareness of the nature of impermanence.  The reality of life is that things change so quickly that we can’t hold onto anything.  Therefore, we must become masters at the art of letting go.  Letting go brings us peace of mind and equanimity.  As an old Buddhist saying goes, “let go, or be dragged.”

Another antidote to getting caught up in the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS is to develop the equanimity that arises from the power of observation; the ability to see without being caught by what we see.  Also, it’s incredibly important to learn how to see with patience and understanding. When well-developed, such power of observation gives rise to peace of mind, body, and spirit.  When we can observe the highs and lows of our lives from a grounded space, we feel rooted in the essence of who we  truly are.  In these moments, we remain centered in the middle of whatever is happening.  As the “Watcher” inside of us observes all that is going on around us, we remain palpably in touch with the strong presence of  inner calm, well being, balance, integrity, and confidence that  keeps us upright, like a ballast that keeps a ship upright in strong winds.

Other ways to remain balanced, grounded, unattached, and able to observe life’s EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS without being tossed about by them is to practice meditation, yoga, and to engage in any spiritual practice that is grounded in faith and wisdom.  Also, practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, seeing a capable Marriage and Family Therapist, Sports Psychology Consultant, life coach, NLP ( Tony Robbins Stuff) Practitioner, EMDR Practitioner, or turning to any resource that resonates with you and encourages you to cultivate calm and concentration as well as strengthens your sense of self will help to keep you grounded as the Eight Worldly Winds continue to draw people in and spit them out, just as they have for generations and generations.

In addition to practices and resources that I’ve already referenced, I’d also like to strongly encourage you to strive towards being impeccable with your word and having integrity with others so that you can walk into any room in any crowd of people and feel blameless, free from from the ghosts of blame, shame, guilt, and disrepute. When you don’t engage in gossip, it’s amazing how the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS look for new targets to descend down on.  Finally, I’d like to encourage you to focus on doing the very best that you can in your life; focus on your “Performance Scorecard,” not on your “Outcome Scorecard.”  If you’re identity is riding on your results, then you’re you’re more or less gambling day to day with your sense of well being, because your results are then dependent on variables that are often out of your hands. However, if you’re sense of well being and sense of self comes from achieving your performance goals, then you’re far more likely to feel confident and successful, regardless of the outcome of your efforts.  This is because you’ve taken care of matters that are within your control.

If you’re finding yourself swept up in one or more of the EIGHT WORLDLY WINDS, I want you to rest assured that you’re hardly alone. If you’ve grown weary, however, of twisting like a leaf out in the unpredictable winds and would like to learn how to return to your center and rediscover the essence of who you truly are again, then I want to invite you to e-mail me or give me call so that we can set up a time to visit in person.  I would enjoy that very much 🙂

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Psychology Consultant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKE USE OF TRANSITION RITUALS IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS, SPORTS ENDEAVORS, AND IN LIFE!!

Image taken from Williamhenry.net

Image taken from Williamhenry.net

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I work with individuals, couples, families, and high school, collegiate, and professional athletes.  I’ve often noticed in my practice that my clients don’t incorporate Transition Rituals into their daily lives;  In turn, their relationships and sports performances suffer.  I don’t begrudge my clients for not doing so, however.  I believe that they don’t make use of Transition Rituals because they don’t know what they are.  In light of this, I’d like to  take a moment to share with you what Transition Rituals are in the first place.

Transition rituals are periods of time that are carved out by someone for the  purpose of changing their psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual state.  In addition, transition rituals are intended  to help people access different parts of their personality.  They’re most effective when they’re done with with intention, purpose, and mindfulness.  When we engage in a transition ritual while feeling distracted and not fully present, they fail to assist us in any meaningful way. Take, for example, the morning Transition Ritual of getting out of bed, showering, brushing your teeth, and putting on your dress clothes. If these acts are done mindlessly and/or unconsciously,  they will fail to assist us in preparing ourselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the day ahead.

