Category Archives: SELF IMAGE

Human Needs

Image taken from everydaylifeandhappyiness.com

Image taken from everydaylifeandhappyiness.com

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was a famous American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.  He believed that there are  fundamental needs that everyone has in common, and all behavior is simply an attempt to meet these six needs. These needs explain how come  human beings do the things they do;  they are the underlying forces that drive and shape all of our emotions, actions, qualities of life, and ultimately, our destinies.  According the Maslow, these fundamental human needs include the following:

Image taken from glosgster,com

Image taken from glosgster.com

1.Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.

2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.

3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.  * Please note that while we all have a need for love and belonging that comes from our community and relationships, we must also love ourselves first and foremost, and we must come to realize that our sense of belonging resides in us; we belong to ourselves, the universe, and if you’re spiritual or religious, you’ll come to realize that you belong to a higher power or God as well.  Our house of belonging resides within us.

4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.

5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.

6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.

7. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Although we are all, theoretically, capable of self-actualizing, most of us will not do so, or only to a limited degree.  Maslow (1970) estimated that only two percent of people will reach the state of self actualization. He was particularly interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as persons.  By studying 18 people he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein) Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.

Characteristics of self-actualizers:

1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty; As a marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, Certified Dharma Life Coach, Sports Psychology Consultant, I believe that this characteristic is very similar to a person’s ability to master the art of achieving a state of equanimity even in the midst of life’s unforeseen viscissitudes, trials, and tribulations.

2. Accept themselves and others for what they are; They do not reject parts of themselves or others that they do not like. Instead, they compassionately improve on the parts of themselves they do do not like and understand, feel empathy for, and even forgive other’s limitations.

3. Spontaneous in thought and action;

4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);

5. Unusual sense of humor;

6. Able to look at life objectively;

7. Highly creative; Self-Actualizers choose to think outside of the box. In fact, they are often visionaries and innovators.

8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional; In other words, they are willing to individuate from their family of origin and separate themselves from the “trance of unworthiness” that is so pervasive in our culture and discover and embrace the truth of who they truly are.

9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity; they choose to be of service to others,and they deliberately provide the stepping stones that benefit other people’s lives.

10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;

11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;

12. Peak experiences; Instead of avoiding pain, they turn toward having enriching, peak life experiences that bring immense pleasure to their lives.

13. Need for privacy;

14. Democratic attitudes; They believe in the principle of fairness, and they understand the Law of Requisite Variety, which states that the person who with the most flexibility of mind, heart, spirit,and behavior cultivates an aura of moral ( not to be mistaken with formal) authority.  In addition, they believe in creating win-win agreements with others.

15. Strong moral/ethical standards.  In turn, they create a list of their highest values and guiding principles and their actions consistently align with them.

16. *I believe that self-actualizers have an internal unity of mind, body, heart, and spirit governed by their conscience; You cannot have peace of mind without peace of conscience

17. *I also believe that self-actualizers subordinate their impulses, moods, and emotions and choose instead to align their actions with their highest values, guiding principles, and Universal Laws.

19  *As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve come to believe that self-actualizers are great listeners; they seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Behaviors leading to self-actualization:

(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;

(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;

(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;

(d) Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest;

(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;

(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;

(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

The characteristics of self-actualizers and the behaviors leading to self-actualization are shown in the list above.  Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share in common many of these characteristics.

With the aforementioned in mind, it is important to recognize that  self-actualization is a matter of degree: ‘There are no perfect human beings.’ The growth of self-actualization (Maslow, 1962) refers to the need for discovery, fulfillment, and personal and interpersonal transformation through personal growth that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms.  In regards to self-actualization, a person comes to find a meaning to life that is important to them.  It is not necessary to display all 19 of these characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them.  Thus someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize!!

As each person is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions (Kenrick et al., 2010). For some people, self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art, writing, painting pictures, and inventing;  for others self-actualization is attained through sport, in the classroom, within a corporate setting, being a loving and nurturing Mother or Father, developing extraordinary emotional intelligence, etc.

8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self actualization.  * In my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist, NLP Practitioner, Dharma Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I wholeheartedly agree with Maslow that that helping and being of service to others includes helping them to find their own voice, being of service to them in a time of need, affirming them, and continuously reflecting back to them with such unwavering resolve, force, intensity and conviction your belief in their intrinsic value and potential that they come to see it in themselves.  Other self-transcendent acts include securing freedom for others, participating in organizations or causes that create paradigm shifts in governments, challenging and transforming antiquated local or international institutions that undermine the highest good of those they claim to serve, etc.  A person’s spiritual need for self-transcendence echoes the sentiments shared in the following quote by an anonymous source:

” I sought my God, and my God I could not find, I sought my Soul, and my Soul eluded me, I sought my Brother to serve him in his need, and I found all three; my God, my Soul and Thee.”

Although Abraham Maslow passed away in 1970, it is worth noting that knowledgeable Marriage and Family Therapists, Psychologists, Master NLP Practitioners, Certified Hypnotherapists, and Sports Psychologists agree that his Hierarchy of Human Needs are on point.  While human beings likely have more fundamental needs that he may have overlooked at the time, his list accurately contains the bulk of them.  In recent years, other people in the healing fields have shared many of Maslow’s fundamental human needs and added to them or simplified them so that people can benefit from understanding what these needs are.  As a matter of fact, world famous Life Coach Tony Robbins has recently reduced Maslow’s list of human needs  6 that he believes are most fundamental to all people.  I’ve personally found his abridged list illuminating, and I hope that you will too.

