The myth of techniques

I love exercising and those who know my training regime know its plagued with frequent niggles.

Best remedy: ibuprofen and some ice. A simple technique that often sorts things out.

So when it comes to personal development and overcoming our barriers towards growth, are techniques all that we need? A perfect strategy that controls the mind and body to unlock our hidden potential…

Working as a sport psychologist, the profession has become synonymous with techniques. Many athletes approach me asking for a technique to overcome their anxiety, deal with their negative thoughts and build their confidence. And why not? The way sport psychology is written about in the media suggests this is what we do. Indeed many sport psych talk about these techniques. Therefore, sport psych = techniques. How dare one stray from the dominant narrative!

But I’d disagree! Whilst there may be a place for self talk, visualisation and relaxation etc. to aid performance, the use of these techniques are merely symptom reduction. I believe they overlook something far more important. So important that if you can gain an insight into it, you can begin to make meaningful change (and those techniques may actually stick!).

That is, they fail to consider your worldview. The accumulation of your assumptions, beliefs, values and drives that you carry with you into each moment. And subsequently, how these guide your behaviours in relation to other people, the world and, perhaps most crucially, yourself in those tough moments.

For instance, suppose your subtly held belief is that not winning a medal is a mark of your inferiority as a human being, then why on earth would a dosage of positive self-talk as you slip down the rankings have any meaningful and sustainable impact on your performance, wellbeing and passion for your sport?

Stop seeking quick fixes. Start getting curious about what your problems reflect about how you show up in the world.

Back to exercising. For me, perhaps my recurring symptoms aren’t something to just be remedied with ibuprofen. Perhaps they call for a radically alternative perspective of reflection and understanding in order to bring about sustainable, meaningful change?

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