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Understanding Emotions for Instructors

At any point in time, a combination of physical, mental and social factors interact to make you ‘feel’ a certain way. The result of these factors are defined as emotions, and these emotions can play a large part in either hindering or bolstering your performance. It needs to be realized that the goal of the Boost program is not to suppress our emotions, but to realize, learn countermeasures, practice, and implement the ability to regulate them. After all, a mind troubled with doubt cannot focus on the pathway to victory.

Through what is called your affective state of consciousness, you perceive environments or situations in a negative or positive manner based off of your subconscious cognition. This affective state which starts as cognitive can lead to physiological changes in your body. This physical onset may not be able to be controlled, and that is ok. The very presence of this state should be seen as your body rising to the occasion of the impending challenge.

Your mind is what can, and must, be controlled when this state occurs. Physiological changes must be embraced as preparation, not hindrances to performance. It’s all about mindset, the feelings arising from this state can be viewed as beneficial in achieving a level of readiness not regularly able to be called upon in everyday life, or stumbling blocks revolving around discomfort and fear. The choice is yours. Use your emotions for your good.

In order to meet your full potential on a consistent basis, you must be aware of the specific state of mind that you operate under the best when performing. Operating at full potential also includes implementing appropriate nutritional, physical and psychological steps. Although psychological steps’ importance are often recognized, rarely do coaches/supervisors create plans to implement or teach a plan regarding these steps; that is where Boost comes in.

Your full potential should always be the goal, and can be achieved through flow, or operating “in the zone.” It must be understood however, that flow cannot simply be “turned on.” In fact, you may only experience flow 30% of the time. This is because many factors must come into play to experience flow, some of which are in your control, and some of which are beyond (i.e. current level of preparation/progress, difficulty of task provided, absence of an occasion worthy of our max potential, etc.).

Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. The experience of flow results from having clear goals, a strong concentration and ability to focus, intrinsic perspective, a loss of self-consciousness, and focus on present. When you experience flow, multiple sensations can occur such as losing track of passing time, immediate feedback, feeling of a balance between skill and challenge, feelings of personal control, lack of awareness of personal needs, and the sensation of complete focus of the activity itself.

Research and experience has shown that structured scientific mental training can help you to improve your ability to enter the Zone. Relaxation …calming the mind and body…and imagery are two of the basic skills that must be developed so that you might enter the Zone on command effectively.

Again, some key points of experiencing flow include:
•Confidence, positive thinking and high motivation;
•Being relaxed, controlling anxiety, enjoying what you are doing;
•Staying in the present, very narrow focus, focusing on key points;
•Being well trained, working hard, and being well prepared;

Fear usually arises from you not knowing whether your goal or task will be met or whether you will succeed in the end. This fear of the unknown, mixed with the physiological changes associated with high stakes situations, can really hurt your confidence if not kept in check. A practiced preparation can be a safety zone to combat these fears of the unknown. Every day leading up to the big moment practice performing exactly how you would see and feel your success when the time comes, hitting proper levels of intensity and visualizing appropriately in the process.

This habit will make it easy once the big moment arrives. You will find comfort in the preparatory process leading up to your challenge, as you have done this routine every day. This familiarity will help you keep your anxiety at appropriate levels, and remind you that you are in fact ready for this moment, as it is very similar to what you have practiced in your preparation. Make a reliable prep routine mirroring your performance, practice it often, and relax into it, reassuring your body that you are ready when the time comes!

Mistakes can also harbor their own array of negative emotions, such as anger, defeat, despair, discouragement, etc. In a world where perfection is the standard of most bosses/coaches, mistakes can often be seen as insurmountable failures to be avoided at all costs. What is a mistake? Should they always be seen as negative? In the proper perspective, mistakes can be seen as learning opportunities, moments that can lead to spurring on to greater efforts, and helping focus toward a goal, or a marker of progress.

Mistakes are inevitable as a human, yet you fear them and their consequences. Instead of thinking “I hope I don’t make a mistake…” thought- stop, and reshape that thought to something like “I really want to succeed, and should I make a mistake, I will learn from it and become better from the experience.” Take away mistakes’ negative power over you, and harness their occasional appearances toward you becoming a more competent individual. The list of reasons as to why mistakes occur are long, however, the focus should remain on when mistakes do show up, learn their lesson, and move forward.

