What is Performance Psychology?

By Seth Haselhuhn

10/03/2017

Performance or Sport Psychology is a field of study and application regarding optimal performance and well-being of athletes. It is also concerned with developmental and social aspects of participation in competitive environments. The interdisciplinary field draws from psychology, kinesiology, sociology, physiology, and philosophy to determine how psychological factors affect performance and conversely how performance can affect psychology. Like anything else, the practice of sport psychology has fundamentals. The four core fundamentals are (1) goal setting, (2) self-talk, (3) imagery, and (4) self-regulation. Mastering these fundamentals in the training and competitive environment are essential to optimal performance. Mastering the fundamentals leads to mental skills such as motivation, confidence, attentional control, stress management, energy management, and ultimately mental toughness and flow. Generally the best place to begin is goal setting. Just a basic understanding of goal setting can make a significant difference in your performance. Whether it’s learning to be more proficient with your weapon or just maintaining your daily attitude, understanding and setting effective goals will help you drive your focus, efforts, and motivation.

Mastering the fundamentals leads to mental skills such as motivation, confidence, attentional control, stress management, energy management, and ultimately mental toughness and flow.

Next, gaining a grasp on the way you talk to yourself can change your entire outlook. Because our thoughts are tied to our physiology, and vise versa, the way we think about things can make the difference between success and failure. We can all control our self-talk and although it requires some effort to do so, once you’ve established some routines, you’ll be surprised at how much of a change it will make in your performance. Once you’ve thought out some appropriate goals and given your thoughts some structure, you can start to really create some tangible mental rehearsal. Taking advantage of the way our brains are wired, we can practice techniques so that our mental rehearsals can be as effective – and sometimes more effective – than actual experience. Imagery, more commonly known as “visualization” is a very powerful fundamental regarding performance. It works both ways though, if you envision yourself doing something poorly, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Self-regulation is the last fundamental in a typical progression. Self-regulation typically means finding a way to relax when you’re in the moment and the pressure is on but it also includes finding ways to get excited, motivated, and disciplined as well. It can be difficult to imagine but because of the way our thoughts and physiology are connected, you are capable of controlling your responses to both anxiety and excitement. Developing these fundamentals lead to learning how to create confidence, sustain motivation, control attention, and deal with stressors as you prepare to perform a specific skill or as you encounter the things life brings on a daily basis.

Taking advantage of the way our brains are wired, we can practice techniques so that our mental rehearsals can be as effective – and sometimes more effective – than actual experience.




Article By Seth Haselhuhn
Mental Performance
Doc has been working with SOF units for several years and has been instrumental in improving the shooting, decision making, training, and overall performance of soldiers on and off the battlefield.

Comments

seth_greyhive
Hi all, I am planning on following up with more details regarding the concepts here. Thanks for reading and keep training!
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tacticalasbuck
Awesome insight!!!
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BugStomper
Seems like each paragraph could be the start of its own article, Seth. Any plans to expound on these?
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JohnPatrick
Great stuff. I’d like to see more articles that expand on these fundamentals.
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