Image taken from businessinsider.comn

Image taken from businessinsider.com

According to Tony Robbins, The Six Human Needs include the following:

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, Dharma Life Coach, and Sports Psychology Consultant, please note that looking for significance outside of yourself too much can lead to an unhealthy dependence on other people’s perceptions, judgements, and validation of you.  While our need for significance is real, I believe it is even more important to love and validate yourself, and it is imperative that you wholeheartedly know and trust that you are already intrinsically worthwhile, loveable, and significant in and of yourself.  This paradigm will spare you the emotional and psychological ups and downs that come with or without outside  praise and criticism.  I believe that if you don’t feel like you’re enough without it, you’ll never feel like you’re enough with it.

4. Connection/Love/Belonging: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something.

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding.

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to, and supporting others.

According to Tony Robbins, theses 6 fundamental needs and/or drives are encoded in our nervous system. The means by which people meet these six human needs are unlimited. For example, one of the six human needs is the desire for certainty so that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure (i.e. comfort). Some people might pursue this need by striving to control all aspects of their lives, while others obtain certainty by giving up control and adopting a philosophy of faith. Variety often contributes to us feeling alive, stimulated,  and engaged. Then there’s the desire for significance—a belief that one’s life has meaning and importance. Some individuals will pursue this need by competing with others, or by destroying and tearing down those around them. Others may strive to fulfill this need by working synergistically with other people, doing a great job at work, being a nurturing and loving son or daughter, sibling, or Mother or Father. People who are looking to fulfill their need for connection, love, and belonging will choose to cultivate deep, meaningful friendships, join a church or synagogue, participate in a Men’s or Women’s group, adopt a loving puppy, etc.

I believe that what drives our endeavors to meet our fundamental human needs is our penultimate drive for a sense of fulfillment in our lives; we all have a need to experience a life of meaning. Although the first 4 needs that Tony Robbins addresses are incredibly important for us to nurture, our need and yearning for fulfillment can only be achieved through a pattern of living in which we focus on the two spiritual needs: 1) the need to continuously grow; and 2) the need to contribute beyond ourselves in a meaningful way. Most dysfunctional behaviors arise from the inability to consistently meet these needs. When our attempts to reach fulfillment fail, we will settle for comfort—or for meeting our needs on a small scale. I want to take this moment to invite you to look to replace any dis-empowering ways of meeting your needs with things that empower and support you and others. I sincerely believe that understanding your needs, and which ones you are trying to meet in any given moment, will help you create new patterns that lead to you to living a life brimming over with a sense of lasting fulfillment.

With this in mind, I want to encourage you to take a moment and develop your Peak Performance Action Plan and reflect on the following questions:

1. Which of these six needs do you tend to focus on or value the most?

2. What are the ways (good and bad) you meet these needs? For example, in your relationships, work, eating, exercise, etc.?

3. How can you increase your focus on growth and contribution? What are some things you can do, or new experiences you can participate in?

I hope and trust that after you’ve answered these questions, you will feel more self-aware, more enlightened as to what needs you’re predominantly focused on meeting, and newly inspired to take action that will support your own personal growth as well contribute to the well being of others!!

Thank you for taking your time to read my most recent blog; I hope and trust that you found it informative, illuminating, and inspirational.

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/Master NLP Practitioner/ Dharma Life Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist & Sports Psychology Consultant

 

Hypnotherapy: How it Works-And No,It Won’t Make You Cluck Like A Chicken!!

HYPNOTHERAPY

Image from galleryhip.com

Image from galleryhip.com

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Dharma Life Coach, Sports Psychology Consultant, and Certified Hypnotherapist, I want to take a moment and share with you how hypnotherapy works, and how come it is so useful in empowering my clients to make positive changes in their behavior, adopt new and empowering belief systems, develop new strategies to substantially improve the quality of their lives, assist them in aligning their actions with their core values and guiding principles, etc.  However, before I share with you the benefits that come from hypnotherapy, I want to shed light for you on what hypnosis is and what hypnosis is not.

First and foremost, I want to assure you that hypnosis is not a state of being asleep or unconscious; this notion is patently false.  In addition, seeking out hypnosis or hypnotherapy doesn’t mean that you’re gullible, weak-minded, at the mercy of being controlled by someone else, vulnerable to revealing secrets about yourself or someone else, or that you’ll experience a loss of self-control of some kind.   On the contrary of what some people mistakenly believe about hypnosis, the process of hypnotherapy merely helps you experience a state of relaxation and effortless concentration in which you are awake, in rapport with your unconscious mind, in total control, and have greater access to your active imagination and independent will, wisdom,  and treasure trove of internal resources.  As you are experiencing hypnosis, you are always capable of making decisions at all times.   You are aware of everything while being hypnotised , and you can choose to welcome positive suggestions into your unconscious mind or reject them out of hand if you feel that they won’t serve you.  The bottom line is that you are the engine, and I am merely the steering wheel.   Let me demonstrate to you what hypnosis really feels like:  Kindly close your eyes and pause for 5 seconds. That’s it, it feels just like that!!

The truth is, everything is hypnosis.  Waking forms of hypnosis include television, radio advertisements, self-talk, reading, daydreaming, listening to your I-Pod, mental and emotional rehearsal, visualization, and meditation.  All of these activities put us in altered states and open us up to good and bad suggestions about ourselves, our lives, and the world we live in.  Thought-provoking questions, too, can help us change states and drop down into our unconscious minds and arrive at deeper truths about ourselves, our purpose, our mission, and our destiny.  Hypnotherapists would say these questions and the subsequent search for answers that lie beneath your conscious mind in the pool of your unconscious mind a “Transderivational Search.” TDS is a compelling, automatic and unconscious state of internal focus and processing.

