Multidisciplinary thinking excites me! How can lessons learned in one area of life impact on how you approach another? What lessons transcend a specific set of circumstances? I am particularly interested in the links between sports psychology and student psychology. How do you prepare for the big match (exam), the impact of good coaching (teaching) and how, under pressure, do you effectively put yourself in an emotional state which gets the best out of you?
Countless studies show the significant impact of emotions on how people perform tasks, how engaged they are and how they make decisions. In sports, we talk about the difference between wanting to win and needing to win. On the surface, the distinction seems subtle, but in truth, these two states elicit entirely different emotional responses!
Wanting to win drives positive action. It is process-orientated. Self-improvement is the goal, and so you stay after practice and refine your technique. You ask questions, you are curious. The outcome (winning the match) is secondary because you know that your best chance of success is to action a great plan! Positive emotions are consistently associated with better performance, and this holds true across roles and industries and at various organizational levels.
Needing to win, on the other hand, results in a negative emotional state because ultimately, you are driven by a fear of failure. What does missing this putt, penalty kick or tennis shot mean for me? The focus is entirely on the result instead of the incremental steps that lead you there. Negative emotions, such as fear, lead to adverse outcomes and poor performance.
Former SA cricket coach Eric Simons put it nicely in the context of cricket. Ask two bowlers in the nets to compete against each other to hit the wickets, and it is likely to result in a fun competition where the players hone their talent to get the best outcome. They slow down to be more accurate; they focus more on their action. Now, what if instead, he said – “compete to bowl at the stumps but if you miss I will chop off your arm!” This elicits an entirely different emotional state – where you are focused on not losing your arm and technique/strategy is secondary. How can you focus effectively when there is so much riding on the outcome?
Your ability to reflect on this distinction, identify your emotional state and refine your approach are critical factors for success on the sports field and in life. So if I switch contexts: Do you want to be a CA(SA), or do you need to be a CA(SA)?