"Motivating the Elephant"

Motivating the Elephant (Heath & Heath, 2010).  I like the ring of that statement.  This statement reminds me that the brain has two sides when it is choosing to do a behaviour: a rational side (The Rider) and an emotional side (The Elephant).  Once I have a clear pathway to move (i.e., have made my schedule and have set up reminders or implementation intentions), I often must motivate my elephant in order to turn my good intentions into actual performed behaviours. Let me explain.


I'm excited to be posting on this blog tonight. I am currently in the airport waiting for my flight.  I normally wouldn't write under these circumstances.  I am one of these highly fickle writers who wants to have the perfect environment for inspiring the written word.  But...in my previous posting I talked about devoting this month to exploring different tools that someone can use to move from having good intentions to act in a certain way to actually engaging in that desired behavior.  What better time but now to start using those tools.  Carpe Diem my friends!

Good Intentions, But No Action. What Happened?

Confession time:  I had really good intentions to keep posting on this blog during the month of October.  But there was absolutely NO ACTION!  Nope, not one posting.  What happened? It would probably be more interesting to write that something catastrophic happened to me.  Maybe I broke my fingers and I couldn't type? Maybe I got really really sick and was unable to think? Maybe I was trapped on a desert island with no access to the internet?  Nope. I have to confess that nothing of the sort happened to me.

October: Scoring Goals

My posts during the month of October will pertain to GOAL SETTING.  In these posts, I will help you discover the true power of goal setting.  Goal setting is not just a scribble on a post-it note, or a 'to do' item. Scientists have discovered that EFFECTIVE goal setting is a multi-step process.  ALL steps need to be exercised to derive maximal performance benefits.  I will explain all steps, and encourage you to practice these steps in your goal setting.

Helping Others Find (Favorable) Motivation

What is 'favorable motivation'? Theories of achievement motivation describe someone who is a high achiever (favorable motivation) to be someone who

  • directs her motivation to achieve success and focuses on the feelings of pride of success
  • he ascribes his success to ability and failure to luck
  • adopts goals based on personal performance
  • perceives herself to have high competency and that achievement is within her own control
  • seeks out challenges and competitors of similar skill and ability
  • tends to perform well during competition

What Do Our Choices Mean?

This summer I indulged in the things that I loved to do - spend time with my family, spend time in the beautiful outdoors of Victoria, coffee with close friends and colleagues, work at a reasonable pace, start this blog, .... Now September has hit and I am trying to figure out where I can possibly fit the things that I love to do in with my responsibilities - the things I should be doing like producing more research papers, organizing course materials for teaching, organizing and supporting my family in their activities and 'homework', cooking healthy meals, ect.   And I know that I am not the only family member that has this issue.  My husband and daughter also feel overwhelmed and over-scheduled.   

No Time?

I'll just cut to the chase -- I really hate the phrase "I don't have the time".  I think what people mean to say is "that is not the way I want to spend my time".

I felt inspired to talk about this topic because I heard myself saying the "I don't have the time" phrase to a friend this past weekend in regards to getting my workouts in.  I cringed the moment I heard the words emerge from my mouth.  The truth is that I am in my "post season" in my triathlon season and I am finding it is tough to be 'motivated'.

September - MOTIVATION towards Excellence

Since the age of three I've been in school.  It started with play school, then pre-school, then public school, then post-secondary, and then, I just never left - it is where I have chosen to work.  September 1st is my NEW YEAR.  Like the leaves that are changing colour and are getting ready for flight, I reflect, plan, and intend for new challenges/changes that I will take on during the next 12 months.  I've been doing this for as long as I can remember.  I have learned that "the day in and day out" demands associated with many of my NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS will take their toll on me and that my motivation is going to waiver. I don't believe that I am unique in this regard.

What Happens in a Mental Coaching Session?

When I first began teaching my undergraduate course titled "Sport Psychology" it was rare to have even one student in the class admit to having had worked with a mental skills coach.  I am pleased to report that after 10 years of teaching the course at 5 different Canadian institutions that now approximately 30% of my students have come in contact with a mental skills coach at some point in their athletic career.  I consider this statistic promising, but I am still mindful that approximately 60% of my students have absolutely no idea what happens in a mental skills coaching session. Why would anyone want to hire a mental skills coach or even want to BE a mental skills coach if he or she did not know what goes on during a typical mental skills session?

Does My Mental Coach Need to be an Olympian?

Last night on my flight home from Calgary, I was asked a great question by the couple I was seated next to.  "Do you think that a GOOD mental skills coach needs to have been an elite athlete"?  I assumed by GOOD they meant EFFECTIVE, and that by ELITE ATHLETE they meant OLYMPIAN or an INTERNATIONAL competitor. My response to their question was "No. But if you are working with an athlete, coach, or parents/family of an athlete than you certainly need to be intimately knowledgeable about [the athlete's] sport. You need to be able to speak the client's language and understand their sport culture.  I don't think that you need to be an Olympian in that sport to be effective, but you really need to 'get-it'."

Minding What Matters in August 2011

Because this is my first opportunity to connect with you through this blog, I thought that I would start at the beginning.  I wanted to take the month of August to introduce you to the world that I am so passionate about. In 1991, after two years of studying Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, I informed my dad that I was going to become a Sport Psychologist.  His 'polite' response to my big announcement was "what in the hell is a sport psychologist"? I should probably mention that my dad was financing my education.  He had an invested interest in what I was planning to do with that education.  That said, I know that my dad's questions about what the field of sport psychology was also stemmed from an honest place of couriosity. 

What is Mental Coaching and How Can You Benefit?

This headline appeared August 12, 2011 in the newspaper publication USA Today: "Phil Mickelson adds 'Mental Coach' to entourage".  What is a mental coach? Why would an accomplished golfer like Phil Mickelson desire to retain a mental coach? What a Mental Coach is NOT

Every year I receive a phone call from a distressed coach or parent asking me to help an athlete who is in crisis.  The presenting problem typically goes along these lines "[Athlete name] is competing next week at the National trials and he/she is extremely anxious and can't focus on preparation.  Can you help?"