Emotion and Peak Performance

Too many athletes and coaches are under the misconception that the energy of negative emotions is useful in driving an athlete to a higher level of performance. Some coaches are under the misunderstanding that the chair throwing, insult spewing temper tantrums they throw in an attempt to motivate their athletes in fact works. Indeed, you can threaten an athlete scaring them to the point that it results in a temporary spike in performance due to the defensive rush of adrenalin, but this is neither physiological nor psychological training and fails to correlate with consistent peak performance of athletes.

The illusion is that initially gains can be made by threatening and causing an adrenalin spike in an athlete. It is an illusion because eventually after repeated exposure to negative energy – no different than Pavlov’s dog – an athlete will become trained, then accustomed, then dependent on anger, hate, or anxiety to perform. It works until it doesn’t. When it stops working, when the adrenal glands cannot be forced to cough up enough adrenalin to cause a larger spike in performance, Icarus falls from the sky realizing it was all an illusion: their performance was an hormonally induced display, not the result of years of training and refining the physiology and psychology to that of a Champion.

Wonder why athletes fail to replicate success in sport to other areas in life?  Wonder why many athletes are one-offs? Wonder why athletes turn to drugs, alcohol, or self abuse? Wonder why athletes commit suicide?  It ain’t from ‘positive’ energy in their lives that’s for certain.

You can beat a dog so that it fights for its life, but eventually the beating that the dog requires to fight once more… kills the dog.

Peak performance requires a rhythmical heart rate, a relaxed state where there is symmetry across physical, mental, and emotional dimensions, where the athlete is focused, able to execute specific strategies. This unity does not occur in a stressed state, in an environment filled with ‘negative’ emotion.

Consider the following…

Undefeated at the ironman distance and 4x Ironman World Champion triathlete Chrissie Wellington always competed with a smile:

chrissie02 6x Ironman World Champion, triathlete Natascha Badmann could be puking one minute, but the next she would be back to smiling. Even while suffering a crash on the bike, being severely injured, and having to be pulled out of a World Championship competition by her coach, Natascha still would have a smile on her face: Kona_Hawaii_Ironman_2007_Badmann06Kona_Hawaii_Ironman_2007_Badmann07Have you ever seen Usain Bolt not having a good time?

Usain_Bolt_001Cells that fire together, wire together.

What thoughts are you firing and wiring today?

Still think that getting angry or anxious in an attempt to boost your performance is the way to go? There aren’t many if any consistent World Champions, repeat gold medal Olympians who approach their sport, their racing or training with ‘negative’ energy. There aren’t any truly successful people in any field who approach business or life with resentment, with hate, frustration or anger. The best of the best are having fun; while working, training, competing.

“No pain, no gain” is a losers mindset.

Gratitude, appreciation, gentleness, and humility are the attitudes of champions.