Many of us have been eagerly following our Australian athletes in Rio at the recent Olympic Games, celebrating some outstanding wins. If you are involved in sport at any level you’ve probably heard that physical and mental training, approached with daily discipline, are the two sides of the successful athlete’s coin!
In business and adult work life, we also see these themes crop up with regularity: hard work, preparation, research… along with relaxation and cultivating a positive mindset give us the best chances for success.
So what about our kids as they prepare for their own adult lives, ‘training’ at school? How much more could we bring the habits of the successful athlete or professional into their study routines, for best chance of success?
Children and teens are often aware of how much the Olympians have to train. They would never just go out on to the track for the first time ever for a qualifying race and be expected to succeed! Likewise, students need a daily routine of learning, studying and practice that begins well before the week of the exam. (This is why our GATE preparation workshops fill up early in the year, for exams scheduled for the following February and March!)
Anxiety frequently impacts students’ performance in tests and assignments, not to mention affecting their health and happiness. But anxiety is significantly reduced with adequate preparation that is not rushed.
Goals for improvement
In an excerpt from Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Psychology Alan S. Kornspan states that ‘Goal setting is one of the most important skills taught to athletes in order to help them achieve optimal performance.’ He explains that goal setting means identifying where you are currently sitting in terms of achievement, skills and knowledge, and mapping out where you want to get to in these areas over a period of time.
Setting time aside to really think about, discuss and write down goals like these can have amazing power for students to help them feel confident and motivated, as well as support them in keeping on task, organizing their workload and reducing stress levels, so that they are ready to perform like winning athletes.
Mastering the mind
In an article for The Atlantic, writer Olga Khazan reveals that mindfulness and self-talk are major components of a winning athlete’s training. This is because a successful athlete needs a clear and confident frame of mind to block out all negative thoughts and external stimuli, to focus on winning. But before the main event, the athlete must undergo countless hours of rigorous, repetitive training that can be frustrating and boring. Sounds a lot like studying!
Motivation is key, and this comes from mindset. Khazan explains this mindset as being about talking yourself through stress, accepting the grind of hard work, and being optimistic. “Some of the most successful athletes aren’t necessarily the strongest or fastest, but simply the ones who are best at staying motivated.”
Discussing these topics with children and touching base with them on how they are feeling, and pointing out there’s a lot you can do to manage emotions through times of stress, may help develop students’ awareness of cultivating a success mindset. Giving them tools such as meditation, visualisation and breathing exercises can also help. Again, this is about practice and routine – perhaps setting up an early morning or bedtime ritual for work on mastering the mind.