Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders know what facing tough competition feels like.
Emotional competency is one of the core principles of mental toughness. Successful people learn how to manage emotions if they want to be confident, resilient, and persistent.
Coaches know how to build people up and this can have a permanent impact on the mind-set of their athletes that reaches far beyond the playing field.
Here are 7 ways coaches train athletes to manage emotions—that can apply to everyone:
1. LOOK WHERE YOU ARE HEADED
Coaches will tell you to never look down at the ground; instead, keep your sights on where you want to go. Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.
I was a slow long distance runner, but in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.
TIP: Whether you are on the playing field or in the boardroom, you need the persistence to live the vision you have for yourself everyday. Develop even more determination by planning how you can accelerate the timeframe for reaching your goal.
2. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
Coaches encourage personal best, not competitiveness. Whether you are on the playing field or in a boardroom, learn to focus on your performance and development.
While at the FBI Academy it was hard not to compare myself with agents who were buff and premium athletes. I did need to perform but I also knew that focusing on my own strengths and weaknesses would help me improve at increments that would eventually lead to my success.
TIP: Comparing yourself to others will only create frustration and resentment. Instead of looking at how the rest of the team is doing, focus on your performance and how you can make your contribution even stronger.
3. STRESS YOURSELF REGULARLY
Michael Phelps’s coach writes that he once cracked the swimmer’s goggles before a routine race to see how he would cope. Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics when water began to seep into Phelps’s goggles at the start of the 200-meter butterfly. By midpoint in the race Phelps could hardly see, but unflustered, he broke his own world record.
FBI agents train throughout their entire career so we were regularly exposed to performance pressure. Our firearms and defensive tactics coaches placed us in situations where we were intentionally stressed so we would know how the pressure felt when we actually encountered it.
TIP: You should never be surprised by your emotional reaction to a stressful situation because if you are, you will not be able to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.
4. SKIP THE OVERTRAINING TRAP
It’s not surprising that many athletes burnout once they’ve finished competing. Progress is the byproduct of grit, not glamour—LaRae Quy.
However, a coach who has your best interests at heart will keep tabs on you to determine when you’re overtraining, because pushing yourself too hard can mean falling into a physiological and mental abyss.
TIP: Give yourself an emotional and physical break by pursuing a hobby, spending more time with friends and family, or taking a vacation. Create a bucket list of things you want to do in the next year, next 5 years, and the next 10 years.
5. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS
There is no one set of attributes that makes a great leader. Instead, what seems to matter most is the kind of relationship both leaders and coaches develop with others.
Despite the time-honored tradition of coaching like a drill sergeant, the disciplinarian approach is gradually shifting toward a more psychologically balanced approach.
TIP: The coaches that motivated me the most were the ones that uncovered what motivated me to become an FBI agent. They referred to those motives when giving me a pep talk or used related external cues when I felt emotionally exhausted or defeated.
6. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Whether you are in the locker room, board room, or class room, the key to building relationships with others is by focusing on the positives.
Many coaches use the sandwich approach in which constructive criticism is bookended with praise. This increases motivation, the development of specific skills, and lessens anxiety.
TIP: Start by saying something positive to your team. People need to feel as though you are on their side if they are to accept what you are trying to tell them.
7. TEACH AUTONOMY
Studies have confirmed that coaches who deliver information in an interactive and relationship-based manner have the most success.
Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks was voted in 2014 as the most popular coach in the National Football League. Carroll is known for being supportive of other players’ opinions, encourages loud music in the locker room, and focuses on wins and not losses when reviewing past games with his players.
TIP: When your team feels that you listen to them and their input, you are giving them confidence in themselves. It is this confidence that will lead them to greater autonomy as they move forward in business and life.
How do you manage emotions?
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