CATALYST Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching

The Genius of Athletes (and what it means for us) - Noel Brick, PhD (Episode #174)

July 05, 2021 Noel Brick, PhD Season 3 Episode 27
CATALYST Health, Wellness & Performance Coaching
The Genius of Athletes (and what it means for us) - Noel Brick, PhD (Episode #174)
Show Notes Transcript

Athletes earn our attention  at every turn, but what if our focus went beyond entertainment to actually learn something.  What if  the lessons from world class athletes can actually improve our lives?  Today’s guest,  Dr. Noel Brick, is a co author with Scott Douglas of  the best-selling book, The Genius of Athletes.  Dr. Brick will share his insights on the 'dumb jock' stereotype, the 'If - then' plan, and much more!

Noel Brick, PhD, is a British Psychological Society–chartered psychologist, a lecturer in sport and exercise psychology at Ulster University, and a researcher on the psychology of endurance performance. He has published research in the most prestigious sport and exercise science journals, such as Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (flagship journal of the American College of Sports Medicine) and Psychology of Sport and Exercise (flagship journal of the European Federation of Sport Psychology).

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Speaker 1:

Athletes garner attention, every turn it seems. But what if our focus on them went beyond entertainment to actually learning something. What if the lessons from world-class athletes could actually improve our lives? Welcome to the latest episode of the catalyst, health, wellness, and performance coaching podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Bradford Cooper of the catalyst coaching Institute. And today's guest that to know brick is the co-author along with runner's world Scott Douglas of a brand new book that allows us to do exactly that it's titled the genius of athletes. What world-class competitors know, they can change your life. I have a feeling you're online right now, ordering it. In addition to being the author of some intriguing new book. Dr. Brick is a British psychological society, chartered psychologist, a lecture in sport and exercise psychology at Ulster university in Ireland and a researcher on the psychology of endurance performance. We actually originally met face-to-face at the British psychological conference when we were both speaking in Belfast Ireland back in 2018 and got a chance to go out for a run together. We talk about it briefly at the beginning of the podcast. If you're leaning towards pursuing your board certifications , a health and wellness coach, by the way, our August training sets you up perfectly for the timeline for that next MBH WC application. It also allows you to get things rolling before the registration price goes up. Our programs have all been filling up early in this one. We'll likely do the same. So take it out. If you're interested, details [email protected]anytimeresultsatcatalystcoachinginstitute.com. And we'll set up a time to talk you through what to answer all your questions. Now let's listen in as Dr. Knoll brick shares the genius of athletes on the latest episode of the catalyst, health, wellness, and performance coaching podcast. Dr. [inaudible] , it is such a privilege. I am so excited about this book. Congratulations.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Brian. And I really appreciate your invitation to come along. Um, I thank you. That's that's um, it's nice to hear some nice things about the books. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Well, it's funny because you and I were trading a couple of emails we've met on, I think just one occasion, but that occasion was a good one because it was a run we're both in Ireland for a conference and you had organized a run for the group. I always thought they should have like a 5k because it's a group of sports psychologist for goodness sakes. Why are we not racing? See if our stuff works, but at least we got out for a run together. So that was great. Uh, let's jump right in. I love your reference right out of the gate. I think it's the first chapter you referenced the dumb jock and how that's not really a thing anymore. You can't really be dumb and be an effective results oriented jock. Can you talk us through maybe, maybe it's never been that way, but why is it especially not that way now?

Speaker 2:

Um, well, you're right. Maybe, maybe it's never been that way. Or maybe there's a stereotype that sometimes athletes just, you know, whether it's a simple sport, like running that you just mentioned, just engage all the pilots and just simply perform to the best of their abilities without any mental process, without any cognitive activity happening. Um, and we know that's very, very much not the case. I mean, you were, you know , starting out at yourself as well, as well as researching this. You , you understand both from the , the, the, the practice side of things, but also from the research side of things that actually there's a lot going on that there's a lot to think about and endurance activities and, and, and sport in general and center to you. I mean, my research has been on what athletes focus on what athletes think about , um , predominantly running, but , uh , broadly in the insurance field , uh , on what has come out from some of the , the , the interviews that I've done with athletes ranging from, you know , recreational beginner runners, right? The way through to Olympic athletes is some of the strategies they use. Some of the things they, they think about how they manage their emotions and, you know, really challenging, you know, high pressure situations. How did they build their confidence, what they say to themselves, their , their , their inner chatter, their , their self-talk, some of these strategies are so sophisticated and some of the things that they do to , to deal with some of the situations that arise are amazing. I mean, I've been sitting in interviews with Olympic athletes. Sometimes I was just amazed in terms of what they say they think about and , and , you know , uh , during those events. So , so, so there's kind of, I suppose the first thing wait , the dumb jock stereotype, if it ever existed certainly does not exist. Um , and, and I guess as we go through this, this chat, we'll talk a bit more about some of those, but here's another thing that I think is really interesting as well, you know, and this is kind of the, the , the kind of main goal. And I suppose the premise of the book that , that we wrote is that a lot of these strategies apply to everyday life as well. And I think some of the , some of the feedback we've got is that, you know, a very simple kind of quote that I can remember is, you know, you don't really know some of these things exist until you learn them, or when you hear them. And when you learn some of these strategies, you realize for Natalie how useful it can be to help you overcome some challenges in sport. And that applies to everyday life, I think as well, how we can use some of these same thinking strategies to overcome challenges in our everyday life, too .

