Athletes In The Zone
OUR PHILOSOPHIES BEHIND PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Transpersonal Performance Psychology
Transpersonal Performance Psychology (TPP) explores the conscious and unconscious mind and transcending experiences that are associated with spirituality, altered states of consciousness, and extrasensory awareness such as intuition. It also includes the study of extraordinary human experiences such as peak performance, peak experience and flow. Peak performance, peak experiences, existential-phenomenological and flow are strongly associated with optimal performance in sport. Transpersonal methodologies and intervention strategies are meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis, and music.
Existential Phenomenological Psychology
Our interest in existential-phenomenological psychology began when we began working on the PGA European Golf Tour. Specifically, feedback from our clients suggested that they preferred to be interviewed, as opposed to completing a psychometric test.
Based on this feedback we employed open-ended existential-phenomenological interview techniques. The existential-phenomenological interview technique allows exploration of the client’s subjective experiences, and one role of the peak performance psychologist is to facilitate client understanding of the impact of these experiences. A client’s understanding and the bearing of his or her subjective experiences is perhaps the most powerful sport psychology intervention. Additionally, as consultants that utilise the existential-phenomenological approach, we adopt the view that the client is an expert, and we are a co-investigator in a psychological inquiry. As a methodology, it supplies us with a rich source of experiential knowledge that provides us with the information needed to recommend appropriate psychological intervention.
The central tenets of humanistic psychology also provide a meaningful framework for our consultancy services. The chief objective of this approach is to develop a self-actualized individual, who can regulate positive emotions such as confidence, happiness, hope, and optimism. The positive emotions highlighted here are of particular interest because they are known to trigger peak performance experiences.
Additionally, they’re important in maintaining a client’s well-being and mental health. The teachings of Carl Rogers (1951) contribute to this methodology by offering 'the client' congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy. Congruence implies that the consultant is genuine, open, integrated, and authentic during their interactions with the client. Unconditional positive regard refers to the consultant genuinely care for the client, and empathy refers to the consultant’s ability to understand sensitively and accurately the client's feelings and experiences. We embrace these three qualities because we feel they are fundamental in the development of an effective client-consultant relationship.
The desire for augmenting positive self-esteem, peak experiences, and self-actualization among athletes, is in line with Maslow’s (1970) vision of positive psychology. The seeds for positive psychology can also be found in the work of Seligman (1991) who borrowed the term positive psychology from Maslow and spearheaded a new movement in psychology that focused on his studies of learned optimism. More specifically, Seligman (1991) found an optimistic thinking style helps the individual maintain hope, increase resilience, and improve the chances of a successful outcome. This style of thinking is prevalent in elite athletes and is one of the reasons we choose to adopt this approach in our consultancy services. Historically, positive psychology focused on individual’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. Strength-based interventions have evolved from this philosophy, and strength-based intervention forms a significant part of many consultancy services.
Taken together, we believe the philosophical approaches described above, provide a framework to foster the development of optimal performance and human potential. They embrace the entire human experience and provide invaluable methodologies for a consultant to bring about a positive change in athletic performance. In addition, they allow the consultant to explore and unlock the performance-optimizing potential of both the conscious and unconscious mind.