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Thinking Like an Athlete at Work Print

Even if your idea of working out is watching ESPN without a remote, you can still train to be a top competitor in the office. Here are five strategies winning athletes use to get their game on that you can use on the job. No matter what event you're in, following these strategies will improve
your mental game and help make you a champion!


1. Set Goals
Goal-setting gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. It also helps you organize your time and resources and avoid distractions.

First, set a long-range goal. It can be three, five or ten years out (for example, to become director of your department or a respected consultant in your field). Then, set a series of plans: yearly, monthly and weekly goals -- culminating in a daily to-do list -- that will carry you toward those goals.

Having a performance plan will keep you focused, help you measure and take pride in your achievements, and give you a greater sense of satisfaction on the job.

2. Get In The Zone

True champions have the ability to block out all distractions and be in the moment. This mental skill of being able to focus on the process and execution of each step -- without worrying about the outcome of an event -- is what is meant by "being in the zone."

If you find your mind starting to wander in a meeting or you're getting overly anxious about the outcome of your presentation, stop and ask yourself, "What should I focus on right now to perform my best?" Then, let the rest go. The outcome only improves when you ignore it and attend to the task at hand.

3. Be Resilient

If you make a mistake, briefly note any changes necessary then move decisively to the next point. Each shot you take is a new shot that has a chance of succeeding. Keep your mind on the here-and-now.

4. Avoid Burnout
If you're no longer enjoying what you do, re-evaluate your goals and prioritize them. Learn to say "no" to commitments you do not want to take on and make sure you are getting adequate rest and proper nutrition to maintain your energy levels. Use incentives to make things fun again.

5. Build Your Confidence
The way we frame things is often more important than the reality. Although it's true that success breeds confidence, it is equally true that confidence increases your probability of success. Believing in yourself prevents harmful distractions like fear or anxiety and allows you to perform at your best. To build confidence, coaches and sports psychologists suggest you:

. Make a list of your strengths and review it regularly to remind yourself how great you really are.

. Keep your head up and maintain positive body language regardless of the score. The way you act influences the way you feel (and the way your teammates and opponents perceive you).

. Every now and then play with those below your level. Get in situations where you can take on a teaching or leadership role.
Many athletes (and aspiring executives) never learn to win or develop confidence because they are always overmatched.

. And, of course, nothing breeds confidence like competence. Train hard, know your job and keep your skills sharp so that you'll have more to believe in within yourself.

Kathleen O'Connor (c) 2008

About the Author

Kathleen O'Connor is the owner of Manager Resource which provides professional development resources (publications, e-courses, live seminars and classes by phone) on management and communication skills.
To access free resources, visit http://www.manager-resource.com

For your FREE Manager's Toolkit, send your e-mail address to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and put "Manager's Toolkit" in the subject line. You'll receive a 26-page e-book, "Motivation: Inspiring Employees To Better Performance," filled with do's and don'ts for working with your staff. It's bundled with a monthly e-zine and success tips plus a 3-part e-course on communication skills.


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