Speaker 1:

I love that. And that's, I think the subtitle of your book just grabbed me what world-class competitors know that can change your life, not your athletic results, although it can do that, not your only physical pursuits folks, we're talking about everything. I mean, that's what drew me into my PhD stuff was how can we take the mental toughness stuff and make it practical, functional, great to athletes, the Navy seals, they're doing this stuff, but is it applicable to what we're doing every day? And so, yeah, I'm very excited about this. So that's, that's the next route I wanted to go here. How do these things run parallel as far as athletic lessons or things we learn, or the athletes have learned at the top level and what we're doing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, I guess there's so much that we can learn from sport. What , one of the, kind of the chord that I keep coming back to that that was kind of originally put out there by one of the fathers of all there's cognitive psychologists , but really sports psychology in Ireland, professor aid more , and he's uses to this gray sport as a natural laboratory where we can sort of study. I love it. Absolutely love it. What he meant by that was that, you know, there's so much that happens in sport that sort of in a , in a microcosm of a game, even, you know, things that happen. And again , that the pressure we experiences challenges, you know, some moments were ups on mama's weird and these scenarios, these situations play out in life as well. And what we can learn from sport is, you know, how , how, how do athletes handle those situations? How they, how do they stay calm? And in the most pressurized tents , your big games, millions of people watching. And that's a lot of pressure. Yes . So my athletes thrive in those situations. Some athletes exceed their usual performance in those situations. And, you know, when you look underneath the hood, you realize that to do that. There's a lot of thinking goes on. There's a lot of self-talk that goes on. There's a lot of strategies that you use in preparation for games, what they say to themselves in the buildup . And when I think about how that applies to my life, I kind of think about situations like, you know, I'm , I'm lecturer university. So, you know, students preparing for exam, it's something that's really important. If you're preparing to give a presentation and work, there's sometimes a lot of pressure. And so those same strategies, you know, these are all performance contexts . These are all performance situations. Uh , and the emotions we experienced are the same, you know , no matter whether you're playing the Superbowl or whether you've got an exam as an undergraduate students, the pressure and the demands of that situation can be just as big for both. And so the strategies that we use to deal with those situations can, it can apply just as well , uh , to , and , and so that's what we try to do in this book. I think we try to coming from the strategies that athletes use in sport . Um , how can we apply those to , to everyday life , uh, and what are some situations where they might apply? And for me, it was really fun because what I got to do, I guess, was digging into some of the research outside of my field, outside of the field of sport and learn a little bit about how some of these strategies and some of the evidence for these strategies , uh, that applied in some of those contexts. We mentioned there as well, but , but that's when they kept coming back to me, Brad was that , that natural laboratory that professor [inaudible] spoke about. And I guess that's what we're trying to , uh , to dig into and explore here a little bit as well. Right.

Speaker 1:

Alright , love that. Um, you talk about Peter Gallagher's if then planning and , and it's clearly an evidence-based approach. It's not just something, some motivational speaker came up with like, Hey, let's call it for you. It's , it's a thing it's been studied it , the evidence is there, can you walk us through what the strategy is, why it's so effective and then why you recommend it for any of us to be using?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so, so this was a strategy that , uh , Gollwitzer developed in the 1990s. And , and I think in the original paper, you know, he titled the original paper , something like big effects from a simple strategy or artifacts from a simple strategy or something like that. Um , so, so, so basically what he, through his research noticed , um, and this has been, I guess, evidence in a lot of , of research senses that, you know, we all set goals, no matter what area of life we all set goals, we all form intentions. We all have these things that we want to do. The classic example is probably new year's resolution , but the difference is, you know, and, and probably the common experiences we don't always follow through. Right. We, we have these great clowns, but we don't really follow through and follow those through, into actual behavior. And so got with her, his idea, was that, okay, well, first of all, understanding what the gap is. So the gap between our intentions and our actual behavior, and how do we bridge that gap? What , what , what can we do to ensure that we follow through in those intentions? And so he came up with this , this strategy , uh, w which he originally called an implementation intention, but what was more commonly known as, as if then planning and very simply what it is is that , um, let's say we set a goal. So let's say for example, I want to run a 5k. Okay. So, so maybe that's my, my bagel on the way to achieve that goal and probably going to encounter a lot of obstacles. Um, there's a lot of things got , you know , like it's going to get in my way. Um, I might come home from work and I , I feel tired, you know, and I don't really feel like doing some, some running that night. So the Afton plan, first of all, what we do is is we, we kind of understand, okay, what are the obstacles? So we think about what the obstacles here. So those are the S what, what are the situations that might get in the way of me following through on my goal then is the solution that the plan, what, what will I do in response to that if situation that the obstacle that might get in my way. Um, so if I come home late leave and I might decide, okay, well, instead of sitting there for, you know , an hour watching TV to try to work up the motivation to take , to get out and go for a run, I might just say, as soon as I get home, I'm going to put my training gear on and get straight out of the door. And , you know, even if I go out for two minutes, that's fine. That's okay, but I'll get at the door. That's my, then , uh, I'll start my run. And you know what I might, I might decide to go for a little bit longer once I get out there. So , so this is , this strategy has been applied mostly, probably probably in health-related behaviors. So whether that's exercise, whether that's, you know, trying to follow a healthier eating plan, whatever it might be, but the principle is the same that we identify those obstacles. And , and then we have a plan in place to, to overcome those obstacles. Uh , if you're like, oh, they're actually real. Like, you know, I suppose I kind of spoken about then the, the response to a situation in terms of a behavior. So getting out the door to, to exercise, but actually there's a place to our thinking as well. So again, if, you know , if I'm in a, in a pressure situation, be it , whether I'm an athlete or whether it's in , in , uh , in work or a student or whatever it might be, you know, and I come up against a situation where I feel, you know, maybe I honestly feel panicked or, you know, somebody might throw me a question in a forecast that I never happens . So what's my, then how will I handle that situation? You know ? And I might be okay, well, you know, well , what will I say to myself? How will I stay calm? These are the , these are not behaviors. This is my thoughts. These are my, the things I will do to respond in that situation. Uh , and again, that , that can be extremely effective. And, and in all nine kind of working with some athletes , you know , and I kind of presenting this strategy because I think it's so incredibly useful. If you think about it this way, if you're going into a situation where you might have some doubts or some worries, and those worries could be, you know, what, if this happens, what if that happens? Well, if you have a plan in terms of how you're going to respond in that situation, how are you going to deal with it? Then it's not so much of a worry anymore? Is it because, you know, if it happens, well, I know what I'm going to do, or I know how, at least how I've tried to handle that situation. Um , yeah ,

Speaker 1:

The most talents, his expectations, instead of us saying , oh, I'm going to do this 5k. It's going to be easy. It's gonna be great. My friends do it a little . It's, it's balancing out, you know what? This is probably going to happen. This might happen. This could happen. And so then we're not surprised when it comes about and you got the plan.

