Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How the Best of the Best Get Better and Better


The attached article excerpt, courtesy of the Harvard Business Review, contains some great tips on how to push yourself beyond your current limits and improve performance -- both on an off the mat. You can read the full article here, but below is the executive summary. See you on the mat -- tomorrow night!

How the Best of the Best Get Better and Better
Compete only with yourself, demand relentless feedback, and don’t forget to celebrate, says this sports psychologist and executive coach.

by Graham Jones

What is the real key to elite performance? According to sports psychologist turned executive coach Graham Jones, star athletes and businesspeople share one defining trait: mental toughness. People who become champions aren’t necessarily more gifted than others; they’re just masters at managing pressure, meticulously tackling goals, and driving themselves to stay ahead of the competition.

Jones, who has advised Olympic medalists and Fortune 500 executives, sees many parallels between the arenas of business and sports, especially in the behavior of people who rise to the very top.

These stars have learned to love pressure because it spurs them to achieve. Inner-focused and self-directed, they concentrate on their own excellence and forget the rest. They don’t get distracted by others’ victories or failures—or even by a personal tragedy off the field of competition. Like Darren Clarke, the golfer who inspired his team to a Ryder Cup victory shortly after the death of his beloved wife, elite performers are masters of compartmentalization.

Superstars rebound from defeats more easily, Jones observes, because they don’t engage in self-flagellation. One of the keys to their success is a relentless focus on the long term and the careful planning of short-term goals that will help them attain major milestones. Competition doesn’t daunt elite performers; they just use it to challenge themselves—and they never stop striving. Even after becoming benchmarks in their fields, stars keep their edge by reinventing themselves.

Star businesspeople and athletes also recognize the importance of celebrating their wins. It’s not just the emotional reward that’s important, however: The very best performers also analyze the factors underpinning their success. That helps them build their expertise and their confidence.

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