Mild mannered Clark Kent, on the other hand, created a Transition Ritual that worked wonders for him, and he did so with conscious intention and purpose. In times of crisis, he would  ritually duck into a telephone booth or stock room to make his transformation into Superman.  As the Superman franchise evolved over the years, his new Transition Ritual involved quickly entering into a revolving door, spinning through it at incredible speeds while changing his clothes, and emerging moments later as Superman, donning a red cape while having access to superhuman strength and superhero powers so that he could go about saving the world one crisis at a time.

We can all use Transition Rituals in our daily lives to change our state and/or to access different parts of our personality.  Take, for example, the lives of a police officer, a family therapist, and a professional Mixed Martial Artist:

If an authoritarian police officer does not engage in a Transition Ritual before he comes home to greet his wife and children, for example, he’s likely to bring the same stoic, law-abiding, inflexible mentality home with him, which would in turn cause his wife and children to want to withdraw from him;  If a Marriage and Family Therapist doesn’t engage in a Transition Ritual after a long day of working with clients, he or she may be prone to offering unsolicited advice to family and friends at home and elsewhere;  If a professional Mixed Martial Artist doesn’t  engage in a transition Ritual before leaving the gym, he may bring his warrior energy and gladiatorial spirit to the outside world and energetically intimidate people and push them away.

Alas, if only the aforementioned professionals incorporated transition rituals into their lives!!  They would be able to then to switch gears, change states, and welcome in parts of their personalities that would enable them to show up in their relationships, sports, and lives in ways that would better support their deepest needs and wants.  The beautiful thing about Transition rituals is that they are often easy, effortless, and enjoyable.  Transition rituals include carving out time before or after work to do yoga, take the dog for a walk, read the Bible, go for a run, and engage in diaphragmatic breathing exercises; People can also choose instead to listen to calming or energizing music, listen to hypnosis CD’s, engage in progressive muscle relaxation exercises, take a soothing walk on the beach, meditate, engage in mindfulness exercises, and/or engage in visualization exercises; Sometimes  transition rituals include taking a warm, bubble bath, getting a massage, or calling a really good friend on your way home from work for some laughs.

I always encourage my clients to come up with and routinely engage in transition rituals that they resonate with the most.  In addition, I remind them to engage in their transition ritual with intention and purpose.  As for me, I currently engage in many transition rituals that help me a lot both personally and professionally.  In my co-ed Personal Growth Group, for example, I use a Tibetan singing bowl at the beginning and end of each group therapy session to create a calming sound that is intended to signal to the group members that they have now entered into a sacred space, or sanctuary, within my office that is separate and apart from the noisy outside world they’ve just left behind.  In my Men’s group, I burn sage 10 minutes prior to the beginning of each group session, and I ask them to participate in a smudging ritual that is intended to cleanse them of any thoughts or feelings that would otherwise make it difficult for them to be fully present during our time together;  Because our minds use and respond to symbolism, the men in our group  find this transition ritual to be very effective in helping them to be fully present and in touch with their hearts.

If you find yourself living unconsciously from moment to moment and day to day, then I’d like to strongly encourage you to partake in a transition ritual(s) that will help you to switch gears, access different states, and summon the parts of your personality that will serve you best in the countless realms of your life;  Do so with intention and a clear sense of purpose, and do so routinely so that you can show up consistently in your relationships, sports, and life in ways that will serve your highest good and help you achieve your desired outcomes. As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Performance Consultant, I would also like you to kindly note that I would be very happy to sit down with you in person to co-create a transition ritual(s) that you can incorporate into your daily life for the purpose of dramatically improving it!!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog!!  I sincerely hope that you found it be interesting and informative.

John Boesky, LMFT/Sports Performance Consultant

 

 

 

 

BECOME THE WATCHER AND REALIZE YOUR FULL POTENTIAL

human soul

image taken from squidoo.com

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I used to hear spiritually inclined people say that we are “spiritual beings having human experiences” with skepticism and a touch of cynicism too.  I was more secular then, and I was convinced that I was defined by my mind, my body, and my emotions.  Heck, it was the world renown philosopher, Descartes, who once said, ” I think, therefore I am.”