Speaker 2:

Exactly. And actually that's a really weak , good way of looking at because you're right. It becomes a little bit more realistic. You consider the, you consider the obstacles , uh , and even, you know, we might not get it right all the time. We might come across an obstacle. It might get in our way for it. Absolutely. But that's a huge learning opportunity and that , okay, if I come across that again, what would I do differently? How would I handle that situation a little bit differently? And again, this is where if then plans can evolve and can grow and can mature as we go through the process of running a 5k or whatever, it might be

Speaker 1:

Really like that. And, and for the coaches that are listening, teachers, managers, parents think of how simple that is . You could use this with a nine-year-old child, you could use it with a , a new employee. It, yeah, it's great. Now, is there any danger of too many obstacles as I go through that? I start, oh, well, you know, I'm going to be tired. I'm going to be hungry. I'm going to hurt my foot. I'm going to , you know, whatever. And then you look at it and go, well, I'm not running off 5k. This thing, this is insane. Is there a con , do you say, you know, look for the most obvious five, or do you cap that or is that completely individualized?

Speaker 2:

I think one thing actually that comes out from this research is that once you have , this is like, you know, answering your question from a slate angle. But one thing that comes out from that research is that, so once we formulate our, if then plan one danger, if you like, is that we then focus too much on the F we're looking for the obstacles where we're overthinking the obstacle. And I think pretty good advice is that okay, once you've got a plan, find the planners there. If it happens again, it's an F you know, it's not a , when it's not necessarily going to happen, but if it happens, then you've got a strategy to deal with it, but you're right . You know, sometimes I guess you can kind of overthink those situations and overthink those potential lifts then as well, one approach I really like, you know, and this may be balanced as it as well from another ankle . We tell a angle, we tell a little bit of a story in the book about Michael Phelps and how he used this for, for his mental preparation for racism. He wouldn't just focus on the , the, the negatives, if you like, you know, the , the, what could happen , what the things he didn't want to happen, he would also focused on the good things that could happen. Um, and again, you know, sometimes good things can happen, but we don't always respond to factually focusing on the good things. You know, if I get into the lead in the race, that's a good thing, but how will I respond in that situation? So, so again, we can focus on the good things as well, and , and that can be really useful to me maintaining our momentum , um, as, as we go through any situations . I think one other thing to mention here, which I think is really important as well. I know you did a really excellent podcast a while back with Wendy ward on habit formation. It was awesome. I really enjoyed that one. I won't think about if then plans is that. So what happens cognitively mentally when we prepare an if then plan is that our response to that situation becomes a little bit more automatic. We don't have to think on our feet as much. And so it's not quite a habit. You know , it's not a habit as, as, as automatic as the habit would be, but our response becomes more automated. And so we don't have to stop and think as much in the situation where we've got a plan , uh , that comes together. And our story comes to mind a little bit more readily when we encounter that situation.

Speaker 1:

And you're not using as much mental fuel if you will, because you can save that for something else.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, exactly. Right. You know, I'm not having to use well, I mean, for one thing, I'm not having to maybe use a strategy. That's not going to be effective. That that might mean need more self factual. And that's the mental field, the willpower that you talk about.

Speaker 1:

So you've mentioned emotion a couple of times. I want to walk down this path a little bit because we see such a broad range of responses. What emotion, what , what role do emotions play in achieving our goals or enhancing our lives? And sometimes I get the sense that a lot of research researchers say, we need to suppress them, or the coaches say, we need to suppress them. I don't know, can they be the driver? Can they be the, you don't want to live on emotions. You can't sustain that for an entire soccer game or basketball game or something, but do emotions have a positive role as a , maybe a spark or a catalyst or a shift or something, or in general, our emotions, a negative thing.

Speaker 2:

I think one point that I think is so important. Well, there's many points put in terms of this first point that I think is really important is , you know, we often kind of think about certain emotions as being either good or bad, you know, so we might think of being anxious or concerned about something as, as inherently bad and something that we want to avoid and something actually by avoiding, we try to suppress. And, you know, if somebody asks me a question about this, when I was a kid watching sport, what I would observe with athletes, I would've thought, oh gosh, there must be suppressing their anxiety, their nerves, their worries that they have to just push them down. But actually it's much more sophisticated than that. And what athletes are doing is isn't really about , um, suppression. So I think a first point that's really good to know here is that emotions are not really good about it . Every emotion has a purpose and , and emotions have, have a function if you like. And even some that we think of as maybe bad. So we take the example. I mentioned, you know , um , anxiety or it's near neighbor concern, which is a healthier form , um, being concerned about something. So for now , for example, is concerns before race or, or if , if somebody is concerned before a presentation or an interview or whatever, that can be useful thing, you know, that can, that can signal certain information to us about, you know, am I prepared for this situation to have I have I done the things I need to do in this situation to, to, to be the best to perform the best that I can. So that feeling of concern or that feeling of anxiety can actually be an important cue and important driver. And if we listen to it and if we tune into it, and if we use that as a source of information, then I see what is telling us is, you know, maybe I need to do a little bit more preparation here. I'm not quite ready for certain situations that might happen in , in a race or in a presentation or an exam or whatever it might be. And so, so, you know, this actually sometimes can tie quite neatly back to the , the FM plan, you know , uh , that we spoke about previously. Anger is another one that we , we spoke, speak a little bit about this too. That again, we often think about anger as being bad, but actually anger can be expressed the right way, not suppressed , um, can actually be very, very healthy and very, very useful. Um, so, you know, when we talk about things like assertiveness, that that's a healthier form of anger and unexpressed in the right way, can, it can help us to deal with situations in our life too. So, so that's probably a first point that a lot of these emotions that we speak about are not necessarily a good or bad , uh , they can be pleasant or unpleasant , uh , but in the right context and express the right way that they can also be very helpful as well. So , so, so that's the first thing in terms of suppression. There's actually a really neat study, you know, that , uh , that we, we sort of speak a little bit about , uh , and I hope it's okay if you've read the book, Brad . So I hope it's okay to talk about absolutely.

