Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Mental Game of Business and Sport

“I worked very hard, especially in the mental training. One has to understand that physical fitness alone isn't sufficient. My mental training is very complex and it makes me believe in myself…. To control your mind is more difficult than to control your body.”

--German biathlete Magdalena Neuner.

Neuner came into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with six world championship titles. However, she also has a history of wildly inconsistency in her shooting that has also left her with some equally poor results.

As in the world of elite athletes and sports, the mental game of business or the inner game of business is the key to improvement, consistency, excellence and success. Interestingly, this is the only area of business improvements that doesn’t necessarily cost anything to implement; however, hardly anyone uses it. The mental game of business – using your mind in a deliberate, orderly, and focused way is the surest manner for achieving business success.

There are several areas of the mental game of business that you can explore, like:

-Using your mental imagery or imagination to plan and to win
-Controlling your attention and your energy
-Finding your strengths, leveraging them, and playing within them
-Curing anxiety and "nerves"
-Learning to develop clearer focus and mental toughness
-Developing clear goals and articulating them concretely and effectively.

It is becoming more clear that accepting and using the inner game of business techniques is what differentiates the top 5% of business executives and managers from the rest of us. The top executives know about and use powerful goal setting and strategic thinking processes, advanced visualization techniques and mental imagery that improve every area of their performance. They understand the importance of, know how to enter "The Zone," and are able to stay there.

Recently, American Olympic women skiers Lindsay Vonn and teammate Julia Mancuso, using mental conditioning techniques, finished in the gold and silver positions at the Winter Olympics.

"Lindsey and Julia are really skilled skiers ... but there are probably 20 other women with talent close to that level. What sets them apart, in different ways, is the mental game."

--Sean McCann, senior sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic team.

Thus far in the the Vancouver Olympics, Vonn, who lives and trains in Vail, Colo., has won gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G, but skied out in the super-combined. Mancuso, born in Reno, Nevada, collected silvers in the downhill and super-combined.

However, all may not end well. Under difficult weather conditions, Lindsey Vonn spun out of control during Wednesday's Olympic giant slalom, breaking a finger and ending her latest medal bid, while Julia Mancuso -- Vonn's teammate and lifelong rival, not to mention the defending champion -- sped toward that same spot.

The race official waved a giant yellow flag through the driving snow and dense fog to warn Mancuso that she needed to stop. Otherwise, Mancuso would risk slamming into Vonn or a course worker helping her. Mancuso stopped and returned to the start only to ski badly on her next run.

While the race will be re-run on Thursday, Vonn is probably out due to injury and Mancuso certainly must re-group mentally to compete.

Excerpts from ESPN (February 25, 2010) the Christian Science Monitor (February 22, 2010) and The Washington Post (February 22, 2010).

For more on peak performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

For mental conditioning tools and resources, click on Peak Performance eCoach, and request access.

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