Even seemingly mundane things make hypnotic deposits into our unconscious mind like what your potential new boyfriend or girlfriend’s clothing attire is like, the type of car that he or she drives, the kind of furniture he or she has in her home, the metaphorical paintings hung up on his or her wall, or the spiritual or religious symbols placed on his or her or desk provide you indirect, unconscious suggestions about his or her successes, financial situation, and core values and belief systems.

Hypnosis is a collaboration between therapist and client, and it is designed to amplify your abilities, increase your personal control, offer your solutions and opportunities for self-healing, harness your resources to create what you truly want, change old memories so that the ones that you’ve replaced them with support and empower you, change your state, help you to feel how you want to feel, increase your self-esteem,  de-couple or unlink old, Neuro- associations, adopt more adaptive behaviors, acquire self-empowering belief systems, decide on your highest values and guiding principles, help you to respond to situations instead of react to them, provide you new strategies to manage your life on your terms, embrace healthier habits, activate the Law of Attraction, and consistently achieve specific and desired outcomes.

In order for Hypnosis to work most effectively, it’s important that you and I help you enter into an altered state of consciousness in which you feel relaxed so that there is a quieting of your conscious mind and a softening of your psychic defenses so that you are responsive to my positive suggestions. As a Certified hypnotherapist, it is my job to easily and effortlessly help you to enter into an Apha or Theta electromagnetic brain-wave state ( altered states) to help you achieve your desired outcomes. These are two of the 4 different frequencies of electromagnetic brainwaves that provide us our state of ‘consciousness.’

Before I share with you how I do this, I want to briefly share with you a little bit about these two brainwave states.  The Alpha state is a relaxed state.  You are able to access creativity, rest, reflection,  and visualization.  Theta state is a deeper state of relaxation that enhances mental processes; this is a common state of meditation, daydreaming, being creative, accessing memories, learning, and adopting more adaptive, empowering beliefs about yourself, relationships, and the world at large.  You experience theta as you fall asleep and wake up every day.  In light of our relaxed, open, and receptive state of consciousness when we’re in Alpha and Theta states, they are the optimal states for clients seeking to benefit from hypnosis. In these relaxed states, we have far more access to the treasure trove of resources and pearls of wisdom that are already housed inside of our unconscious minds.

To support you in getting into an Alpha or Theta state, I use a variety of techniques, including using a hypnotic induction script that you can simply Google and find, use hypnotic language and phrasing, state-deepening techniques, engage  your imagination, use powerful imagery, use metaphors, use symbols, engage your senses, tell you stories,  allow for silences and deliberate pauses to elapse as I speak, ask you thought-provoking questions, rely on quotes from famous people, and use my voice as an instrument that has a deep, low, rhythmic, and repetitious tone and timbre.  The reality is that what I say is not nearly as important as how I say it!!

So far, I’ve shared with you what hypnosis is and what it isn’t.  I’ve also shared with you that it’s a collaborative endeavor between you, my client, and me, your therapist, and it is designed (among other things) to put you in a state of relaxation so that you are able to amplify your abilities, adopt new belief systems, and help you to access resources that are already inside of you realize more of your fullest potential and be the creative force in your own life.  Now, I’d like to share with you how I facilitate a collaborative hypnotherapy session that will yield the results that you’re looking for.

Although there are many ways to facilitate a hypnotherapy session, my favorite is co-creating a script with my client whereupon I ask him or her specific questions to help them attain their desired outcomes.  For example, I’ll ask him or her some of the following questions:  1)What is your desired outcome?  2)  How would you like to behave, act, and respond to whatever old challenges you’re facing starting today and going forward?  3) How would you like to feel?  4)  What sensations would you like to feel in your body?  5) What images or metaphors come up that accurately reflect the challenge that you’re facing?  6) What image or metaphor reflects how you’re overcoming your current challenge successfully?  7)  What would you like to believe about yourself as you’re overcoming this challenge and adopting new behaviors, letting go of old memories, vanquishing parts of you that may be sabotaging you, etc? 8)  How come overcoming this challenge is valuable and important to you?  9)  What are the rewards that you’ll gain by overcoming this challenge?  10)  How would you like your body language to be today and going forward?  11)  What resources must you remember to access that’s already inside of you to overcome this challenge?  12)  How will you know when you have accomplished your goal?  13)  How will your life improve when you’ have attained your stated goal?  After writing down my client’s answers to these questions, I now have a script that I can use to reflect back to my client precisely what they have shared with me and want to hear reflected back to them in order to plant the seeds for transformation in their unconscious minds.

Although there are many ways to do hypnosis, I prefer co-creating a hypnotherapy script with my clients.  Therefore, After my client and I have co-created a Hypnosis script together, I begin the process of helping them enter into a state of deep relaxation so that they are vastly more receptive to the positive suggestions that I will deposit into their unconscious minds now that their psychic defenses are down.  As my client is feeling more and more relaxed, I use my voice, hypnotic language, questions, embedded commands, metaphors, symbols, stories, imagery, and other techniques to deeply ingrain in them the new behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and feelings that they want to incorporate in their day-to-day lives.  I only use words that are positive because negative words are rejected by the unconscious mind.  I also am mindful to make my positive suggestions as detailed and specific as possible from my client’s perspective and/or map of the world.  Sometimes, however, I’m purposefully vague so that my clients can pool from their unconscious minds additional behaviors, empowering belief systems, guiding principles, and other resources that they didn’t have access to as we were co-creating our hypnosis script together.

