Blog list ...

Applying sports psychology in business

"Sports psychology is now rated as the most important prerequisite to medalling. It is a change that has taken place over the last five years," (Ian Maynard, professor of sports psychology & director of the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University, 2006).

Some of the techniques taught within sports psychology seem to have a lot of potential to help ensure success in business. For example, Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D. offers 9 mental skills which successful athletes use, skills which can be applied in everyday work life. The skills are:

  1. Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
  2. Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
  3. Set high, realistic goals.
  4. Deal effectively with people.
  5. Use positive self-talk.
  6. Use positive mental imagery.
  7. Manage anxiety effectively.
  8. Manage their emotions effectively.
  9. Maintain concentration.

We now take sports psychology for granted, it is no surprise to us that our supreme athletes spend time and money on cultivating the performance of their brains as well as their bodies. Perhaps one could even liken the syndrome of sport psychology to that of the contribution of NASA. How many items do we now use in everyday life that NASA invented for the extremes of space exploration? Camera phones, CAT scans and LEDs are amongst the hundreds of spin-offs that we now take for granted in everyday life. 

Perhaps then as managers in modern organisations we should start to use the success of sports psychology to improve performance in business?

Applying sports psychology in business

Can the power of positive mental attitude help us become winners in business too?


Perhaps the experience of those in the sports field can be applied in business? For the moment let’s focus on number 5 of the 9 mental skills , as this is a quite intriguing. We might feel a little uncomfortable thinking about ‘talking to ourselves’. But could it be useful?

We are brought up to believe that feelings affect physical action. For example, if someone says something rude we may assume‘they are just feeling grumpy’, or if we see a broad grin we may say ‘you look happy today’. But modern biology is beginning to stress the reverse, namely that we can change the way we feel through the physical actions we take. So, if we talk rudely to someone we feel grumpier, if we smile we feel better.

So, perhaps then if we talk ourselves up a little it will help change the way we feel about ourselves. At times when we've felt nervous we have all probably said to ourselves  ‘come on you can do it’ and felt a little better. Could we take this a little further?

ensure success in our careers

Mark Miller is MD of Goodfoot, and author of 'Hamsters Can't Dance",  a tongue in cheek look at management challenges.


I have applied a technique which I find works for me and would be curious to see if it works for you too. Pick a situation which is not quite going the way you want it to go, perhaps a work situation as a manager such as a poor performing team member or a difficult client. Let the feeling of disappointment soak in for a few moments whilst you consider it, then start talking to yourself with such statements as ‘I am going to turn this round’, or ‘I am going to get the better of this’ or ‘This is going to turn out really well for me’. What we are doing is stating intent. What is surprising is how quickly intent can affect the way we feel about the situation. Then, with us feeling better about it, the brain allows more options to come to mind. Personally, I find I often get better solutions this way and with less stress in the process.

Stating intent to oneself is what sports psychologists mean by ‘positive self talk’. We are often a little embarrassed to talk about using this technique in business, but if successful sports people employ the tactic, then why not? It may not work for everyone of course, but some of the other techniques advocated in Lesyk's list above might be worth a go.

For further thoughts about how business can learn from sport, feel free to download our free eBook on Performance Maximisation, just click the link below.

Download your free 'Performance Maximisation' eBook

If you would like to see more solutions for improving work performance, our sub-library contains an abundance of valuable insight on subjects such as...

  • Productivity
  • How to negotiate a deal
  • The power of your voice
  • Meetings techniques 

Just follow the link below...

View more free e-books & e-briefs