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Self Development

Keep Your Head in the Game

What does sports psychology have to do with running a successful business?

Monique Verduyn

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The mind is a powerful tool

Create a mental picture of yourself achieving greatness, hold onto it, and chances are you will. We can optimise our performance in life and at work by setting goals, remaining focused and visualising where we want to be and how to get there. However, much of what people think can be negative and harmful, causing an enormous waste of energy and preventing us from being our best.

Judith Beck, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research in the US, says it’s been proven that “thoughts influence moods.“ Over time, the power of negative thinking can lead a person to believe that they always fail. What Beck calls realistic thinking, is equally powerful. It involves recognising and correcting negative automatic thoughts. If that’s not enough to convince you, according to a 2009 Stanford Research Institute study, success is 88% attitude. US author and business coach Jim Rohn says, “When you start thinking and saying what you really want then your mind automatically shifts and pulls you in that direction. And sometimes it can be that simple, just a little twist in vocabulary that illustrates your attitude and philosophy.” That’s where sports psychology comes in.

What is sports psychology?

As a discipline, sports psychology studies the psychological factors that affect participation and performance in sports, and seeks to apply these to enhance individual and team performance by managing emotions and minimising the negative psychological effects of poor performance.

“Sports psychology encourages people to think about what they want to do and not what they want to avoid,” says clinical psychologist and performance specialist Kirsten van Heerden. “The focus is on movement towards rather than away from something. I talk about performance psychology. It’s about helping people to perform their best under any circumstances, and to perform consistently well.”

She says the mental skills and psychological factors needed to become an Olympic athlete are the same as what’s required in any rigorous performance environment. “Whether you are giving a business presentation, dealing with the stresses of being a boss, writing an exam, speaking in public, or attempting to close a deal, without the required skills, you will most likely not be able to reach your potential.”

Where sport and business meet

The intersection of sports psychology and business happens with mental skills training that includes concentration and focus, goal setting, handling pressure and stress management, controlling anxiety and being able to relax, visualisation, self talk and cognitive control.

“It’s not just about winning,” cautions Van Heerden. “It’s about acquiring the mental skills that will enable you to always perform at your peak. Psychologists have identified these skills as the mental links to excellence, regardless of whether they are applied in business, sports, the arts, or any other environment that requires the individual to be focused.”

Performance under pressure and the ability to deliver are critical, and can be hampered by negative self talk, or the inability to concentrate, for example. On the day of that big presentation, you have to control your nerves and your thoughts to deliver the message properly. Applying principles of sports psychology can help you achieve that.Setting goals

Van Heerden says that goal setting is such a hackneyed phrase that many people find the idea quite tedious, but it’s a foundational mental skill. Without mapping your route, and monitoring and evaluating your progress, development and advancement become impossible.

“Daily, weekly, short-term and long-term goals are essential,” she says. “And once those are set, it’s best to work backwards, and to begin with a daily routine. Studies have shown that what distinguishes Olympic athletes from others is that they set process goals and decide ‘what do I want to accomplish today?’ Successful business people often do exactly that. The result is that each day has an outcome.” She stresses that smart goals are specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time oriented. Avoid statements like, “I want to be a better business person”; rather focus on definable measurable outcomes like, “I want to complete a short course in financial management.”

Being in flow

It’s also important to establish a balance between your dreams and what you can achieve realistically. When we set goals that are too difficult, we become anxious and often incapable of achieving them; by the same token, set an objective that is really easy, and chances are you won’t be motivated to get it done. “It’s what we call being in flow,” she explains. “It’s the optimal state that lies on the boundary between boredom and anxiety.”

The concept of flow, applied in a variety of fields, is also referred to as being in the moment, on the ball, or in the zone. It was conceived by Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and describes a mental state in which the person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channelled, but positive, energised, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task.

“When you are in flow, time stands still,” says Van Heerden. “There’s a very relaxed kind of concentration that happens. It’s like being at a dinner party and suddenly realising that it’s 2.00am. All other distractions have receded into the background because you are having a great time. It’s that kind of focused concentration on the task at hand that results in optimal experience and a sense of pure enjoyment.”