Speaker 1:

You're going to need to pull this thing up. This is, this has got all the stuff we're talking about and even more.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So , so this was a really interesting study that looked at the impact of emotion suppression on a sporting performance and the emotion that the , the researchers try to dig up in this study was discussed. So what they do, what they did was they had participants do a series of 10 K cycling time trials, and they asked them to do each one as quickly as possible. The first one was just a baseline. So , so basically, you know, no special conditions or anything like that. It's just get on the bike cycles as far as you can, or as fast as you can for 10 K the second or third, what they did was they show the participants a video before the second or third time trials. And this was a video which was designed to list that discussed . Um , so what they had was somebody threw up in the video , uh , and then eat, eat it back down again, which, I mean, I haven't seen this video, but it, it sounds absolutely horrendous. Now, you've, you've expressed your , your feelings right there. And in one condition, participants were allowed to express how they felt and whatever way they wanted , but in the other condition, they had to suppress that emotion. So they couldn't, you know , make any verbalizations, they couldn't even express it, you know , in terms of their body language or facial expression or anything like that, they just had to suppress it right down . And what they found was that the suppression trial was performed by 2.3% slower than the non suppression trial, which is about 25 seconds for it , for these participants and what that shows just even just a very simple emotions , suppression tasks later, that can impact sporting performance. And, and the reason they suggested is because when we try to suppress her emotions, use the kind of the term earlier , it takes a lot of fuel. It takes a lot of mental fuel to , to suppress those. It takes a lot of self-control or willpower, and that can hurt our performance, self control and willpower are limited resources. And just like suppressing an emotion, takes a self-control . So to does performing a tank as fast as you can, you've got a controller just to stop or to quit. And so when you deplete that resource by suppressing and suppressing an emotion, for example, it can also hurt performance and in other areas. So I think the key thing here is , is that learning how to express our emotions or learning how to manage her emotions in a healthier way is much more effective than trying to suppress them, trying to avoid them or trying to , to hide them in some way. Um, which can be, I suppose, in a sporting context can be unhelpful, but actually in a, in a real life context as well, ultimately what tends to happen when we try to suppress emotions this way is that ultimately we experienced them more intensely and in doing so, we tend to vent them more, maybe aggressively or violently or whatever it might be. So, so expressing them or having some way of expressing them as a much healthier way of dealing with those emotions.

Speaker 1:

Well, and coming back to your, if then, so if I'm in whatever, let's say a triathlon and I've gone through the, if then have a flat tire, then , then my emotional response is significantly different than if I haven't. And I'm like, oh my gosh, I don't even know how to use this pump. And I'm not sure I have the right CO2 cartridge, et cetera, et cetera. Now I'm it . Same situation, same flat tire, same race, same temperature, same everything else. One I've gone through the F then. So I simply get off my bike, changes a tire, get back on a move. There's no need for the emotion. I'm not suppressing it. It's just not a need for it. The other one, I haven't done that exercise. And now I'm all, you know, all up in arms and going, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? So that exercise, your first one can help your second one. You're talking about.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. Cause you you've got a plan in place to , to deal with that scenario. I mentioned Michael Phelps earlier , um , you know, the great story, which again, you can find out a little bit on this , both in the book and, and , uh , he's spoken about it openly. So during a 200 meter butterfly final and the , uh, I think it was 2008 Olympics , um, December two to puncture tire scenario, his goggles started to leak during the race and a strategy that Bob Holman has coached. And , and Michael Phelps himself had developed was that if, you know, if something like that, so again, if situation and obstacle, if something like that were to happen in a race, what would they do? Um, and he had all whole lot of different scenarios that could happen, his suit ripping, et cetera, et cetera. But, and this particular example is his goggles started to leak. And I think, you know, if most of us, if our goals started to leak and suddenly , you know, I mean, you're swimming blind, you don't know where the lane markers are. You know, when you have to turn it off, I thought you don't ask . I asked a group of athletes this recently when I was given this example and they sort of asked, you know, what would you do? And people are like, you know, this is an Olympic final, by the way, well , I'd probably stop or I , or I just give up on the race or whatever it was, but he's been , here's his solution. If anything happened was to start counting his strokes. So, okay, what's he doing there? So he's staying focused. Can you take about 21 strokes to swim a length? So he stayed calm. He stayed focused. He focused on the process of swimming as fast as he can. And as this find the final length, he counted 1920 and on 21, he restated and tots the wall. He won the race in a world record time, despite the fact that he couldn't see where he was going in , in that final length . So, so again, that just shows how having a plan can really help your emotional response in that situation. And, and in that context, having a plan helps you focus on the things you would want to focus on to swim as , as , as fast as you can, or cycle as fast as you can, in your example, as well,

Speaker 1:

Let's jump into self-talk. Um, one of our published studies studies looked at self-talk and runners, and I wasn't surprised by the results. I was surprised by the magnitude of the results, what we saw far bigger impact on that then I, or I think mark or Martin did as well. Um, how does you , you , you talk about self-talk in your book, how does that play a role in our non-athletic lives and what are some key tips to , to applying that, to what we're doing on a daily basis?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And , and by the way, I love that study that you published on, on self-talk with runners of the citizens , really nice study. And one thing , one thing I loved on that actually as well was , um, how some runners, even though they perceive their efforts to be extremely high before the intervention was actually even higher afterwards,

Speaker 1:

They had no idea. They were like, oh my gosh, how did that happen?

