Posts Tagged 'Hilton Head/Savannah'

Mindset of the Leader

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

British Open Golf

It was unraveling before his eyes. Or was it? Jordan Spieth put on a tremendous display of discipline, courage and tenacity when it mattered most at Royal Birkdale in Sunday’s final round of The Open Championship.

Spieth started the final round with a three-shot lead on his nearest competitor and a distant six from the rest of the field. It was his tournament to win. It was also his tournament to lose. Sleeping on the lead can be an uncomfortable endeavor. After all, he was no longer the hunter; he was the hunted – at least this is how it can feel at times.

It’s common sense to appreciate that eyes and attention have a tendency to find their way to the nearest competitor, in this case the rear-view mirror. We also know this is no way to surge forward with clarity. We’ll get back to this in a bit…

Fast forward to the 13th hole, where Spieth finds himself taking an unplayable lie while losing his once cushy lead in the process. Yet, this is the moment when he stepped up like many champions before him and many will continue to do after. His attention was immediately brought to the challenge directly in front of him. It was time to bear down, settle in and get after it. No longer on the defensive, he was on the attack once again and his skills emerged. Spieth went 5-under par on the next 4 holes and closed out the tournament in style.

From a mental perspective, it’s no surprise it worked out this way. Spieth is a gritty competitor, thriving on challenge. Like many great performers, he competes his best when being the hunter. So, the question becomes…

With a lead, how do you remain the hunter when there is nothing in front to surge toward?

A lead is not something to protect, unless you want to lose it. A lead is something to build upon. Attack targets and stay assertive. The most important piece is this – it may sound counterintuitive, yet let it sink in for a moment. Be willing to mess up. Yes, mess up. Being OK with messing up leads to taking appropriate risks, remaining assertive, accepting you might lose a bit of ground, and actually gives emotional freedom to continue surging forward with courage, confidence and conviction. Lean on this mindset to stack the odds in your favor of maintaining and possibly building the lead rather than nervously “protecting it” and likely watching it disappear.

Not many have an opportunity to be in this position on a daily basis, yet keep this in the back of your mind…it may come in handy someday, when you least expect it.

 

 

 

 

Contagious Courage

lions

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Courage. Those who have it seem to thrive, endure and consistently separate themselves from the rest of the population in powerful and meaningful ways. It allows individuals to adapt, evolve and continue pursuing fresh, meaningful opportunities – all characteristics of our most inspiring leaders, performers and admired role models. Courage may be the most important attribute for success in today’s ever-changing world. So…is it possible to increase courage? Can courage be maintained and nourished to enhance performance and catapult one’s self to achieve feats once deemed unattainable? The answer to both of these questions is – YES.
While courage can be fostered and maintained throughout a lifetime; it’s not a common nor easy path to endure. There is a reason why few are able to sustain it. We are wired to survive; and playing it safe is a fundamental key to survival. For those looking to do more than just survive, those looking to thrive instead, are encouraged to make a mindful choice to pursue the following guidelines. These keys will maximize one’s trajectory moving forward and provide every opportunity to strengthen courage, enhance confidence and nudge an individual toward leading a more powerful and fulfilling life.

1) Courage begets courage. Yes…it takes a miniscule particle of courage to start an unbridled chain reaction. Start small and momentum will slowly build. Take a minimal calculated risk in an otherwise mundane, everyday activity. Gauge how it makes you feel. If a hint of adrenaline and positive emotion came your way, you might be onto something.

2) Own your emotions. An elevated heart rate, increased perspiration and shaking hands are the tell-tale signs of anxiety. They are also signs of excitement. Believe it or not, you decide how to view your physical sensations. Perception of anxiety causes hesitation, over-thinking and undue delay; while interpreting those same physical cues as excitement leads to eagerness, positive energy and enjoyment. How physical feelings are interpreted dictates emotion…and emotion guides the choice to surge ahead, find another path or abort the mission completely. Courage seems to find a way to nudge forward with purpose, especially in the face of challenge and discomfort.