In their book In The Zone With South Africa’s Sports Heroes, authors Michael Cooper and Tim Goodenough interviewed champion swimmer Natalie du Toit. The first time she remembered being in the zone, she was 14 and had to win her race to qualify. She not only won, but also cut two seconds off the Africa record. She recalled feeling little pressure and having a nothing-to-lose attitude during the race itself. To this day, Du Toit believes that she alone is responsible for her performance and pulls herself out of negative thinking quickly when she performs poorly.

What do you see before you?

Many elite athletes use visualisation techniques as part of their training and preparation for competitions. There are stories of athletes who’ve used these techniques to cultivate not only a competitive edge, but also to create renewed mental awareness, a heightened sense of wellbeing and confidence. All of these have been shown to contribute to success. Van Heerden recounts the story of Argentinean football legend Maradona, who would sit in the change room with a towel over his head for at least five minutes before each game. Someone asked him why and he said that he used the time to think about all the best goals he had scored so that he could remember how he did it. “What’s important is that it’s not just about visualising the outcome. That can be highly stress inducing. It’s better to visualise the process of getting there. Picture the place where you love to be, where you are calm and relaxed. The trick is to create a real image in your head which can only be done when you involve all the senses. If you are on the beach, you need to smell the sea, hear the waves crashing on the shore and feel the sand between your toes. It’s a skill also referred to as ‘feelisation’, which involves all the senses in a more intense experience than visualisation alone.”

Relaxation plays a vital role in this process. People have busy brains that need time out every now and then. To develop this skill, Van Heerden recommends practising complete physical relaxation by focusing on each part of the body individually. Combining visualisation and relaxation techniques can lead to the creation of coping imagery. “When you are prepping for an important meeting, for example, you can get ready for it by being there and visualising yourself as confident and articulate. Deliver a perfect presentation in your head, so that when you actually give it, it feels as though you have done it before.”

Reframing your thoughts

Van Heerden advocates the application of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), an approach that aims to teach a person new skills, behaviours and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. CBT is effective in addressing the way people see themselves. Sessions with clients are often practical with specific technique-driven, brief, direct, and time-limited treatments. It tends to focus on the ‘here and now’, and on alleviating symptoms like anxiety and negativity.

“It’s difficult for people to control their thoughts and how they interpret situations,” says Van Heerden. “We all have filters through which we view the world. Through CBT, we can recognise what those are and develop ways to think about things differently. It’s an approach that acknowledges that not everything in life is fantastic, even though the self-help gurus may preach that. Emotional hype is very different to the true control that enables you to reframe your thoughts. Practical exercises are extremely useful. Think about when you were a child and you played that game where you spot all the red cars on the road – because your thinking is so focused and you are paying attention only to red cars, you suddenly see them everywhere. Of course, the white cars are still on the road, but they have receded into the background. That is how we approach negative things – they are still there, but we just choose to focus on something else. It’s about being able to identify what you can control and what you can’t. Focus only on the controllables, because there is nothing you can do about things like the economy, the traffic, or the weather.”

Cognitive control is much like a physical skill that has to be learnt, and Van Heerden recommends taking a practical approach. “Business people simply do not have the time to spend years in therapy,” she says. “What I like about CBT is that you learn skills and are then given the opportunity to practice them. The process requires an average of eight sessions with a client, over a period of two months, after which they go out into the world and apply them. People appreciate that approach because it means that they do not become dependent on you. They can simply tell you what their fears and anxieties are and we can work together to overcome them. It’s a collaborative effort.”

10 Elements of Flow

Hungarian psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following ten factors as part of the experience of flow:

  • Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals are attainable and align appropriately with one’s skill set and abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should both be high.
  • Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
  • A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of action and awareness.
  • Distorted sense of time, one’s subjective experience of time is altered.
  • Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behaviour can be adjusted as needed).
  • Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
  • A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
  • The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an effortlessness of action.
  • A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one can reach a point of real hunger or fatigue without realising it).
  • Action awareness merging. People become absorbed in their activity, and focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Self Development

Don’t Victimise Your Mind: The 6 Keys To Develop Yourself And Your Business

This writing offers six keys to self and business development.