Speaker 2:

Um , I thought that was incredible. And it shows how, just how effective and how powerful, what we say to ourselves , um , can be so, so, yeah, so , so when we talk about, when we talk about self-talk really it's that kind of inner chatter, that inner dialogue that we all have our monologues sometimes that we all have with ourselves . And actually when it, when it comes to sporting context and especially, you know, our field in endurance, the evidence-based for self-talk is probably one of the strongest of all the techniques. Um, there's some really good evidence about how , uh , it can help to, to improve performance, to cope with, you know, higher perceptions of effort that know this task is really hard and I want to stop right now, et cetera. And it was really, probably last point. It was really fun for me to dig into some of the research on this outside of the sporting context as well. I'll talk to one or two studies, which I absolutely adore . They're brilliant studies , but broadly talk about ourselves talk. So, you know, sometimes our self-talk, well, I guess sometimes it can be very negative and almost defeatist in some situations. So, so it can be very simple things that we sometimes say to ourselves , like, you know, I can't do this or I give up and , and that's not just a sport, you know, it can be trying to do math or, or a , you know, in a presentation or an interview or whatever it might be. And I guess the important thing, one of the important things to , to indicate there is that what we say to ourselves can have such a powerful influence on a, how we feel, and then B how we substance subsequently act. So , so for an endurance athlete, you know, if I'm saying to myself, I can't do this, this, this is too hard. I give up, well, guess what I'm probably going to give up, or I'm probably going to slow down, you know, much sooner than I otherwise would, or what the research has shown is that when we say very simple things to ourselves, like, you know, I can do this, keep going. You can do this, that those simple statements were beating those simple statements to ourselves, kind of such a powerful influence on our performance. And you shown it in , in your research with, with 800 meter runs. And some of it , some of research, you know, going from tiny takes Austin trials, where people literally go on the bike, cared about 80% of their max, and try to maintain that for as long as they possibly can. There's a physical, a classic study from 2014, but it's 2014, but it's a classic study on the , in this area already. I feel. And what they showed was that a two weeks self-talk intervention, very simple statements type statements that I just mentioned improved cycling to exhaustion time by 18% , um, in a group, in a group of athletes, 80% at 80% of our max, most of us, unless you're an exceptional athlete, like you brought, most of us like me would maintain about 10 minutes, probably an intensity like that is it's exceptionally difficult. But these participants who were just repeating simple self-talk statements, they learned like, I can do this, keep going push through this last at 18% longer, which is incredible. It's absolutely huge. Um, so it shows how , how powerful it can be. And , and there's some more recent studies actually, which built on this . And there was a study by some of the same researchers recently, and I love this one , what they did was kind of similar statements. So it was like, you know, I can do this, I can push through this. They had participants do cycling time trials, either speaking to themselves in the first person. So again, I can do this, I can push through this or in the third person. So you can do this, you can push through this. And what they found was actually the participants in the third person condition , uh , performed faster than they did in the first person, even though they found the statements equally motivating impulse conditions. Yeah. And what they suggested was , uh , when we speak to ourselves in the , in the second person, sorry, under the third person, like you can do this, or I might say to myself, come on, no , you know, you can do this. Yeah . The, what we do is we create this, this self distancing effect , this psychological sense of distance between ourselves and what we're experiencing. Um , so we almost might speak to ourselves like an encouraging friend would do, or a coach might do, or , uh , a supportive work colleague might do. And this psychological distance and , and the opposite is a self immersed perspective, which is the, I , I, I, I'm in this world of pain right now doing this task. And it's really challenging. I'm not sure I can do this. So , so what was fun for me was to actually dig into some of the research on this outside of the sporting context and what they found is actually some of the effects are , are just the same, that when people speak to themselves and create in the third person that creates, create this self distance perspective, that pressurized situation seem less anxiety, provoking performance , uh , rated objectively. So this might be the performance of somebody giving a presentation. For example, they're rated as more coherent, more fluent by somebody when they're speaking to themselves and the third person, rather than in the , the first person condition. And the one, I absolutely loved an example from one of these studies that I absolutely love . Brad was an account of somebody who was going on their first date. And they were really anxious about their first data and they give an account of the narrative. Um, and it was things like, oh, you can do this, you can do this. Why, why , why did I say that? Come on, man, pull it together, get through this, you know? And so it was this, again, it showed how, when we speak to ourselves and the first person that's , oh, why did I say that that can be really anxiety provoking. But when we take a step back that self distancing, you know, you can do this. You, you , you can get it back together, whatever it might be can be really helpful. So, so, so those are some areas from self-talk that I love and, and the real form that I think was really finding out how that can help in everyday life as well. I've been practicing my , my third person. Self-talk a lot since research.