As I facilitate hypnosis with my clients,  I’m also sure to make positive suggestions that are realistic, achievable, and believe-able to them.  In addition, I choose to be repetitive with my positive suggestions because this ingrains in them new conditioned behaviors and responses.  As Tony Robbins often says, “Repetition is the Mother of all skill.”  In addition, repetition aligns with the principles behind the Law of Concentrated Attention.  This law states that when our concentration and attention is subjected to repetition, we are far more likely to act on it.  Television commercials, for example, apply the principles behind the Law of Concentrated attention to compel you to go out and buy what they’re marketing to you. When the same commercial comes on 5 times throughout a one hour television show, we are far more likely to feel compelled to buy whatever the commercial is marketing to us  the next time that we see it in a grocery store, on-line, etc.

In addition to using repetition and ensuring that my client’s goals are realistic and achievable, I am careful to speak in the present tense to them as I facilitate their hypnotherapy.  Instead of saying to them, “You will be,”, I will say to them instead, ” You already are.”   Mind you, this present-tense approach is not a form of self-deception; it is a form of self-direction.  I am also mindful to pair positive emotions with the positive suggestions that they are longing to hear.  For example, instead of saying, ” You are finding your voice with your boss,”, I will say, ” You are courageously and delightfully finding your voice with your boss.”  Furthermore, I address my client’s relationship with themselves, their relationships with the people in their lives, and their relationship with the world at large.  In other words, I focus on my client’s values, behaviors, responses, emotions, belief systems, etc.  It serves no purpose to say, ” Your husband treats you with respect” or ” The audience is loving you,” because how others behave is outside of my client’s control.

In conclusion, the reason that Hypnosis is such a powerful therapeutic tool is because the unconscious mind responds to experiential communication,is capable of symbolic interpretation, and responds to metaphors, symbols, stories, etc. In addition, hypnosis offers therapists and clients alike a way to access the treasure trove or resources and library of wisdom that is housed there.  In turn, hypnotherapy facilitates personal empowerment, allows clients to access illuminating insights, sharpens their intuition, and helps them to integrate and/or incorporate new paradigms, states, values, belief systems, behaviors, and much, much more so that they experience positive shifts and changes in their lives sooner than later.

Although Hypnotherapy isn’t a silver bullet that puts to rest whatever challenges you’re facing, it’s a powerful therapeutic technique never the less that is specifically designed to contribute to your personal growth and assist you in realizing your greatest potential.  As a Certified Hypnotherapist, I’ve been delighted to find that it’s a safe, collaborative endeavor, and it’s one that I highly encourage you to use to support yourself in achieving your goals and desired outcomes!!  As a matter of fact, I personally create Hypnotherapy scripts for myself, and I am happy to tell you that I’ve found them to be invaluable as I continue to grow and evolve.

I sincerely hope that you found my blog on how Hypnotherapy works informative and enlightening.

Warm regards to all of you~

John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist ( MFT)/ Certified Hypnotherapist

( Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Dharma Life Coach & Sports Psychology Consultant )

 

 

 

THE SIX-STAGE MODEL OF CHANGE

Image taken from narconon.ca

Image taken from narconon.ca

I recently read an article written by Mark S. Gold, MD, and he spoke about how change happens.  Just as there are stages of grief, there are stages of change.  In the beginning of his article, Mark notes that almost 20 years ago, two well-known alcoholism  researchers, Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska, introduced a six-stage model of change to help professionals understand their clients with addiction problems and motivate them to change. Their model is based on their personal observations of how people went about modifying problem behaviors such as smoking, overeating and problem drinking.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve used this six-stage model of change to help my clients assess where they are in terms of their readiness to stop all kinds of behaviors that keep them feeling stuck and out of integrity with their own values and out of alignment with their higher selves.  In addition, I’ve used this six-stage model to help my clients  find and maintain the motivation to stop whatever self-destructive habits, patterns, or behaviors are getting in their way and precluding them from  realizing their full potential and leading healthy and fulfilling lives.  In addition to using this six-stage model to help my clients with addiction issues, I’ve used this model to help couples decide if they’re sincerely interested in salvaging their marriage or not, men and women with anxiety and depression decide if they’re willing to take medication to address chemical imbalances in their brain, athletes decide if they truly want to make the sacrifices that will be required of them to become professional athletes and/or champions, men and women decide if they’re sincerely ready to give up extramarital affairs, codependent relationships, criminal behavior, etc.

The six stages of the model are:

  • precontemplation
  • contemplation
  • determination
  • action
  • maintenance
  • termination

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, it’s been incredibly helpful for me and my clients to understand their readiness to change by being familiar with the six-stage model of change. With this knowledge in hand, I  can help my clients make decisions that  that truly resonate with them in light of what stage of change they’re at.   Understanding where they are in terms of their readiness to stop self-destructive habits and behaviors  helps me to tailor how I approach our change work together, and it helps me to think of ways to motivate them to move away from what is familiar to what will serve their highest good.

Precontemplation

Individuals in the precontemplation stage of change are not even thinking about changing their self-destructive behaviors or freeing themselves from the quicksand that is making it feel impossible for them to make empowering decisions for their lives. They may not see their behaviors as problems, or they may think that others who point out their problems or paralysis are exaggerating.

There are many reasons to be in precontemplation, and Dr. DiClemente has referred to them as “the Four Rs” —reluctance, rebellion, resignation and rationalization:

  • Reluctant precontemplators are those who, through lack of knowledge or inertia, do not want to consider change. The impact of the problem has not become fully conscious.
  • Rebellious precontemplators have a heavy investment in their self-destructive behaviors, and they are  are hell bent on making their own decisions. They are resistant to being told what to do.
  • Resigned precontemplators have given up hope about the possibility of change and seem overwhelmed by the problem. Many have made many attempts already  to change their behaviors to no avail.  In turn, they feel defeated and destined to engage in their behaviors for the rest of their lives.
  • Rationalizing precontemplators have all the answers; they have plenty of reasons why their behaviors are not a problem, or why their behaviors may be  a problem for others but not for them.

