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Sports psychologist Stan Beecham has learned a few things from working with elite leaders and athletes. One is that top performers train themselves to control their thoughts—and eventually their habits. Beecham, a founding member of the Leadership Resource Center in Atlanta, has worked with collegiate, Olympic and professional athletes. He shares his insights into the minds of great competitors in Elite Minds: How Winners Think Differently to Create Competitive Edge and Maximize Success (McGraw-Hill, 2016).
Here, Beecham answers our questions about the book:
The book describes three primary components necessary to improve performance. What are they?
Our beliefs, thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, most of us fail to understand the relationship between these three components. Research supports that most of us don't need more "how to" information about how to change our behavior; we need a greater awareness of our belief system and how it dictates our thoughts and ultimately our behavior. It is imperative to understand our core beliefs and to examine whether or not these beliefs are actually true. The beliefs we have about ourselves and our future are critical to reaching optimal performance.
How does unlearning a false belief lead to success?
Once a person realizes there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them—that they are good enough—they feel less pressure to be better and begin to focus on what they can do now, their best. Self-acceptance is the best way to change or grow. I have received numerous e-mails from readers stating that since they have abandoned chasing better, their performance and quality of life has changed.
You argue that people should not aim to be better or perfect. Why not?
Better is a criticism; best is an encouragement. We should ask people to do their best, not better. Despite our circumstances, we can always do our best.
You've worked with business executives and professional athletes. What do the two have in common and what can they learn from each other?
Frequently, leaders and coaches act in a way that they think will improve the performance of their team, only to later realize that their attempts usually hindered performance. Leaders and coaches both create an environment to nurture success. Matching someone's challenges to their skills is critical to getting the best from others.
How does the number of sick days workers take predict the psychological health of the company culture?
Sick days often reflect peoples' reaction to work-related stress and anxiety. Approximately two-thirds of the American workforce have jobs that fail to fully inspire and engage them. For many people, the thought of going to work makes them "sick." More Americans die at 9 a.m. on Monday morning than any other day or time. In Japan, they actually have a word for death caused by one's job: "karoshi."
Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.
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