18/07/2012 13:18 BST | Updated 17/09/2012 06:12 BST

Achieving the Edge: What We Can Learn From our Summer of Sport

Here in the UK it has already been a quite a summer of sport and 'The Big One' (the Olympics, in case you have escaped the hype - if that is even possible?) is still to come.

Big hopes have been raised - and dashed, goals scored, or not, sliced backhands, delivered and now we are gearing up to the London Olympics - the biggest event of the calendar.

What makes this season interesting for me, as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Mind Coach, is watching the performances of all those competitors. What gives those at the top of their game the edge? I know from my work that often you can see, just by watching a performer, sports person or someone giving a speech, whether they are in 'the zone', or not. And it's the same with sports people. Do you ever think about what makes the difference between someone who is performing at their peak and someone who isn't?

A good illustration of this was at the recent Euro 2012 quarter final back in June. The game had gone to penalties and the two goalkeepers displayed very different temperaments. Gianluigi Buffon, for Italy was incredibly focused. The concentration on his face and in the physicality of his body was immense. He looked like he meant business and he delivered. Joe Hart for England however, was literally all over the place. To an observer it seemed that he was completely focused only on distracting those footballers taking the penalties and lost all concentration on what he was supposed to be doing. Not surprisingly, the England team lost and were out of the tournament.

You won't usually notice the difference that makes the difference so clearly, but there are some definite things to watch out for. Divers are usually filmed close up before they make their jump and their faces often betray the correct inner state required for the perfect dive. Many also use visualisation - seeing themselves hitting the water at just the right angle. Everything about them geared up to be the best they can be. Sports people, and positive pschologists often call this 'flow'. You know that feeling when everything is working perfectly, going just as it should. That level of unconscious competence that is required to be the best you can be in any given moment.

This state of being can be really useful in work situations too. To be able to perform at your highest level, to have the edge over your competitors and to be the best version of yourself. In order to develop that edge the three main areas to think about are:


What you do or don't believe about yourself. Do you really believe you can do it, or are you feeling somehow held back in this area? Do you have underlying issues such as not feeling like you deserve success? Perhaps you don't think you are good enough to achieve? Or perhaps you are a perfectionist and don't want to fail at something. Ask yourself, who you would be if deep down to the core, you really believed in yourself and your abilities?

Focus and flow

You know that feeling when everything is going just as it should? Like you're being carried along easily, no need to expend too much effort or to think too hard about what you're doing. It's that 'flow' that allows you to almost empty your mind and just let things happen. Breathing steadily and calmly can really help with this, as can imagining a colour of that state and sending it to the places in your body and mind that would benefit from it the most. The technique of 7/11 breathing can make a big difference. Have a look here for more information.


See yourself achieving it, doing it, being the person you want to be. How would that you act? What would that you think? If you know someone who is an expert at the thing you have in mind, observe them (YouTube is great for this). Allow your eyes to defocus slightly and imagine your head on their body. Your unconscious mind can then absorb what it needs to learn about the physicality of success to help you to achieve better.

Some people find that despite their best conscious efforts they still cannot make that final hurdle that takes them to the top. If you feel stuck then working with the unconscious mind can really make a difference. Cognitive Hypnotherapy can help to break through anything that might still be holding you back, allowing you to achieve so much more in your life.

So good luck to all those competing in a few weeks time. We could all remember to focus on what gives us the edge, make the positive changes, and see how far we can go.