Dirk Coetsee

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“Plan your work and work your plan” – Ann-Marie Heidingsfelder

Considering the plethora of permutations within the self and business development fields it is truly hard to develop yourself and your business. The good news; however, is that it is possible for all to achieve fulfilment and sustainable business success should we consciously choose to and act on our choice with a mountain of good old-fashioned ‘grit’ to underpin our efforts.

This writing offers six keys to self and business development:

1. Find your purpose

It is highly probable that a number of readers might roll their eyes when they read again that they have to find their purpose and brand such a suggestion as cliché. Well the thing with clichés are that they are mostly true but they require investigation and reflection beyond surface judgements and thoughts in order to have true practical meaning in your life.

Finding your purpose for yourself personally and for your business means that you attach a lot of positive and transformative meaning to what you are doing. This meaning transcends yourself and adds value to society. Having sincere purpose is a source of inspiration and can get you through severe challenging times.

Viktor Frankls’ – A mans’ search for meaning and Simon Sineks’ – Start with why – offer excellent and practical strategies towards finding your purpose.

2. ‘Stack’ your inspirations

I prefer the term inspiration over the use of the word motivation. Motivation is as fickle as your will power and is finite. True inspiration mainly fuelled by a strong and enduring sense of purpose has the power to help you overcome the most challenging circumstances.

For the purposes of enduring success and fulfilment you need to connect the dots between whatever inspires you which will create a powerful and symbiotic effect that will give more meaning, confidence and improved results to what you are doing.

In practical terms this means to:

  • Listen to music daily if music inspires you.
  • Workout daily if well-being is a source of inspiration to you.
  • Read the work of others daily if knowledge inspires you.
  • Sing in the shower if your own singing inspires you.
  • Meditate daily if seeking within for answers inspires you.
  • Sleep deeply and at least six to eight hours if deep rest inspires you.
  • Look at images of great works of art if art inspires you.
  • Daily look at your written Vision and goals.
  • If dancing inspires you dance every day.

The above are just a few examples of what might inspire you. You need to ‘stack as many inspirations’ as possible in one day in order to experience a great day.

3. Unlearn the victim mentality

The victim mentality presupposes an inclination towards a life of excuses and justifications however valid or invalid they appear to be. Several ancient teachers have taught us to look deeper into our own trials and tribulations and shift the paradigm of suffering them to honestly learn from them and become stronger as a result:

“I take pleasure in my infirmities” – St Paul

“The wound is where the light seeps in” – Jalal ud din Rumi

Reflect on the challenges in your life purely from a learning perspective and stop assigning blame to others or even yourself. Changed behaviour is the only true apology. Past guilt and less than desirable past results can weigh us down within a state of fear and anxiety within the present moment.

Direct your energy towards actionable solutions to challenges as opposed to diluting your finite energy reserves by overthinking on past negativity.

4. Unlearn the desire to always be right

Do not get stuck in the perpetual cycle of frustration caused by you thinking that everybody thinks or should think like you. Yes, you are mostly right but only within the realms of your own perspective.

Be open to other alternatives, truly listen to opinions and learn from others. Instead of holding on to an opposing view for the sake of defending your ego and the desire to be right attempt to ‘connect the dots’ between opposing philosophies and find the common ground between them. This attitude builds relationships and slowly but surely builds bridges between enemies.

5. Unlearn your need to ‘do something in order to get something in order to be something’

For most an expectation is to do well at school, then university, find a great job and build a family. All of this has to be done to truly be someone in society. A key and paradigm shifting realisation for me in life was that ‘you don’t get what you want but what you are’ – This means that you attract both your empowering beliefs and your limitations of who you are to yourself not what you want.

Therefore if you want more love in your life, first be more loving. If you want more money first truly develop an abundance mentality and not only pay lip service to the idea of abundance.

6. Take swift and confident action, daily

Procrastination is the top enemy to success. Overthinking leads to more anxiety. Yes think but do it rapidly and effectively by asking and answering key questions such as:

  • Will this serve my purpose?
  • Will this be worth it?
  • What are the potential risks and what can I immediately do to counter act them?
  • Does this resonate with me and does it align with my values and mission?
  • How can I build capacity for this?

