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The Presure Loop: A Look Within
by Caroline Silby, Ph.D.

Sports psychology has become the revolution of the millennium, compelling corporate executives, professors, artists, musicians and entertainers to jump on the bandwagon and learn mental skills to enhance their performance. Simply put, sports psychologists examine personal and environmental factors and apply techniques to affect the way one feels, thinks, and ultimately performs.

External Factors

To start your mental training, identify the factors—be it in sport, business, or your personal life—which cause you worry. Stress can result when you have concerns about the people with whom you interact with at home (spouses, children, parents, friends), at work (bosses, colleagues, employees, management) and in sports/fitness (trainers, workout buddies, competitors, judges, officials). Other stress producers are performance outcomes at home (completing errands, balancing childcare), at work (promotions, bonuses, deadlines, work quality, achieving goals), and in sports/fitness (weight, strength, body fat, cholesterol, achieving goals.) Notice that these concerns are outside of your direct control.

Internal Factors

Now, identify factors about yourself that influence how you perform. It sounds simple, but most people encounter great difficulty in recognizing how they contribute to their own performance outcomes. Your outcomes are affected by your thoughts, perceptions, reactions, feelings, focus, images, body language, confidence and goals—all internal factors.

You may devote a great deal of time thinking and worrying about the externals, which keeps you centered on the problem and leads you to feel stressed. Once you identify which is which, you can train yourself to use the internal factors to deal with the externals. The pressure loop diagram outlines the kinds of factors that fit into each category.

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