Contemplation

Individuals in this stage of change are willing to consider the possibility that they have a problem or internal conflict, and the possibility offers hope for change. However, people who are contemplating change are often highly ambivalent. They are on the fence. Contemplation is not a commitment; it is not a decision to change. People at this stage are often quite interested in learning about change and transformation and what steps they must take to achieve them. They know that whatever habits and patterns they engage in are causing them  problems, and they often have a mental list of all the reasons that sticking with behaviors that are self-destructive or stop them from moving forward or in a different direction  is bad for them. But even with all these negatives, they still cannot make a decision to change.

In the contemplation stage, often with the help of a treatment professional like a Marriage and Family Therapist, life coach, Hypnotherapist, Master NLP Practitioner, or Sports Psychologist, these people make a risk-reward analysis. They consider the pros and cons of their behavior, and the pros and cons of change. They think about the previous attempts they have made to stop whatever behavior is keeping them stuck, and what has caused them failure in the past.

Determination: Commitment to Action

Deciding to stop self-destructive habits, patterns, and behaviors are the hallmark of this stage of change. All the weighing of pros and cons, all the risk-reward analysis, finally tips the balance in favor of change. Not all ambivalence has been resolved, but ambivalence no longer represents an insurmountable barrier to change. Most individuals in this stage will make a serious attempt to stop their self-destructive behaviors in the near future. Individuals in this stage appear to be ready and committed to action.

This stage represents preparation as much as determination. The next step in this stage is to make a realistic plan. Commitment to change without appropriate skills and activities can create a fragile and incomplete action plan. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I will help these individuals  make a realistic assessment of the level of difficulty involved in making new decisions and incorporating new behaviors into their lives. They will begin to mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually prepare for potential problems and pitfalls down the road, and they will come up with concrete strategies, resources, and solutions that will keep them moving forward toward achieving their goals.

 

Action: Implementing the Plan

Individuals in this stage of change put their plan into action. This stage typically involves making some form of public commitment to change their behavior or move toward their stated goal in order to get external confirmation of the plan. If they have not done so already, individuals in this stage may enter individual counseling, marital counseling, group therapy, outpatient treatment, attend AA meetings, or tell their family members and friends about their decision—or all of the above.

Making such public commitments not only helps people obtain the support they need to change, but it creates external monitors. People often find it very helpful to know that others are watching and cheering them on. In addition, such public commitments makes them accountable to those they’ve shared their intentions and goals with.

Nothing succeeds like success. A person who has implemented a good plan begins to see it work and experiences it working over time, making adjustments along the way. They reclaim sacred parts of their lives, and they develop hope and self-confidence as they continue to show up in ways that align with their highest selves.

Maintenance, Relapse and Recycling

The action stage normally takes three to six months to complete. Change requires building a new pattern of behavior and thinking over time. The real test of change is long-term sustained change over many years. This stage of successful change is called “maintenance.” In this stage, a new way of being with oneself, others, and the world is  firmly being established, and the threat of a return to old patterns becomes less intense and less frequent.

Individuals who have engaged in self-destructive patterns or paralysis by analysis may experience a strong temptation to fall back into old patterns from time to time. Sometimes relaxing their guard or “testing” themselves begins a slide back. I do my very best to successfully arm my clients at this stage of change with a variety of relapse prevention skills. They know where to find me, and they know where to get the support and resources they need elsewhere too.

People who relapse  back into old self-destructive behaviors learn from the relapse. The experience of relapsing and returning to new, healthier patterns of thinking and behaving  often strengthens a person’s determination and resolve to take right action in their lives going forward.

Termination

The ultimate goal in the change process is termination. At this stage, my clients no longer find that old, self-destructive behaviors tempt them; he  has complete confidence that he can thrive without fear of relapse.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article.  I hope that you have found it illuminating and helpful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky, LMFT/MNLP/CHT/Sports Psychology Consultant

 

Life After Sports: How To Successfully Make The Transition

The life of an elite athlete almost always requires of them to make extreme personal sacrifices in order to attain the fame, money, status, and glory that comes with reaching the pinnacle of their chosen sport.  When they arrive, though, athletes often feel as though the sacrifices were well worth it.  They’ve climbed the summit of Mt. Everest, and the view from up top is awe-inspiring.  In addition, they’ve had friends, family, and strangers alike cheering them along the way, giving them endless praise and adulation that makes them feel beloved, extraordinary, and special.  For these athletes, it’s impossible for them to imagine that their professional careers will come to a grinding halt one day, whether it is through age, injury or exhaustion.  Father time will make his presence known to all of them eventually.

Along the way, these athletes have trained extensively and rigorously for years, and their pursuit of greatness consumes the majority of their young lives.  For most of them, they’ve chosen to make financial sacrifices, moved away from their family and friends, cut romantic ties with people they’ve loved, given up on college and academic studies, etc.  They’ve come to believe that the ends will justify the means.  While this may be true for a very small group of elite athletes, the majority of athletes are simply ill-prepared for life after sports.  They simply never anticipated that the day when the buzz and adrenaline rush of competing would come to an end; they didn’t foresee that the limelight would grow dim and then dark and they would soon feel forgotten, empty, lost, and ill-equipped to thrive in a world that demands more than brawn, size, and amazing hand-eye coordination from its citizens.  They simply never imagined how the end of a sport’s career would induce dramatic changes in their personal, social, and occupational lives.  Like soldiers coming back from war, they too must transition back into society and reconstruct new lives and adjust themselves to a new life style.