If I am unsure I should immediately take action on quickly finding out more and then execute. Procrastination reduces productivity by a great deal and builds your level of anxiety.

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Self Development

How To Leverage Your Skills To Start A Side Business

Start a service-based business with knowledge you have acquired over the years.

Abdo Riani

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According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2016 report, more than 25 million Americans have initiated entrepreneurial ventures. Being an entrepreneur is synonymous with being a risk taker, and one of the best ways to minimise this risk is by starting on the side, from home. In fact, according to the same report, more than half of U.S. entrepreneurs start and operate their businesses from home.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to start a business due to lack of funds and business knowledge. The truth is, in most cases, none of that is required. Entrepreneurs get rewarded for solving people’s problems exactly the way employees get paid for their services. Starting a business is about creating value by solving problems and addressing needs, therefore, capturing an opportunity to serve others and getting compensated for your work is entrepreneurship in its purest form.

Especially for service-based businesses, this does not require a website, marketing campaign, business plan, round of investment funding or any other assets but your existing skills, knowledge and a laptop.

In my experience mentoring entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and visions, I found that most aspiring entrepreneurs worry too much about their 100th customer when they haven’t even acquired their first. Most entrepreneurs worry about growth stages before building a foundation.

This article shares three simple steps to help you clear your thoughts and focus only on the activities that matter in the beginning of a business venture.

1. Define your service

The key is to stick to your area of expertise. While you may have plans to start a thriving business with many products, services and customer segments, thinking too big too soon will have failing consequences. The challenges entrepreneurs face trying to run before they walk is overwhelming, and this causes failure.

What is it that you do today? This will be your service. If you were hired to do a job, chances are you are good at what you do. If you are a social media marketer, other companies need your services and consulting. The same applies to project managers, designers, programmers, teachers, engineers, researchers, assistants, scientists, coaches, speakers, etc.

Grab a piece of paper and write down your solution – “I offer X.” Before defining your ideal customer, start by writing down your service. It’s fine if your solution is as general as, “I offer social media, consulting, accounting or research services.”

Defining your ideal customer in the next step will help you become more specific and targeted.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

2. Define your ideal customer

Service providers are often challenged with the ideal customer definition. This is understandable because virtually speaking, using some of the services mentioned earlier, many companies of different sizes need project management, design, programming, teaching and coaching services. Focusing on the ideal customer doesn’t just save time and money in finding and serving the customer but more importantly, it helps in the outcome of your contribution and your results. An ideal customer is “ideal” because you know how to help them get results. They need people like you.

The ideal customer definition process starts exactly like service definition. Start with the company that trusted you to do a job — your existing or previous employer. Chances are, many similar companies need your help and expertise. You may want to avoid serving your employer’s competitors, however, using them and their needs as a benchmark will quickly help you identify similar companies in different categories or industries.

No matter how competitive your space is, the barriers to acquiring the first customers will still be much lower than learning a new skill to serve customers in less competitive industries. Stick to your background. Especially in the beginning, focus on customer segments with the least players. The bigger the company, the longer the sales cycle. In this case, even if your experience is in helping Fortune 500 companies scale, you may want to focus on smaller companies with similar profiles and help them grow as big as your current or previous employers.

Your value proposition combines service and ideal customer definition. I help [ideal customer] with [your service], and I do it differently or uniquely by [how are you different].

For example, I help professionals leverage their skills to launch service-based businesses by providing them with a clear roadmap to paying customers, and I do it uniquely through a tested and proven framework that aims to minimise costs and reduce time to acquisition while bringing clarity and trust in the entrepreneur’s journey.

3. Define your acquisition channel

This step is simply about connecting the first two steps. In other words, how do you convey your service to your ideal customer? Use this as a rule of thumb. Your first customers are hand picked. Yes, social media, SEO, funnels, affiliate marketing and all other marketing strategies can help, but you must get your hands dirty to close your first customers quickly.