Time and exposure to new thoughts about who we are as people have changed my perspective quite a lot over the last few years, though.  After reading  Tolle’s  The Power of Now, and after chatting with several mentors of mine, it’s dawned on me that we are not our minds, bodies, or emotions after all.  Our Egoic minds, for example,  are actually quite primitive,  and they’re prone to cognitive distortions, storytelling, generalizing, black and white thinking, and propagating lies.  This is how come Zen masters call our minds “Monkey Minds”, because they’re prone to making messes and creating chaos.  Our Monkey Minds are trouble makers, and they often spew out lies about ourselves and others that damage our self-esteem and create disconnection with others.

If we were really our minds, then how come we’re able to step back from our thoughts and examine them, challenge them, explore them, etc.  In addition, how come we can go about changing our minds and still remain who we are.  No, we are not our minds nor are we our thoughts.  Our minds ( when they’re functioning optimally) are merely powerful tools that we can use to problem solve,  make good decisions, etc.

In addition to not being our minds, we are also not our bodies.  If you take our legs away, for example, we still exist, don’t we?  There have even been people who have literally flat lined and died on hospital gurneys who have come back to life hours later able to recall everything that took place in the operating room during and after they were declared dead.  These people generally say that while they were dead they took on spiritual forms and were able to watch their lifeless bodies and hear what the doctors and nurses were saying to each as they were being pronounced dead. In light of these happenings, it’s become clear to me that we are not our bodies either.  Like our minds, our bodies are tools as well.  They help us to move, play, etc.

Finally, we are not our emotions and their accompanying sensations.  This is because our emotions always have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We don’t vanish or perish when one of our emotions dissipates and goes away.  In addition, how can we be our emotions if we’re able to step back from them  and watch our emotions with curiosity, awe, and wonder.  This is precisely what people do when they practice mindfulness and meditation.  They notice their emotions and observe them.  Sometimes the feelings intensify, and sometimes they soften and fade away. Emotions, like our minds and bodies, can serve as useful tools as well.

Instead, we are the Watcher that peacefully resides in each and every one of us.  The Watcher has many names. It has been called our Soul, our Essence, our CEO, our King or Queen, our Highest Self, our Light, etc.  The Watcher has also been described as being timeless, perfect, whole, and complete.

When the Watcher in us is in a resourceful state, brimming over with compassion, unconditional love, and unconditional acceptance  for ourselves and others, it is able to access the deepest truths that we hold about ourselves.  Some say that the Watcher is receiving our deepest truths from a Higher Power, the Universe, the Super Conscious, the Source from which all life comes, or from God himself.

Others who are less spiritually inclined might say that the Watcher represents the Essence of who we truly are deep inside:  Inherently good, wise, forgiving, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving and  accepting, intuitive, and discerning.  For them, the Watcher is able to see things as they truly are.  If their more primitive Egoic minds trick them into believing, for example, that they’re unlovable or inadequate, the Watcher in them knows better and can remind them of their deeper truths:  They’re deeply lovable and very worthwhile.

If you tend to get swept away by your thoughts and get overwhelmed by the lies that your Monkey Mind is relaying to you,  it’s high time that you learn how to access the Watcher inside of you and get in touch with the deepest truths about you really are.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have a specific experiential exercise that I teach my clients that helps them to effortlessly tune out the lies that are being propagated by their minds.  In addition, my clients are able to worry less and less about their body image and their bodily aches and pains.  Finally, my clients rarely feel  paralyzed by their emotions, and they no longer feel as though they are drowning inside of them.

My Deepest Truth Exercise is very powerful and life-changing.  Last night, for example, in my Men’s group, a man originally heard his Egoic mind tell him that he’s unlovable, and by the time the group exercise was over, tears welled up in his eyes as he  shared with the rest of us that his deepest truth is that he’s lovable, a great father, and a great friend.  A week ago, a woman in my co-ed group originally received the false message from her Egoic mind that she is invisible, and that no one cares to know who she truly is.  After accessing the Watcher and listening for her deepest truth, she shared with the men and women in our group that her deepest truth is that many people do see her and appreciate her.  In particular, she told us that people often share with her that they see how much she cares about others, and they really appreciate how big a heart she’s got.