It should also be considered that just because something went in your favor may not necessarily mean you went about achieving it in the correct manner. Be mindful of your process and make sure that it was solid when a goal was achieved. If not…your mistakes may have been overlooked this time, however that may not be the case the next time. Be extremely wary of mistakes you make, then once identified, make sure you develop a strategy to ensure the chances of making that same mistake, or a related one, are addressed!

From a boss’/coach’s perspective, it is important to make sure that mistakes do not lead to punishment or humiliation, especially if the individual is still in a learning process. If anything, public humiliation will most likely result in the individual becoming more anxious, and to focus ON the mistake, instead of the solution, which as we know will most likely result in repeating the same mistake due to the incorrect mindset. Own mistakes, accept them as an inevitability, and learn! Mistakes are powerful teachers if we look into their lessons, lessons that are crucial to a polished final product. Mistakes only need to be remembered as long as it takes to come up with a new strategy to do things correctly the following attempt. Do NOT think about your mistake on your following attempt. That will lead to you replicating the same action. Think of the lesson related to the mistake on your next attempt, and apply. Rinse and repeat until you have found a successful course of action.

One particularly volatile emotion that you can experience is anger. Anger can be a powerful tool or an explosive detriment to performance. Remember, you do not want to suppress emotions, but simply regulate them to your benefit. In regards to anger, it must be kept in check, as its influence on performance often walks on a knife’s edge. Although it can narrow focus and increase drive appropriately if managed, it can also blow up focus completely, as well as waste energy and drive if mishandled. Be aware of your personal cues, at what level does anger start to affect you negatively? Be conscious and aware of this level, and use relaxation techniques to avoid or deescalate if necessary.

Take a moment and consider the following questions: What scenarios may anger be appropriate or beneficial in your working environment/sport arena or life? How would it help? What level of anger would become inappropriate, and how would you avoid escalating to that level? Anger must be personally understood to reap its benefits. If your anger does get out of control, resulting in a break of concentration (eliminating chances of flow) the following techniques can prove helpful to regain control:

Self talk- address your level of anger, and self talk until the level is appropriate for your task. Thought stopping is important here.
Non judgmental thinking- again, control your thoughts, as that is something you always have control over. Adjust your perspective so it is beneficial to your current objective.
Performance routines- Routines can calm you, as you know what to expect from them. Their outcome is usually known, and can therefore create a sense of peace and trust, which can help rising anger or irritability if needed.

Many things can trigger anger. As a Boost Instructor it is important for you to remember that we emphasize control of one’s self and emotions as well as some potential relaxation habits to help control anger. You are not licensed to “solve” potentially deep triggers that may affect client’s lives. Some questions to help clients control their anger could be something along the lines of “What subjects or triggers make you angry? What steps can you implement in your life to control or avoid these situations?” When controlled however, anger can be a catalyst to help you face obstacles that you may not have believed you could overcome in a calmer state of mind. Management is key, otherwise you do more damage than good, “When you lose control of your temper, you lose control of the situation.”

Another emotion Boost aims to control is anxiety. As you aim to improve yourself, it requires the action of going out of your “comfort zone.” By doing so, you are aiming to improve your productivity or value by becoming accustomed to a workload or skill level that supersedes your current position. This is a potentially vulnerable position, as you face failure or you may experience embarrassment should you initially fall short. To add outside anger to an already vulnerable state you have put yourself in can cause harm to your progress.

The very anger a coach/boss uses in hopes of stoking an individual’s fire can more than likely (and ironically) extinguish it. Instead of motivating, an individual can become discouraged easily, due to a lack of positive feedback, resulting in a calloused, lethargic effort from then on. This mindset can result in a negative cycle among employees/athletes and bosses/coaches. Performances become based off avoidance of reprimand as opposed to seeking approval or justified reward. This mindset is very negative in nature, and breeds a culture of anxious workers, who really don’t respect their superior, but simply want to stay on their good side.

Like anger, anxiety has different triggers as well. When learning and teaching, it is important to ask yourself and clients questions such as “What triggers your anxiety? Are you able to control it when it occurs? What is your optimal level arousal for your task?”

New ways of living involves risk taking, which may be scary at times. Facing fears adds pressure which might decrease one’s performance. Learning how to face and conquer your fears is an important aspect in mental training. Through journaling you are able to deal more clearly with the things that might bother your mind. You are more likely to understand where and why you are thinking how you think. With this type of thinking comes the probability of breaking through your barriers and overcoming your obstacles which will increase the chances of optimizing your performance.