The business of winning: How sports psychology can help you succeed

Dr Cíara Losty, Applied Sport & Exercise Psychology lecturer

Dr Cíara Losty is a lecturer in applied sport and exercise psychology in Waterford Institute of Technology. She was a key part of Team Ireland at London 2012 and currently works with a range of athletes in preparation for Rio 2016.

We spoke to Ciara to find out you can apply some of the techniques she uses with athletes to the business world. Read on for Ciara’s tips on goal-setting, visualisation, relaxation, and positive body language.

Set yourself achievable goals

It’s about setting moderately difficult goals. Not having really high goals and setting yourself up for failure. It should be challenging enough that you have to work hard, increase your intensity in what you’re actually doing, but with a very high percentage chance of actually achieving what you set out to do. Ask yourself, what can you achieve today even that will work towards that moderately difficult goal? And what am I going to do this week that will get me closer to my goal?

Visualise yourself achieving

 

A great technique to use is actually seeing yourself finishing something, seeing yourself going in and having that interview or giving that presentation. So you can look at the room where you’re giving the presentation and actually use those things to help and prompt with your visualisation. Then when you’re there, it shouldn’t feel too unfamiliar.

Be in control of your thoughts

One of the things we use to help the team is thought control strategies. This means being very aware of what you’re thinking. Are you thinking useful and helpful thoughts? Are you thinking practical thoughts in those pressure situations? We also use trigger words – like calm and focus - and some of those serve the purpose of just keeping the noise out and keeping your mind on your job in that particular presentation.

Be in the moment

We use an awful lot of present moment mentality. This means being very aware of where you are, right here right now. So you’re not thinking about mistakes you might have made, or you’re not thinking about what’s going to happen. All you’re thinking about is what you need to do, right here right now. You can’t go back and change it and you can’t predict the future. So get off the time machine and smash the crystal ball. Just think of what you have to right now and the rest will take care of itself.

Positive thoughts lead to positive body language

How you think and how you feel ultimately affects how you act and behave. And it also works backwards. How you act will affect how you think and you feel. You could be an absolute nervous wreck, but if you’re projecting an air of confidence nobody will know what’s going on in your head. So what I would say sometimes is fake it till you make it.

Creating a high performance culture

If we give the example of the boxers - it’s not a team sport because they’re competing for places on the squad. They’re in competition with each other to get to Rio, but also have to train together. The corporate world is a little bit like that. Your aims may be different, but you will want your team to go out and perform. It’s about creating the mentality that you’re an organisation that has the philosophy, the culture, the way that things are done around here. And even though you’re competing against each other, you’re still focused on the bigger prize. It’s about creating that high performance culture within a corporate setting.

In the coming months, we’ll be sharing inspiring advice and stories from the members of Team Ireland. Follow the stories at #ThePowerWithin.