If you want to learn how to access the Watcher, become acquainted with the deepest truths of who you really are, and realize your full potential, please call me or email me to arrange a time to meet with me in person.  In the meantime,  kindly remember:  You are not your mind, body, or emotions.  Instead, you are the Watcher, the Soul, the CEO, the King or Queen, and/or the Light that resides within you.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post.  I hope that you found it thought-provoking and helpful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT

 

About John Boesky

View all posts by John Boesky →

 

 

WHAT SEPERATES THE BEST ATHLETES FROM THE REST

What Seperates The Best From The Rest

image taken from www.vibe.com

image taken from www.vibe.com

Athletes who excel in sports generally love the process that they must go through in order to achieve excellence in their chosen sport. This process includes growing mentally, physically, and spiritually. Although they prefer winning over losing, they value performing up to their potential and competing against the very best even more. Given this, these elite athletes tend to be more process-oriented and performance-oriented rather than outcome-oriented.

When they feel anxious before a competition, they choose to interpret their anxiety as excitement instead. They believe that the excitement that they’re feeling is their bodies’ way of awakening their senses so that they feel alert and prepared for the battle ahead. They also recognize that feeling excited before a competition is normal.

When they feel fear before a competition, they recognize that this feeling is perfectly normal too. They recognize that being fearless doesn’t mean being without fear. It means showing up and doing your best even when you are feeling afraid. In addition to understanding this fundamental truth, elite athletes recognize that their fear is merely their unconscious’ way of trying to keep their ego and self-identity intact. With this in mind, they choose to acknowledge their fear and thank it for trying to love and protect them. Feeling acknowledged and appreciated, their fear subsides and goes away.

When elite athletes lose, they take their losses or setbacks as opportunities for self-reflection, growth, and improvement. They believe that there is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. This belief enables them to take positive lessons away from their losses, which in turn helps them to release any residual negative feelings they’re holding onto inside.

These athletes also engage in pre-performance rituals before competition that help them to feel calm, centered and focused. For example, they’ll pack water bottles in their equipment bags, an extra set of clothes, protein bars, etc. They do this to avoid feeling discombobulated when they show up to compete. They want to feel instead that everything is in order, and this perception in turn enables them to feel calm and focused only on their performance.

The top athletes also engage in rituals, habits, and strategies while they are competing that enable them to achieve great results over and over again across time. For example, some professional tennis players will do the following ritual in the same sequence each and every time they go the line to serve: First they’ll take a deep breath in from their diaphragm to release the tension they feel in their bodies. Next they’ll picture where they want their serve to go, and they’ll imagine it landing in that exact spot. After that, they’ll bounce the ball three times. At this point, their ritual has been completed, and they toss the ball up in the air and serve.

Finally, the best athletes engage in rituals after competition. Some may stretch, while others may take a cold bath to reduce the inflammation in their joints and muscles. There are others that prefer to spend their time after competing journaling on what they did really well, and they’ll also make note of what they’d like to work on more in practice. These kinds of rituals and routines following competition give these athletes a sense of closure after a long day of competing. They also offer their bodies a chance to recover, and they give their minds a chance to reflect as well as learn and grow from their experiences.

In addition to incorporating rituals into their athletic performances, the best athletes also masterfully access their ideal, peak performance states whenever they want to. Some athletes, for example, choose to get into calm, relaxed states before and during competition, while others choose to feel confident, aggressive, and unstoppable.

They access their desired states by calling on specific auditory, visual, kinesthetic, gustatory, and/or olfactory stimuli that trigger neurologically linked internal feeling states . Some MMA fighters, for example, will deliberately play their favorite rock songs in their heads before or during a fight in order to feel pumped up, powerful, and unstoppable. Some other fighters might choose to picture their children waiting for them at home, and this image unleashes in them the animalistic desire to fight for their physical safety and financial security.

One state that top athletes choose to access a lot when they’re competing is the state of being totally present in the here and now. They forget about the mistakes that they’ve made before, and they choose instead to focus their attention only on the present moment.