Athletes that fail to prepare for life after their professional careers are over are often vulnerable to  feelings of anxiety, depression, and a despair that runs so deep that they even commit suicide.  They feel lost and rudderless, and they are also vulnerable to suffering from an identity crisis.  Take former tennis child prodigy and 3 time Grand Slam Champion Jennifer Capriati, for example.  When her career ended as a result of multiple injuries, she said, “When I stopped playing, that’s when all this came crumbling down.”  “If I don’t have tennis, who am I? What am I?  I was just alive because of this.  I’ve had to ask, well, who is Jennifer?  What if this is gone now?  I can’t live off of this the rest of my life.  I struggle with trying to like and love myself on a daily basis.”

image taken from tmottgogo.com

image taken from tmottgogo.com

Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard famously said, “Nothing could satisfy me outside the ring…There is nothing in life that can compare to becoming a world champion, having your hand raised in the moment of glory, with thousands, millions of people cheering you on.”  Not surprisingly, Leonard struggled in retirement, suffering from extreme bouts of depression and eventually making repeated comebacks that never amounted to much.

For some professional athletes, the pressure becomes all too encompassing, and over the years there have been a number of cases of athletes committing suicide following retirement from professional sport.  This includes the tragic story of Russian Judoka Elena Ivashchenko, who committed suicide following depression brought on by her failure to win gold at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Many people wonder out loud, “What leads retired professional athletes to spiral into depression after the rigorous training, pressure, competition, and glory days are behind them?”  Three answers come to mind.  First, professional athletes become overly identified with their role as elite athletes.  In turn, they become addicted to other’s recognition that they are physical specimens capable of achieving amazing feats in their chosen sport.  While they are in their athletic prime, they remain blissfully unaware that they have many other dimensions to their personality, much like a diamond has many facets to it.  As they become singularly focused on perfecting their role as an elite athlete, they’ve unwittingly allowed the other dimensions of their personality to atrophy.  When their playing days are done, they often feel emotionally or intellectually arrested; they don’t feel whole, well-rounded, and complete as human beings.  In turn, they often suffer from an identity issues or an identity crisis of some kind.

In addition to an athlete’s loss of identity, they often experience anxiety and depression after their professional career is over because they suffered from “Tunnel Vision Syndrome.”  They spent far too much time thinking only of training, competition, and results.  As they were competing, they were likely coddled and enabled to some degree by their handlers, so they didn’t have to acquire many of the basic life skills that their non-athlete counterparts did.  Without these skills, they aren’t prepared for the “real world” and they therefore miss out on countless career opportunities.  They’re no longer sure where to apply their focus, and they can no longer fill the void with the comfort that a rigorous training routine once gave them.

The third variable that may contribute to the anxiety and depression that professional athletes feel when their career is over may be due to biological factors.  It’s well known that exercise boosts serotonin in our brains, and serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for regulating our moods.  I imagine that when an athlete stops exercising, there may be a dramatic decrease in the serotonin levels in their brains, and they may consequently fall into a depression.  In addition to a decrease in serotonin, athletes may also experience a decrease in the amount of adrenaline and endorphins that pump through their brains after they stop exercising as often as they did before.

Fortunately, there are ways for elite athletes to reduce the chances of suffering anxiety or depression after they’ve retired from sports. Emma Vickers, who is currently taking an MSC in psychological well-being and mental health, noted that first and foremost, elite athletes must reduce their exclusive identification with their sports role and expand their self-identity to other parts of their personality as well as other pursuits.  I echo her sentiments.  Like her, I believe that elite athletes must   remember, for example that they are Mothers, Fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends as well.  In addition, they must be open to acquiring new skills and reinvent themselves as doctors, lawyers, businessmen, life coaches, etc.  When they pursue other careers with the same heart, soul, and dedication that they pursued their professional sports career, the chances are high that they will be very successful at whatever they choose to do.

As they discover interests and competencies for other activities that go beyond sports, they will realize that they are truly multifaceted and multidimensional beings.  I remember watching the famous snowboarder, Shawn White, give an interview after he failed to metal at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.  When he was asked what he planned on doing next with his life, he said that he was going to tour with his band and give a go at being a professional musician!!  Shawn White recalled how depressed and aimless he felt after he won the Gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Games, so he decided soon afterwards to become proficient at playing the guitar.  Apparently he’s a talented guitarist now, and he’s taking his band on the road to start an exciting new chapter in his life.

Photo taken from Rolling Stone Magazine

Photo taken from Rolling Stone Magazine

In addition to reducing their exclusive identification with their sports role and discovering new interests and competencies for awareness that extends beyond sports, I think it’s very important for former professional athletes to acquire stress management and time management skills.  Taking yoga classes, learning the art of mindfulness, practicing meditation, or hiring a life coach or Marriage and Family therapist are all great ways to achieve these skills.

Furthermore, I encourage professional athletes to maintain and/or cultivate strong relationships with their coaches, family members, friends, and managers who are sincerely interested in helping them to make their own personal growth a priority in their lives.  Even though elite athletes can be strong-willed and pride themselves on self-reliance, I strongly encourage them to allow others that they trust to support them in taking other avenues in life, keeping an open mind, and diversifying their sense of identity and expanding their sense of who they are and what they have to offer the world.