3) Recharge. In terms of energy, we are wired  much the same as a mobile device. Our battery has a limited capacity to perform before it needs a recharge. Courageous acts take their toll and it’s difficult to take on further challenges when feeling depleted and fragile. Dedicate personal time to sleep, stretch, breathe and connect with others. Soak in your favorite sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Find recharge techniques that work for you in order to produce even greater and more purposeful efforts moving forward.

4) Environment matters. Do those around you tend to be supportive or harsh following setbacks? The human experience causes us to cue off of each other’s energy more than we realize or often care to admit. Environment may actually be the most important key to enhancing or diminishing courage. When those around us possess a mindset which is harsh, critical or inflexible our choices toward future action are negatively affected as well. The opportunity to approach risks, especially appropriate ones, becomes less enjoyable as subtle tension bubbles below the surface. These distractions often appear at critical moments when courage and focus on the task at hand are needed most. The wandering thought of the possible critique and retribution to follow a mistake can magnify a slight bobble into a seemingly tumultuous, career-ending blunder. On the other hand, when those around us encourage stretching limits for growth and see personal experiences as learning opportunities (regardless of the result), confidence and courage are consistently fostered. Those same “critical” moments don’t feel as critical anymore, allowing skills and ability to emerge in abundance, leading to more desired and consistent results.

Courage is a highly desirable and potentially contagious attribute. Take the first step, own your emotions, recharge and surround yourself with those who support what you stand for. Courage comes from a willingness to fail from time to time. That willingness is the same thread that leads to consistent, enduring and courageous successes that last a lifetime.

Are You Willing to Miss?

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

You are walking up the 18th fairway, all-square in a highly anticipated match. Your partner is out of the hole, putting the outcome of the contest squarely on your shoulders. Your spectacular approach shot finishes 4-feet from the cup, leaving a bit of a downhill left-to-right slider to navigate for birdie. Your opponents hole out for a par, meaning this putt can secure the win and bragging rights amongst the group. Your heart starts to race and hands begin to quiver as you realize all eyes are on you.

The big question is, “Are you willing to miss it”?

Your first instinct might be to say “No, I’m not willing to miss…I really want to make this putt”.

Ryder Cup - Day Two Foursomes

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course you want to make it, however, take a deeper look at the willing to miss part. If your partner were to utter, “Don’t miss this one”, would that make you feel more confident, secure and ready to put your best stroke on the ball? Probably not! Being UNwilling to miss actually adds unnecessary pressure, tension and acts as a distraction to the performance. It’s not that you want to miss, yet a willingness to do so actually normalizes the situation. It makes the performance a bit more relaxing and frees your body and mind to perform the task assertively, to the best of your ability.

Next time you find yourself in a “clutch” situation and you want your best skills to emerge, be a little more willing to miss and enjoy what unfolds as a result.

 

Skill + Time = Results

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

It’s quite obvious that player development is based on building skill over time. The more an individual works at something, the more skills are developed. As skills are passionately pursued throughout a significant timeframe, expert performance appears.  Yet, it can be difficult to maintain this perspective on a daily basis – especially around tournament time. As competition nears, other ideas seem to bubble to the surface:

How many points is this tournament worth?   Who is in the field?  What’s the winning score going to be?

Although these thoughts are exciting to consider, they also tend to become a distraction to performance. The more distractions that arise against the player development mindset, the less attention an individual has to focus on the task at hand; and distracted is not a mindset which is synonymous with success.

Throughout training:IMG_20141007_085300583

Golfers don’t practice making birdies, they practice making smooth swings.

Golfers don’t practice shooting 4-under par, they practice staying target focused.

Golfers don’t practice getting recruited by a college or turning pro, they practice patience.

If distracting ideas start taking over (make birdie, shoot 4-under, get recruited) especially around tournament time, unreliable results are likely to follow. Discussions based on short-sighted results breed a mindset linked to distracted performance, frustration, lackluster effort and potential  burnout.