They’re able to let go of past mistakes so quickly because they understand that experiencing ups and downs and going through troubled waters are intrinsic parts of the process of achieving excellence. Having made peace with this reality, they learn to become comfortable being uncomfortable, and they learn how to adjust, adapt, and compensate on off days.

Speaking of off days, when they happen top athletes stop the accompanying negative thoughts in their heads dead in their tracks. They’ll use mental imagery or some other technique to acknowledge them and then let them go, and they’ll immediately replace them with positive thoughts, uplifting affirmations, and empowering incantations. In turn, these athletes remain clear-headed, focused, and determined even when the chips seem down. For them, the chips are down only for the moment, and they believe that they’re going to grab the momentum right back.

In addition to monitoring their minds, the best athletes also pay close attention to their bodies. They see to it that their body language remains positive at all times because they understand that just as their body language is influenced by the talk that is going on in their heads, the talk in their heads is influenced by how they carry themselves in their bodies. In other words, they understand that their psychology and their physiology are inter-related and feed off of each other. If they’re shoulders are slumped, for example, they’re likely to start having negative thoughts. If they smile and stand tall, however, they’re likely to think positively about the challenges they’re facing.

In addition to managing their minds and bodies, great athletes also manage their ego’s desire to control everything when they’re competing. They focus instead on controlling what they can, and they let go of their wish to control what they cannot. For example, they realize that sometimes they cannot control the outcome of a game, match, fight, etc. If a basketball team is shooting lights out from half court all night long, for example, there’s little that the opposing team can do about it. If a boxing referee is biased and intends on giving his decision to one fighter over another regardless of what goes on inside of the ring, there’s little that the unfairly treated fighter can do about it unless he scores a knockout. Finally, if a tennis player hears garbage trucks making loud, thumping noises adjacent to the court he’s playing on, there’s not much that he can do about that either.

The best athletes realize that all that they can really do is focus on the things that are within their control, such as their mental and physical preparation, their attitude, their effort level, their focus, their game plan, and their execution of that game plan. By keeping things simple and focusing on only what’s within their control, these athletes feel more at ease than peers who futile try to control the uncontrollable. Consequently, they perform better and play up to their potential far more often.

Elite athletes are also known to consistently train very hard, and they keep their focus and effort level during practice the same as they do on the day of competition. As a result, they develop great mental and physical habits that enable them to perform well on game day. Because they’re in tip-top mental and physical shape, the day of competition feels comparatively easy and effortless to them. They’ve prepared for the worst, and now they have an opportunity to perform at their best.

Moreover, because the perceived demands of competition are balanced by their perceived capabilities, they’re more likely to feel very relaxed and confident going into competition. These athletes may even experience a state of optimal arousal, often referred to as the “zone” or the “flow”. In this state, everything appears to go smoothly and effortlessly for them. They’re totally absorbed in the moment, and they play with relaxed concentration, controlled intensity, and clarity of thought.

Almost all athletes have strengths in their games as well as weaknesses. Average athletes, though, tend to fall in love with their strengths, and they tend to turn a blind eye to their weaknesses. They figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Since they’ve been winning more often than losing, they figure that they should just stay the course.

Elite athletes, on the other hand, are not content having glaring holes in their games. They are always striving to improve and become more well rounded, and in this vein they regularly dedicate some of their practice time to improving on their weaknesses. Take Tiger Woods, for example. Even though he’s already won 14 major golf tournaments, he still works tirelessly on improving his golf swing. Another athlete who works tirelessly on his weaknesses is Rafael Nadal, the world’s number one tennis player and winner of 9 Majors. Even though Nadal has already accomplished so much in his young tennis career, he has recently improved his volleys, added power to his backhand, and added 15 miles per hour to his serve!!

Even though the top athletes generally rely more on their weapons and strengths on game day, they’re also more willing than others to put them aside for awhile when they’re not working. They focus their attention instead on what is working for them. For example, when great baseline tennis players are hitting errant ground-strokes but are serving and volleying well, they’ll stick with serving and volleying for awhile. This gives them confidence, and this confidence gives every facet of their game a pick-me-up. Soon, the baseline shots that they were missing start landing inside of the lines.