Finally, I would strongly encourage professional athletes to seek out the support and guidance of a Sports Psychologist to explore a wide range of adaptation techniques.  A Sports Psychologist can help an athlete to let go of their need to maintain the public’s perception of what they were when they were performing in their athletic prime.  A sports Psychologist can help them accept that they no longer have to be fitter, stronger, faster, and happier than everyone else; life doesn’t need to feel like a never-ending series of competitions.  They can cast aside their warrior mask and let go of any shame or embarrassment they feel around feeling vulnerable, and they can instead learn to embrace their own humanity.  They must come to realize that they are only human after all.

 

 

WHAT IS YOUR MISSION?

Image taken from elainefogel.net

Image taken from elainefogel.net

As a Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant, I’ve been privileged to work with men, women, couples, groups, and athletes. While some of my clients come to me with specific goals that they’d like to achieve in our work together, others come to me feeling rudderless and lost, and they have no goals to speak of;  They just know that they’re deeply unhappy in their lives.  Whether or not a client of mine knows what he’d like to get out of our work together or not, I’ve often found it to be very helpful to assist them in crafting a Mission Statement for themselves.

Crafting a Mission Statement is like creating a blueprint or road map for the kind of life they’d like to manifest for themselves.  A Mission Statement’s intention is to help my clients become deeply acquainted with his or her larger sense of purpose in their lives.  It’s a written guidepost, an affirmation, and a stated quest for how they want to live their lives in a way that openly expresses the deep joy, tenderness, wildness, and strength that they have within their bodies, minds, and souls.  Mission Statements often incorporate within it a client’s greatest gifts, his passions, and his highest values. Our Missions will evolve and change over time.  It is essentially the expression of a person’s deepest purpose in being alive IN THIS MOMENT, whatever it is.

In order to live our lives in ways that are in integrity with our Mission Statements, we must do the work to lift the shadows that block our light from shining in  and allowing us to give our greatest gifts to ourselves, to each other, and to the world that we live in.  Shadows that block our light include self-doubt, fear, guilt, unworthiness, weakness, dishonesty, confusion, and mistrust.  When we embrace our light, our shadows begin to diminish and fade away. We then have an opportunity to step into our own light, live authentically, and bring our gifts of love and service to ourselves and to the world.

Our Mission will not be finished in our lifetimes.  It is a way of living, a way of being in the world in our fullness as people.  In this moment, my Mission Statement is to be a conduit of the light; to be fully present, compassionately empowering myself and others to heal, grow, and transform.  I must confess to you  that there are moments in life when I show up in my relationships and in the world that fall short of my Mission.  When I do, however, I remember my Mission Statement, and I get back on my horse and steer myself in the direction of my deepest purpose;  I get back to living my life in ways that are aligned with my Highest Self.

In this moment, I’m wondering out loud:  What is your deepest purpose?  What gifts of love and service do you wish to give to yourself, your closest relationships, and to the world at large?  In other words, what is your Mission Statement?

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Sports Psychology Consultant,  I can be of help assisting you in crafting your own Mission Statement.  You’ll notice that over time your Mission Statement will affect the way you work, the way you play, love, parent, and the way you live and show up in the world!!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  I hope that you found it useful!!

Sincerely,

John Boesky

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

 

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ARE YOU TED OR JOHN?

Identical Twins

Image from codyfs07.blogspotcom

When I was boy, I was enmeshed with my identical twin brother, Ted.  Our identities were intertwined, wrapped among and around each other’s, like formless vines interlaced around the trunk of a tree.  My Mother encouraged us to dress alike, and my father encouraged us to have the same friends.  And our friends didn’t really think that we needed their friendship anyways because after all, we were each other’s best friends.  They would often wonder out loud how cool it must be to be born with a best friend, a partner in crime, etc.  Very few people could tell us apart.  And it often seemed to me that people didn’t really care who was who.  In fact, not knowing which one was which was part of the fun!  The bottom line, it seemed, was that Ted and I were both pretty good guys.  We were both nice enough, smart enough, athletic enough, and social enough.  We were so similar and harmless, it seemed, that people viewed us as interchangeable parts.  If Ted couldn’t come over for the weekend, they’d invite me instead.  And If I wasn’t around, they’d give a shout out to Ted.

The problem with being interchangeable with Ted was that no one really took the time to cultivate within me my own identity.  I didn’t occupy my own space in the world.  I didn’t know where I ended and he began.  Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue who I was.  Without anyone validating me or mirroring back to me my strengths, my gifts, my personality, and my character,  I was a stranger to myself.  So when I was around 12 years old or so, I started to model myself after my big twin brother, Ted.  He was, after all, 11 minutes older than me!!

Beginning in my mid-20’s, though,  I began to differentiate myself from Ted.  I set out on a quest to discover myself.  Today, as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I want to encourage everyone to take the time to discover yourself.  Discover who you are, what you believe, what you value, what you’re passionate about, and what makes you special and unique.  I believe that you have gifts that are uniquely yours, and it’s your inherent right to claim them.

Socrates once said, “The un-examined life is not worth living.”   He also said, “Know thyself.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.

John Boesky, LMFT

A champion nener the less

CHAMPIONS EVEN WITHOUT RINGS TO SHOW FOR IT

A champion nener the less

google image of dan marino

When I listen to Sports Talk Show Radio hosts and their devoted listeners, I often hear them questioning a professional athlete’s championship metal  with the following criteria in mind:  Can he win the big game?  From a Sports Psychology Consultant’s perspective, I think of elite athletes like Charles Barkley, Tony Romo, Sergio Garcia, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dan Marino, etc.  According to  sports pundits, these athletes  lacked the X factor that  athletes with championship rings, gold medals, and Championship trophies had.  They’re the forgettable ones.  They couldn’t win the big game, which means that they will forever be remembered for having failed to summitt the peak of their sport.For a long time, it was Payton Manning who didn’t have the heart and intestinal fortitude to win the Big Game.  After he won it, it was his brother, Eli Manning, who didn’t have the heart and soul to win the Super Bowl.  After he won the Super Bowl, it was Tony Romo Phillip Rivers who needed to prove that they had what it takes to win the Big One.  So far, they’ve failed to win the Big One, and so now football fans and pundits alike have concluded that they don’t have it in them to do it.  Lebron James’s championship metal was questioned for a long time too; that is, until he led the Miami Heat to a championship last year.  Only then was he considered a champion with the heart of a champion.  Before then, however, he was a hulking physical specimen made up of  unrealized talent,   poor leadership abilities, etc.