Parents, coaches and athletes who reinforce a player development mindset (Skill + Time = Results) seek long-term growth and build healthy competitors as a result. These individuals see competition as an opportunity to exhibit skills (smooth swings, target focus and patience) and test personal limits. When skills continue to remain a top priority throughout training and competition, consistent results unfold. As individuals consistently take part in dialogue filled with themes of player development, birdies happen, scores drop and barriers continue to be broken.

This post was originally created for & can also be found at http://www.juniorgolfparents.com/2014/01/29/junior-golf-development-tips/

Redefining Perfection

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

Many performers seek perfection. Meticulous details are precisely lined up in anticipation of achieving desired results over and over again. When going well, this approach seems to flow in harmony as efforts are immediately and repeatedly rewarded. As results begin diverging from the crystal clear image of perfect execution, however, frustration and anxiety take a front seat. Execution of the task starts looking and feeling more like a runaway, emotional rollercoaster as the now-strongly contaminated experience unfolds helplessly before one’s eyes.

What most experience or witness through the lens of a prototypical “perfectionist” is one who goes to (and demands) extremes. Perspective is often lost through the keen eye of the result-enthralled perfectionist. Keep in mind that some of the most highly successful individuals carry some perfectionistic tendencies, yet seem to use them to their advantage. Holding oneself to a high standard is an integral component of attaining greatness, reaching new heights and breaking performance barriers; so there is certainly some value in incorporating aspects of a perfectionist approach. The difference lies in the way in which perfection is perceived and applied.

At first glance, it would seem that continuously repeating tasks effortlessly while receiving flawless results would be a euphoric experience. Fortune, glory and fame would consistently linger at one’s fingertips. Life doesn’t seem to get much better than that, right? Yet, a deeper look might uncover something different. If tasks are repeatedly performed to perfection with very little output or effort provided…would those endeavors truly remain enjoyable, worthwhile or interesting? Doesn’t perfection actually become quite boring after a while, with the guarantee that everything will simply fall into place by “just showing up”?

A golfer attempts to make a very short putt

A golfer standing 1-foot from the hole, who repeatedly drains putt after putt has attained perfection for the task. Desired results are achieved over and over again, with little effort or energy expended. After some time passes, however, the boredom of this task becomes just as uncomfortable as the anxiety felt from NOT achieving the desired result repeatedly. Needless to say, it seems there must be another component involved in the pursuit of perfection.

challenging shot

The most cutting-edge and highly motivated performers are those who understand the “perfect” performance is one which stimulates passion, engagement and the thrill of embracing the unknown. Rather than merely (and quite boringly) expecting the perfect result, seek meaningful opportunities to feel the rush of excitement which supplements opportunities to test personal limits and experience what’s possible. By continuously bumping up against the barrier of current skill levels, one starts experiencing the ultimate euphoria which accompanies unlocking human potential. When perfection is measured more by the excitement, stimulation and quality of the experience, rather than just the results which accompany it – passion, engagement and exhilaration take a front seat. This view of perfection will end up taking one much further in life, supplemented by abundant satisfaction from the experience itself, which is often lost on the result-seeking perfectionist. Teetering on the edge of success and failure is truly the perfect scenario to fulfill the human desire for excitement, thrill and bursts of adrenaline. Rather than desiring the boredom of repeatedly completing a task; seek perfection by testing limits, expanding horizons and exploring the boundaries of previously untapped potential.

The United States Open Championship – “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble”

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

There will be no defenders moving throughout the course. There is no physical contact allowed between competitors, much less the need for a cut man to monitor lacerations and bleeding throughout the round. Yet this week’s United States Open Championship at Pinehurst No. 2 will certainly feel like a battlefield which tests its competitors from start to finish. Michael Buffer (you know, the “Let’s get ready to rumble” ringside boxing announcer) should be making his trademark announcement on the first tee to set the stage for this emotional competition.

