What if all the wisdom we needed to perform at our peak came from one little pistachio?
“Take one pistachio and place it in your hand. Now imagine you have no idea what a pistachio is and this is the first time you’ve seen one” asked Sports Psychologist, Michael Inglis, as he guided us through the technique of noticing.
So, what does this have to do with high performance…?
This was just one of many methods we explored during the six-week Mental Conditioning Program at The Mind Room. Michael provided us with a safe space to explore various techniques and approaches we can apply to better respond to our thoughts, feelings and emotions during training and performance.
My ‘ah ha’ moment came to me during this noticing practice, which I now call ‘Pistachio Power’.
I realised sometime ago that I’ve become extremely good at distraction and avoidance behaviours. As soon as an uncomfortable thought or feeling arose, I would brush it off and go about doing something else. I was so damn good at this, that the simple skill of recognising an emotion was a challenge. I was feeling nothing and the only time I escaped the nothing was forcing myself to exhaustive extremes so I could feel something.
At times the line between training smart and training to extreme overkill is a close call. As athletes, it’s in our nature to push beyond our limits, but being honest with myself in how I’m feeling helps me notice the difference.
This honesty comes to me through curiosity – applying the pistachio power. Developing the skill of noticing and intertwining this into my daily routine strengthens mindful attention, mindful awareness, and poise – an integral part of my performance as a cyclist.
This skill didn’t happen overnight and it takes consistent practice and commitment.
After our first Mental Conditioning session we were encouraged to take 10 minutes before every training or competition to check in with ourselves, follow our breath and practice letting any thoughts come and go without judgement.
We’ve all experienced barriers, unhelpful thoughts and unpleasant feelings, which fuels an emotional response and interferes with our performance. Taking the time to just observe my thoughts, and not suppress or fight them, I noticed I was able to focus more on my training. I was right where I needed to be and not tangled up in my racing mind.
Each week we kept a journal to capture observations and reflections on our daily practices. It’s during these reflections; my fitness in self-awareness developed and I was learning about my own performance. I was beginning to recognise that preparation helps me proceed in the appropriate direction.
A key part of the Mental Conditioning Program was developing our core performance values, measuring current satisfaction, and then identifying what barriers and necessary actions we needed to take to move us closer to fulfilling our values.
What really struck me during this program was the group of athletes I was surrounded by. Their willingness to open up and share experiences was something I’ve never being involved in before. They taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, to open up and remove my stoic mask. Through sharing, I had the confidence to accept unpleasant internal states and still perform well.
Learning new skills takes hard work, repeated practice and time. Mistakes and inconsistent success are all part of the learning process. Self-knowledge is an ever-evolving journey; I’m discovering some things about myself that I didn’t know. Curiosity – the pistachio power – is my cue to apply a values-driven response instead of an emotional driven behaviour.
And with this clear direction, I carry around a giddy sense of passion and determination to push myself further because the rewards of reaching for excellence are profound. Living into a purpose enlivens even the most mundane tasks.
Thank you to the group of athletes whom I was so fortunate to have met – your experiences give me strength to reap the blossoms of my pistachio power. And thank you Michael Inglis and The Mind Room for designing a workshop to help me be the best I can be.
This blog was guest written by Erin Kinnealy who attended our Mental Conditioning workshop with Michael Inglis.