When you start and don’t have proof or case studies, people will invest in you, therefore, presenting and selling yourself is your best bet. From experience, here are the two best channels to accomplish this goal.

  1. Cold emailing, including using the power and network of LinkedIn. Drafting a personalised email or message that goes directly to your potential customer’s inbox is one of the best ways to grab their attention, especially when you are addressing businesses. Keep your message short, mention an interesting fact about their industry, comment on one of their recent posts or accomplishments, and present your services and how it can help them drive results.
  2. In-person events, especially smaller conferences, meet-ups or social events. Defining your acquisition channels is essentially about finding a way to signal your availability to your ideal customer. Local and national events are a great way to build personal relationships that can soon turn into business partnerships. Spend time developing and nurturing relationships and the rest will follow naturally.

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

Finally, and above all, the world needs your skills and expertise, and people are ready to compensate you for your contribution. We are all entrepreneurs in one way or another. Entrepreneurship is about creating value through solutions. You do that already, so it’s about time you capture other opportunities on the side or full-time.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

5 Healthy Habits Businesses Should Adopt In 2019

Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019.

Fedhealth

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When we think of adopting healthy habits, we usually think in terms of our bodies or our personal lives. But as an entrepreneur, shouldn’t you be adopting healthy habits for your business too? After all, like our bodies, businesses perform better – and are better able to withstand the occasional storm – when they’re functioning at an optimal level. So how does the concept of “health” translate in a small business context? Here are five beneficial habits your business should adopt in 2019:

1. Streamline your cash flow

You can have all the impressive clients you want, but if they’re not paying you on time (or at all), your cash flow will suffer – making it very hard for your business to function. Similarly, if you don’t strategically keep money in your business (for example by only paying bills when you need to), you can also run into trouble. Since cash flow is so important to a healthy business, take a high-level view of the money that’s coming in and the funds going out on a regular basis. Then, make sure that the two work in tandem, so that your bottom line stays as stable as possible.

2. Apply the KonMari method

Author and organising consultant Marie Kondo has exploded in popularity in recent years, and her 2011 book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has been published in 30 countries. In a nutshell, the KonMari method is all about keeping only those things that spark joy in your life – whether it’s clothes, books or furniture. The result, Kondo believes, is a happier, calmer, more contented life.

You could apply this principle to business too. For example, which clients are more trouble than they’re worth – and conversely, which ones give you joy that you could find more ways to work with? Or, what services does your business provide that your heart’s really not into – and which ones are you passionate about? This mindset could apply to almost any business context, from a branding refresh to streamlining your service offering, or even just clearing the clutter from your office.

3. Use tech to get organised

Admin tasks can often be overlooked in a small business, because employees are typically wearing so many different hats: they’re salespeople, account managers, the HR department and more. But if you let the admin slip, your business can suffer, and this can spill over into your dealings with customers. Luckily these days, there’s lots of tech available to help you with almost every aspect of business administration, from invoicing and budgeting, to timesheets and project management. Most of these are available at a minimal cost (or even free), so they don’t require a huge outlay. Making this small investment can pay for itself many times over in helping your business run more smoothly.

4. Get the pipeline rolling

The key to keeping your business healthy is to keep the momentum going, which means keeping the flow of new customers. Even if you’re in a comfortable position right now, you never know what’s around the corner in terms of your industry, new competitors or the economy in general. That’s why it’s important to keep stoking your sales pipeline by looking for new leads all the time. Be proactive: go to networking events, ask to be introduced to companies you want to work with, or even just try and upsell to existing clients.

5. Keep your people healthy

When it comes to the health of yourself and your employees, the personal and business worlds definitely merge. After all, if you or your employees are constantly sick, they can’t be giving their best to your business. Several medical schemes, such as Fedhealth, have a medical aid offering specifically for corporates and their employees. Besides helping to lower absentee rates and improve productivity, you’ll also boost employee morale by the improved benefits you’re offering.

By adopting just a few healthy habits within your business, you’ll make sure that in the long run, it’s as successful as it can be. It works the other way too: A successful business will have a positive impact on you as the business owner – you’ll enjoy going to work and be happier in general, which will go a long way to keeping you healthy too.

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