Speaker 1:

I love it. So well, two things came to mind . One, I was trying to learn to tie a bow tie a couple of years ago and , um, I could not get it. And I'm just like, you're an idiot, how you can never eye hand coordination does it . And then I'm like, dude, you've got four college degrees. I think you can learn to tie a bow tie. And the very next time I got it, it was just that like recentering and not just flying off the handle on me. Oh , you're such an idiot, whatever, but putting a perspective. And that, that begs my other question, I wonder , does self listening proceed ? Self-talk is it that recognition of that's you're not making sense, Brad, of course you can learn to tie a bow tie. Let's take a step back. Have you seen anything like that about the selfless? I know , I don't remember seeing any reference to self listening, but with self listening naturally need to precede self-talk

Speaker 2:

I think that's an absolutely great point. Um, I think it's , what's important. I think in, in terms of first step is becoming aware of our self-talk any self-talk and events, and that's really the first thing. And the way we might do that is really as simple as sometimes keeping a diary. Um, what do I say to myself in certain , certain situations? And then the next part is how does that make me feel? So if , if I'm in a performance context, be it sport or, or in another area of life, you know, what , what story do I tell myself? What do I tell myself in that situation? And if my statements I notice are things like, you know, I suck at this and I'm terrible. I can't do this. And then becoming more aware actually, how that makes me feel. I think the key point in this is, and this is coming from kind of a cognitive behavioral perspective is that often we think that it's a situation that makes us feel a certain way. So , um, I'm terrible at exams. I, I, I hate whatever it might be. I always perform poorly and whatever the context is, well, when we become aware of our thoughts and what we say to ourselves, the realization there very often is that it's not the situation that makes me feel this way. It's what I say to myself that makes me feel this way. And that's where I think the listening comes in, the, the awareness kind of comes in. And once we develop that awareness, then it becomes, you know , we become less focused on the situation like avoiding a presentation or whatever. It might be a more about the story, the things we say to ourselves in that situation. And, and , and I guess the last bit then is kind of changing our self-talk so that we're using statements that are more encouraging, more supportive, maybe even sometimes more self calming in that situation to help us manage our emotional response. Selfless thing is , is, is a great term to use because that's where we develop the awareness. I think for, for a strategy then like a self-talk intervention to become more beneficial and more helpful.

Speaker 1:

So let's jump into this idea of momentum chapter eight. I think that might, from my perspective might be your most important chapter in the whole book. We all tend to be pretty good about getting started. You mentioned new year's resolutions, Hey, I'm going to do this. Here we go. Let's do this thing, but staying the course that can often be a different story. What are some of the keys to the maintaining momentum that might help our listeners as they're doing this?

Speaker 2:

So thank you for , for what you said about that chapter. This was , um, I think you're right. I think it's one that's really important because, you know, when we were writing this book, there was a whole different draft of some of these chapters that are still saying it might be computer that they never made the light of day. And one of them was about setting goals. And after writing this chapter, we kind of sat back and we kind of thought, and the realization was hanging on. You know, people notice cycles every , every , but we all have goals in our life, the real problems, the real issues that we face are following through on those goals and even getting started, you know, w we're pretty good at that, but you're right as maintaining momentum and seeing it through to completion. That's , that's a little bit, so, so, you know, if anybody wants the bonus chapter, that's my calculator. It's , it's , it's there, but , but actually I think the key bit you're right, is , is, is keeping going one thing, right from the get , go in this chapter , um, that I think is worth mentioning is we speak a little bit about some of the , the, the, the habits, if you like the daily routines that some top athletes have. And , and I think if I was to say a point number one on these is that , you know, the very simple strategies, like getting enough sleep, getting enough rest , um , eating healthily , all those kinds of things, which by the way, you know, when we look at new year's resolutions that you mentioned there , those are top of the tree, right? Those are the ones that everybody, most of us tend to set starting is a good point because I mean, you know, we spoke about emotion, regulation, eating, healthily, getting enough rest and sleep is , is a number one thing I think, to , to being able to regulate our emotions. So how do we follow through on those things? Well, I think some of the strategies we spoke about are really helpful , um , like if then planning. So again, how do we overcome obstacles? So in terms of goal setting, it can be things like, you know, getting derailed, you know, other distractions getting in our way. So again, how will I deal with those other things that just happen in life that might, might knock me off track procrastinating, you know , putting off, getting started, even again, how , how will I get started? And again, if then planning back to Ghostbusters work, that was the whole purpose. That was the whole point of following through and our intentions and getting started on our attentions , um, by developing these, these FM plans. So , so that's kind of a big one there, one other thing, and I'll go back slightly . And what I said about everybody knows how to set goals. Um, there's some fantastic research, very recent research on a type of goal called an open goal. It's , you know , w most of us kind of have heard about these specific, this smart goals that we set a specific target. Like, again, I want to run a 5k. That's, that's a specific distance that I want measurable. All those things. Open goals is a relatively new area of research. So what an open goal suggests is that rather than setting something very specific, I might set myself a goal that goes something along the lines of, and going to get active and see how much I can do. Okay. So, so it doesn't really have a ceiling, a specific target, if you like, it's, it's get active and see how well I can do or see how far I can go and what the research has suggested in a physical activity context certainly is that setting open goals for people who are beginning a new behavior, tend to, when they engage in the activity, they tend to feel less pressurized, and they also tend to fit to find the activity more pleasant, more enjoyable than when they set a specific goal. And the reason for that is this feeds into a lot of other things, I believe as well, like , like our self-belief or self-efficacy is that if we set an open goal, let's , let's take , um, you know, physical activity targets are 10,000 steps a day. Okay. Let's take that. That's a specific, measurable goal, 10,000 steps if I get active, and I'm just beginning on my , my journey to get more physically active. And let's say on day, you know, the end of week one, I've averaged about 6,000 steps per day. Well, if I have that specific goal that I'm trying to reach, I might look at that 6,000 steps and say, gosh, I'm a failure that was dreadful. I can only got to 6,000 steps. My goal was 10. I I'll never get there. I'll never do this because I tried really hard. Whereas if I set an open goal and I suggest to myself, okay, I'm just going to get more active. I'm going to go walking every day and see how well I can do. I can look at those same 6,000 steps and think, wow, I went from zero to 6,000 this week. That's outstanding. Actually . That's pretty incredible. And I, I quite enjoyed it. Let's keep this going. Let's, let's develop on that moment. So, so that's kind of one thing in terms of goal setting research that I think is fascinating, how we can use different types of goals, non-specific goals like open goals to give us a very different perspective on , on what we're doing. And, and, you know, the , the activity in that case that, that we're doing.