US Open

Although many believe the mental game is all about staying calm and positive, players who expect to exhibit these characteristics for 72-holes (plus an additional 18+ in an playoff situation) under exhilarating U.S. Open Championship conditions are kidding themselves. Cognitive science shows that competitors would be better served to start anticipating scenarios of how to manage and embrace some of golf’s worst-case scenarios, rather than hoping to calmly cruise through this brutal test of golf with their ball settling close to the hole all week. The truth is that motivation will slowly deteriorate as the reality of strenuous competition collides with a calm and positive dream-world. Carol Dweck’s revolutionary work supports this point (http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=fdjqz0TPL2wC&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=challenge+mindset&ots=Bi1–GxDLD&sig=fSZrzW3JiUDBH_vMTEVhyjHm9RY#v=onepage&q=challenge%20mindset&f=false) and is a must-read for athletes, students, coaches, parents and leaders of any kind.

Listen closely to player interviews throughout the week. Do the weekend leaders talk about the calm, simple dream-shots they hit; or is there a more passionate dialogue, filled with the thrills of navigating tight situations on one of golf’s largest stages? Confidence and sustainable motivation come from embracing moments of uncertainty and gutting out the tough stuff. As the rest of us settle comfortably into the couch to watch the action on television, consider the emotion and uncertainty involved in competing effectively in one of golf’s largest and most difficult environments. Take note and start preparing effectively for your next “U.S. Open-like” experience.

Being in the Zone: Not as Elusive as You Might Think

by Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.

The name Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi does not flow effortlessly off the tongue, yet this brilliant cognitive scientist was the individual who clearly defined the zone (a.k.a. FLOW).  “The Zone” is the spot in which an individual performs to their greatest potential. Tasks feel effortless. Results seem to simply fall into place. Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

Sounds pretty cool, huh? The difficulty lies in the fact that once an individual strives to find the zone, it seems to become an even more elusive encounter. Rather than fighting to find this enigmatic state, follow these few pointers and lead yourself to greater focus and energy in your tasks ahead:

1. Immerse yourself in activities which you truly enjoy. Flow states are most readily found when participating in tasks filled with personal interest, joy and satisfaction. Intrinsic motivation lends itself very well to feelings of comfort and euphoria. Do not confuse laziness with the zone. Although many consider sinking effortlessly into the couch as a source of great comfort and satisfaction, the truth is that boredom feels every bit as uncomfortable as anxiety. After reading this article, get up and find an intriguing task which puts your skills to the test.

ZONE

2. It’s all about challenge. The zone is experienced when challenge meets skill. If the challenge is too low for your current skill level, uncomfortable boredom starts to creep in as the natural result. If the challenge is too high for your current skill level, anxiety starts to taint the experience. The middle spot (shown in blue above) is the zone, where skill and challenge meet to create a highly successful and seemingly effortless sensation.

If boredom starts to set in, it’s time to elevate your expectations…

  • refine the goal/target – mental stimulation
  • pick up the pace – mental/physical stimulation

If anxiety starts to creep in and you truly want to be a high performer, do NOT lower expectations…

  • embrace the challenge – this allows an individual to accept the difficulty of the task and forge ahead with focused effort
  • a solid exhale is key – this encourages the body to relax and find its natural rhythm while slowing down mental processing to meet the task at hand

3. Perspective widens the zone. Expect a bit of discomfort along the way. A little discomfort means you are teetering on the edge of the zone. Within seconds you may find yourself well within it’s comforting grasp. To the contrary, a perfectionist approach will only narrow the zone, making it an even more elusive and frustrating place to find.

4. Take a break. Although the zone may feel like an effortless and euphoric place to experience challenges, there is still a cost associated with this type of performance. Under-recovery is the enemy of solid effort and effective long-term performance. Keep in mind the importance of perspective (see #3) and learn to stretch personal boundaries for boredom as well. Effective recovery allows even the highest performers to chase challenges with renewed energy, intensity and vigor while escaping the limitations of extreme anxiety levels along the way.

Rather than searching for the elusive zone which will only send it fleeting away, seek out thrilling experiences and attempt to embrace the discomfort within them. The road to success is guaranteed to be a bit bumpy, so why not strive to make it more enjoyable and rewarding by seeking out meaningful challenges along the way?


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