Industry Trends

“The Inner-Game” – Lessons from the World of Sports

As you are about to discover, the emotions and lessons learned in sports have tremendous applicability to our daily work as insurance and risk management professionals. 

As a psychology major and student athlete at Princeton University, I had a curiosity to understand the mental aspects which create success or failure in sports and in life – the Inner Game.  As you review the emotions listed below you’ll immediately realize how insurance and risk management professionals face many of the same challenges professional athletes do.

Lessons from the World of Sports:beyond insurance

Mental Toughness – An essential ingredient in achieving success in sports is the athlete’s ability to focus on a task and  not let negative thoughts intrude.  A key strategy to confront mental toughness is one’s ability to handle pressure.

Great athletes have a warrior mentality.  They stand tall even in the most difficult of circumstances.  They understand the importance of demonstrating confidence and poise to their teammates, coaches and fans.

Self Image – An athlete’s positive self-image is essential to success. A negative self-image can hinder the performance of even the most gifted athlete.  Because athletes must learn how to deal with anxiety, fear and distractions, positive self-image is an essential ingredient to achieve success.

Commitment – Amazing athletic performances just don’t happen.  They are a result of tremendous dedication, determination and sacrifice.  Commitment starts in the athlete’s heart and soul. In life, as in sports, there is no substitute for commitment. beyond insurance

Goal Setting – Athletes are experts at setting goals.  At a young age, they learn that goals are essential to their development.  Goal achievement brings rewards.  Success cannot be measured or achieved without setting specific goals.

Fear of Failure – Fear creates tension, doubt and panic.  Fear of failure impacts an athlete’s ability to achieve performance at the highest level.  It increases muscle tension as well as the athlete’s heart and respiratory rates.  Fear of failure causes narrowed perception and attention as well as diminished cognitive flexibility.  Fear of failure is the toughest opponent many athletes ever face.  When the athlete is not afraid to fail, his or her chances of success improve dramatically.

As you are starting to see, the same emotional battles that play out in the head of an elite athlete are the same emotion battles that successful individuals face in the insurance and risk management business.

In our next post we’ll explore 4 more important emotions and reveal the note Arnold Palmer kept in his locker to keep a positive attitude!

In part 2, we look at some of the most important emotions that you must manage in today’s business environment to reach peak performance.

More Lessons from the World of Sports:

Motivation – An athlete’s desire to succeed must be stronger than his or her fear of failure.  Motivation is the key.  Motivation starts with a sense of purpose.  It is rooted within one’s heart and soul.  Playing with purpose and passion comes easily for athletes who are motivated by their desire to achieve.beyond insurance

Visualization – The power of visualization and mental rehearsal has been universally viewed as an effective means to  improve athletic performance.  Imagery, or visualization, is viewed as one of the most important mental skills for winning the mind game in sports.  It allows athletes to see themselves performing “In The Zone”.

Great athletes roll their mental camera before performances.  Confidence is the result of preparation.  Preparation begins with a mental game plan.

Positive Attitudes — Attitudes influence how an athlete acts and feels.  Positive attitude gives an athlete a competitive edge while negative attitude impairs peak performance – especially in team oriented contests.  It has been said that 10% of a performance is what happens to an athlete and 90% is how the athlete chooses to react to it.

Golfer Arnold Palmer kept the following saying in his locker: 

          If you think you are beaten, you are

         If you think that you dare not, you don’t

         If you’d like to win, but you think you can’t

         It’s almost certain you won’t.

         If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost

         For out in the world you’ll find

         Success begins with a fellow’s will.

         It’s all in the state of mind.

         Life’s battles don’t always go

         To the stronger or faster man;

         But sooner or later the man who wins

         Is the man who thinks he can.

In a team setting, teammates are often mirror the athlete’s attitude.  Positive attitude  inspires others to succeed.  Negative attitude brings a team down.

Self Discipline – Great athletes are highly disciplined.  Hall of Fame athletes often look back upon their careers and understand that an essential ingredient to their success was self discipline.  Disciplined athletes are highly focused on goals and specific results. They are not focused on the challenge of their athletic performance, rather the rewards of achievement.

The profession of Insurance and Risk Management is not easy. It is a game that requires character, commitment, mental toughness, motivation and positive attitude. The insurance arena is our playing field. An understanding of the “Inner Game” helps us understand the impact of our emotions, actions and attitudes. The lessons learned in sports can help you and me reach peak performance.

Scott Addis

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