Speaker 1:

Wait, let me jump in on that one, because it really got me thinking, I know the folks listening are going, wait, now, what, what is he telling ? Who are there a couple of researchers top of head that top of mind that you could throw out to us that have gotten into some of this open goal stuff?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. So, so probably the main guy who's leading this, this area of research is Christian Swan. He's , um , he's actually a , an Irish researcher, but yeah , he's based in a university in Australia. And for about the past four years, he's been one of the main guys who's been , uh , developing the research in this area. I know the group of researchers based in the university of Lincoln and, and England are , uh, Patricia Jackman and Rebecca Hawkins. And they've done some nice research recently as well on , uh , physical activity. Okay. And again, differences for beginners between open goals and specific goals. And the broad finding is, is really what I've sort of mentioned there for beginners, which again, if you're setting goal, and if you're trying to do again, anything, be it physical activity, go through those top five new year's resolutions, get more sleep, eat healthfully, all those kinds of things. I guess I'm probably expanding beyond where the research is currently out by suggesting that open goals can be effective in other areas, but certainly seems very promising that open goals can be effective to change our perceptions of our achievements and actually the, the tasks that we're trying to began , I guess, or , or the goal that we're trying to achieve. So,

Speaker 1:

So the skeptic in me, or maybe some I'm speaking for some folks listening are saying, does that just let you off the hook? Is the idea better than yesterday? We use that phrase a lot, this idea of better than yesterday is the idea of that goal, not, well, I can just do whatever I feel like is it, I I'm going to improve, I may not walk 10,000, but I'm going to increase from my 1500 or is it just, I'm just going to kind of see what happens. And I , is there any cause better than yesterday still, or, or improvement still has some, some sort of feedback loop, whereas I don't know. So is there feedback loop still? Does it still exist or do we take that completely off the table with this strategy?

Speaker 2:

No, absolutely not. And , and a slight subtlety in terms of the finding of this . And , and I think what you say is absolutely right. Especially , you know, for somebody who's really physically out of it , what they found in one of their studies was that for people who are regularly active , um, so you might say experienced and in terms of physical activity, those people prefer the specific or those people preferred the measurable. So, so again, if, if we kind of maybe sort of put it this way, if somebody's really physically active , um , if we're just using physical activity as the context, so I've got the tools, I've got the skills, I know what to do. The suggestion is those people like the targets. They like the specific targets. It's like, okay. Yeah. You know, I, ain't got to test myself and see if I can get to that 20 minute 5k or whatever it might be for somebody who's beginning the behavior who doesn't necessarily have the tools. You know, physical activity is a very complex behavior . Behavior involves a lot of things. It's , you know , it's knowing what to do. It's reorganizing our lives sometimes to , to fit in physical activity. There's a lot of learning there. And so to facilitate that learning, do you often go, can sometimes feel a little bit less pressured and actually the activity more enjoyable and to kind of close a bit of a loop there. Um, one of the key things, and this is coming out from work predominantly led by a researcher called , um , Patty ACCA caucus was in , um , Iowa state university in terms of physical activity. He suggested the most important thing for longterm adherence and maintenance of physical activity is that it's enjoyable during leads to positive effects , um, uh, as he describes it during. And so any strategies that can help make the activity feel more pleasant in this case, like an open goal can help to increase long-term adherence and for somebody beginning and trying to maintain that momentum, that that can be really important.

Speaker 1:

That makes sense. All right . Let's run down a little bit of a rabbit trail here. It , it seems like those, I dunno , we just look around and maybe it's just because it's in the press and we're inundated with so much in terms of headlines, but it seems like so many people that are incredibly successful on the playing field are leading disastrous lives off the playing field. Wow . What's going on with that? It seems like, as you said, in your book, the concepts that help in setting a apply to setting B and yet we're not necessarily seeing that at the top levels of athletic performance, any, any thoughts on that?

Speaker 2:

Uh , I think that's, that's a really, I mean, there's so many, so many ways we can go with this question. I think it's a really, really good question. Um, if I was to think about that from a number of different perspectives, I think I suppose something that comes to mind recently or something that comes to mind with recent examples are, you know, some mental health, for example, with athletes, there's a lot of great conversations from athletes , um, about your mental health struggles and things like that. And I guess one thing that I would suggest in answer to that. So, so what the research would suggest is that the incidence of mental health issues amongst Southeast are pretty similar actually to the general population. There's whole lot of nuances nuances in that book were generally pretty similar to the general population, but for athletes, I guess there's so many other pressures. I mean, for most of us, you know, going out, getting exercise, being physically active as is a hobby, and actually I'm an emotion regulation strategy that can be really helpful for mental health, but for athletes, you know, things like injury, not performing as well as they might do being deselected. And even I see the environment, sometimes that athletes operating in , you know , it can be pretty relentless and unrelenting sometimes that can be really damaging and really leads a lot of poor mental health outcomes and lower well-being and most loudly . So, so I guess, you know, some of the reasons they are very specific to sporting environments . And so, you know , and we do talk a little bit about some things and specialists and some really, I think really important, really interesting research from Mr. [inaudible] David's lecture on sporting environments and how they can impact on outcomes. Like Bearnaise low mental health, et cetera , um , and broadly how resilience is important and then this sporting farm too , and its importance for that. So , so that's kind of washing, I think I understand I'm going down a little bit of a rabbit hole there, but I think that's the one thing this rabbit trails here keep going. That's really important. The other one that comes to mind when I speak about that and this, this is very much relevant to, to , um , the story that we tell about a former us miler Steve Hallman in the book, I guess one other real challenge area for it for athletes is transition out of sports . And that can happen for a lot of different reasons. I mean, it can happen suddenly in term , you know , in terms of injury, the de-selection or just the natural end of a career. And you know , this idea of, well, you know, I've been an athlete all my life, huge part of my whole identity as a person is , is as an athlete, what do I do now? What do I do next? Where do I go next? And the story that we tell a little bit is that of Steve Holman . And he speaks about what he described as this wilderness years , um, post his athletic career, where for many years after his and in the early two thousands, you know , what do I do now? You know, I've been an athlete all my life and he speaks about going for some job interviews that , that he didn't get. And it's like, wow. You know, I was this, I was an Olympic athlete and now I can get, you know, some of the jobs that he was going for. It took a little while, but what do you realize? And the sort of, you know, we spoke earlier better awareness of our self-talk. This is awareness in a different context of awareness of what was he good at as an athlete. And this is maybe, you know , kind of a , a true answer to the question that you asked, you know, that we sometimes see, okay, we're suggesting here that a lot of these strategies are helpful in , uh , in a sporting context for athletes and where do they apply in everyday life? And part of the awareness there for an athlete can be okay, well actually, what did I learn through sport? What was I good at in sport that I can apply to other situations in my life for athletes? These can be things like, well, you know, I was a pretty good leader. I've got leadership skills. I was pretty organized in my life. Are there areas of work where I can, where were those skills? You know, I'm, I'm , self-motivated , I'm really driven. I can handle pressurized situations, all these sort of skills, the reflection there can be well. Okay. How do they apply to everyday life? And Steve Hallman talks a little bit about that learning process of what was I good at as an athlete. And one thing he realized was actually, you know, what , I really love to learn new things. And he decided to go back to college and study business. And he's now a senior exactly that at , uh , uh , financial services firms. So, so he kinda, he kind of worked his way through, I guess the client is way up the ladder in terms of his business career pool sport . So , so I think that's one really important reflection is , is what am I good at as an athlete? And I cannot apply toward areas of life for that one scenario in terms of transitioning out of sport .