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I think it’s time that we abandon this black and white assessment of who has the heart of a champion and who doesn’t based on the championship hardware that they acquire over the length of an athlete’s career.  As a sports psychology consultant, I believe that the truth is, many average professional athletes have earned championship hardware, and many real-deal champions haven’t earned any.  Regardless, they’re still champion caliber athletes deserving of praise and admiration for their athleticism, their perseverance, their focus, sportsmanship talent, etc.

Sports Psychology Consultants believe that there are two scorecards in sports by which to measure an athlete’s accomplishments.  One scorecard, of course, can be measured by wins, trophies, rings, etc.  The other scorecard, however, can be measured by the size of an athlete’s heart, by his courage, his dedication, his preparation, his resilience, his mental toughness, and his willingness to put it all on the line regardless of wins and losses.  If they score high on this scorecard, they’re champions in a Sports Psychologists’ book.  Period.  If they show up on the tennis court, golf course, football field, or octagon fully prepared, mentally focused, and willing to perform at their very best, they’ve already won.  They’re already Champions!!  They’ve won the Big One by virtue of showing up and summoning the courage to leave it all on the line, win, lose, or draw.

If you’re an athlete and focus too much on wins and losses, you’re setting yourself up to feel paralyzing fear.  In addition, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure if you happen to lose.  If you measure your success based on one scorecard alone, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.  By all means, come on in and visit with me, a Sports Psychology Consultant,  so that we can co-create a second scorecard by which to measure your progress and success.  Soon enough you’ll feel like a champion regardless of your wins or losses.

John Boesky, MFT/MNLP/CHT

Sports Psychology Consultant

Please read more on topics related to this on the Sports Psychology page.

 

LANCE ARMSTRONG COULD HAVE USED A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST

Astana Camp-13
photo credit: kwc via photopin cc

Sports Psychology gives athletes tailor-made tools, techniques, and strategies to realize their fullest potential in their chosen sport.  In addition to this, Sports Psychology gives athletes an opportunity to develop self and other-awareness.  In turn, these competitors develop a more solid sense of themselves.  They are, after all, more than just athletes and competitors.  They are multifaceted and multidimensional human beings, just like you, me, and everyone else lucky enough to grace this Earth for a short while.  They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, etc.  In order to develop connections with others and a sense of belonging in the world, they must learn to be humble at times, vulnerable, honest, accountable, compassionate, authentic, etc.  They must learn to strengthen their character, and they must learn to show up in the world with integrity so that their words and actions are in alignment with each other.  They must discover what they value most, what belief systems serve them and what belief systems sabotage them.  They must accept who they  they are, and they consciously choose to transform into who they want to become.  Then they must then learn to align their actions today with their vision for who they want to become tomorrow.  Otherwise, they risk becoming a champion in sport, but a loser in life.

In light of the aforementioned, I’m left wondering about superstar athletes like Lance Armstrong and countless others that have reached the pinnacle of their sport only to discover that they’ve lost their dignity in the process. In the short term, they performed brilliantly in sport.  In time, though, the truth catches up to them, and it becomes abundantly clear that they were frauds all along, and that what they accomplished took place behind smoke and mirrors. In time, these athletes realize that the ends didn’t justify the means after all. They lose virtually everything:  Their medals, their sponsors, and their money.  More significantly, they lose the respect and trust of those who loved them and believed in them.  They soon become outcasts, pariahs, and damaged goods.

There are those who believe that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”  I believe that saying is merely an athlete’s way of trying to justify his unethical behavior.  The truth is, there are countless other athletes who have become champions in their sport the old fashioned way.  They did it through hard work, dedication, self-sacrifice, etc.   Roger Federrer, for example, has won 17  Grand Slam titles in tennis, and he’s never resorted to cheating, lying, or intimidating others to help him become the greatest tennis player of all time.  Instead, he’s won his 17 grand slam titles while simultaneously earning countless Sportsmanship Awards along the way.  As a Sports Psychology consultant, I deeply appreciate his athletic prowess.  I appreciate even more, however, his character.  He’s self-assured, respectful to others, willing to be vulnerable, compassionate, empathetic, honest, accountable for his actions, etc.  In other words, he has a very solid sense of himself.  He is the Real Deal.

I believe that had Lance Armstrong sought out the help of a Sports Psychologist long ago, he would have come to believe that his talents alone would have made him a 7 time Tour de France champion.  Or perhaps he might have discovered that his talents alone wouldn’t have taken him to the top of his sport.  In this moment, he would have had an opportunity to decide what kind of man he wanted to be.  Hopefully, he would have decided that being a man of integrity was far more important to him than collecting 7 Tour de France yellow jackets.  Yet without a sports psychologist, Lance denied himself an opportunity to develop his character.  Without self-awareness and time for self-reflection, he chose to be arrogant,dishonest, and unaccountable for his actions.  He didn’t understand that performing well in sports and performing well in life are not mutually exclusive.  True champions can do both simultaneously.

John Boesky

LMFT/MNLP/CHT

Sports Performance Consultant

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.