Speaker 1:

And I'm not going to get into the strengths profile that you talked about in your appendix, but for folks that are facing that, like that example, that would be a great tool to go back to. Or if you have a client, I think you may want to pull that up because that's a way to kind of pull together some of the things in terms of what strengths do you bring to the, to the table. All right . Last one, my friend of all the keys you cover in the book and in your research, you don't have to stay to the book here. What's the greatest opportunity that most of us are missing out on right now that you want to leave us with as we kind of close the window on this thing.

Speaker 2:

Oh, I thank you for the opportunity to , to talk about my research as well. Um, I'll , I'll keep it short because I could go on away if I could summarize, summarize it in one statement in one, one phrase, even that I've learned from the athletes I've interviewed, and also that I've learned through writing this book, the phrase that I will use is psychological flexibility or mental flexibility. And , and what I've learned from researching athletes from, from researching this book from writing about the, the, the examples that we have in there is that, you know , very often where we sometimes think we've only got one tool in a certain situation, we've only one way of dealing with a certain situation that may not always be helpful. I recently heard an example where , um, and the example they gave to , to kind of illustrate this idea of flexibility is, is imagine you're trying to get a drink out of a , out of a vending machine. And, and, you know, you put in your mommy , you press the button and it doesn't work. And you know, what do we do? We keep pressing the bottom , we keep pressing, but we just , we just think we've got this one tool that we can use to move away from that analogy. The idea of flexibility is that there's lots of different tools that we can use in, in, in the same situation. And that might be different tools that we can use to manage our emotions, the different things that we could set ourselves that we spoke about. And again, going right back to that, if then planning, planning, different ways that we can respond to challenges, to obstacles that we might experience. So to summarize it, I think that idea of psychological flexibility, and we try to write this book in this way that there's all these different tools. You mentioned the strengths profiling, a two layer as well. And part of that process is becoming aware of the situations that we might find challenging and then using the menu of tools to find out, okay, what would suit me in this situation? What can I use in this situation that might help me manage my emotions in that situation, or deal with that situation in a different way, that to a way that may not have been working previously. So psychological flexibility, that's, that's the thought that I'd like to leave that we've different tools and learning how to use those different tools in a situation can be something really useful today . I

Speaker 1:

Love it. My friend, this was so good. I really appreciate it . I've got, you can see, I've got scribbles all over my notes have already read your book. I mean, we , there's a lot in here, so thanks for taking the time. We really, really appreciate it. What's the best way for people to keep up with what you're doing.

Speaker 2:

Uh , thank you for having me on brighter. Really appreciate it . Um , probably the best way to, to, to keep in touch is on Twitter. Um, so it's at Knoll . Bricky , uh , NOL , P R I C K I E. Um , and you'll also find on Twitter, if , for anyone who's on Twitter, a link to my website on there as well, which is little break.com . So , so those are probably the easiest ways to keep up.

Speaker 1:

Great . Well, keep up the great work. This is great stuff. And like I said, we , Alex Hutchinson is one of my favorite guests we've ever had. And when he wrote the top of your book here, I was like, okay, we got to talk to Dr. Britt because he's got something going on right here.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Brad

Speaker 1:

Told you, you're going to love that one again, the book is titled the genius of athletes. What world-class competitors know that can change your life. Thanks for tuning into the number one podcast for health and wellness coaching. It is incredible to think this is our 174th episode. And when we have you to thank for it, thanks for sharing with others. Thanks for all your kind comments and notes. As long as it keeps growing to keep it going. Next, week's guest is pegged tittle , and we're going to dig into an absolutely critical topic in the world of health, wellness, and performance. That of logical fallacies you'll learn not only how to avoid them in your own life, but also how to pick them up when others even so-called experts are falling short in this area. Now it's time to be a catalyst on the journey of life, the chance to make a positive difference in the world while simultaneously improving our own lives, which is the essence of being a catalyst. This is Dr. Bradford Cooper of the catalyst coaching Institute. Make it a great rest of your week. And I'll speak to you soon on the next episode of the catalyst, health, wellness, and performance coaching podcast, or maybe over on the YouTube coaching channel.