HOW to REACH YOUR ACHIEVEMENT ZONE
By Shane M. Murphy, Ph.D. & Annemarie Infantino Murphy, Ph.D.
Gold Medal Psychological Consultants
What does it take to do your very best, even when the pressure is on?
Have you ever watched Olympic athletes as they compete and wondered how
they deal with the turmoil they experience?
The answer is that top athletes not only perfect their physical skills,
they also train to master the psychological skills that allow them to
deliver their best in competition. They know that they must learn the
mental skills of competition now, in order to achieve excellence in the
future. When it all comes together, athletes call it being in the Zone.
Athletes recognize the Zone as a special place where their performance is
exceptional and consistent. Performance is automatic and flowing.
Competition is fun and exciting.
For over a decade, Shane Murphy, Ph.D has been helping people reach
their own Zones, the level of mind/body harmony which allows them to
achieve their goals. In 1987, Dr. Murphy became the first full-time sport
psychologist at the United States Olympic Committee's Training Center in
Colorado Springs. Since then, he has worked every day with America's best
athletes. For several years, we have been working with clients from
businesses large and small, teaching them the skills of success which I
use with Olympic athletes. Our clients tell us that the skills we teach
help them achieve their best under pressure, allow them to stay focused
during difficult tasks, and enable them to enjoy even the most challenging
assignments. Psychologically, the world of corporate competition is very
similar to the world of athletic competition!
Athletes know all about the pressures of competition. Their careersare determined by how well they do against others. They can't hide from
evaluation -- their performance is out in front for everyone to see. In
this demanding environment they have developed the competitive skills
necessary to survive and excel. These skills can be used by anyone who
works in a competitive environment. Being able to do your best when the
pressure's on is as important for entrepreneurs, business people,
salespeople, and professionals as it is for athletes.
How well do you perform in competitive situations? Do you look forward
to public presentations and formal evaluations with excitement, or do you
dread the thought of them? Are you known as a "pressure performer" or do
you wish you could do better when the pressure is on? Developing the
skills to reach your Achievement Zone in competitive situations is the key
to successfully handling pressure.
Take the following test to see how well-developed your mind/body skillsare right now.
How Good Are Your Mind/Body Skills?
Listed below are 16 statements describing different approaches to life.Think about each statement and answer true or false.
- I spend time planning how I will reach my goals.
- I regularly evaluate whether I have made progress in reaching my
- Before I perform a task, I imagine being successful.
- I visualize successfully dealing with things that might go wrong on
- I keep my thoughts positive when I am performing or presenting in
an important situation.
- I talk positively to myself to get the most out of my performance.
- I practice using relaxation techniques so I can stay calm under
- I am able to relax if I get too nervous.
- During important tasks, I use reminders to tell myself what I
should be concentrating on.
- I perform effortlessly in evaluative situations without consciously
thinking about it.
- I am able to refocus effectively if I get upset during a project.
- During an important project I quickly clear emotions that interfere
with my performance.
- I can raise my energy level when necessary.
- When I need to, I can psych myself up for important situations.
- I have a specific method of preparing before important tasks.
- If I encounter a setback, I can rebound and still perform
If you answered "false" to one or more of the questions in the groups
indicated below, you should pay particular attention to that skill. You
will probably benefit greatly from learning how to use it successfully.
Scoring Key: (Question - Mind/Body Skill)
- Questions 1 and 2 - Action Focus
- Questions 3 and 4 - Creative Thinking
- Questions 5 and 6 - Productive Analysis
- Questions 7 and 8 - Keeping Cool
- Questions 9 and 10 - Concentration
- Questions 11 and 12 - Emotional Power
- Questions 13 and 14 - Energizing
- Questions 15 and 16 - Consistency
The Eight Mind/Body Skills for Success
These are the eight skills that will help you reach your Achievement
Action Focus: This is the skill
of knowing how to successfully reach your long-term goals. It requires
focusing on the task you need to accomplish, rather than on the desired
result. It means setting achievable goals as a stepping stone to ultimate
Creative Thinking: This is the
skill of using your imagination to achieve your goals and solve problems.
Productive Analysis: We all have an inner
voice, but if we talk to ourselves negatively we perform poorly. Productive
thinking helps us stay confident. It also helps us identify weaknesses
and find ways to improve.
Keeping Cool: The
Keeping Cool skill allows you to deal with anxiety and prevent panic.
Top athletes recognize that they will be nervous before big competitions.
They practice skills such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation so
they can calm down when the pressure's on.
The ability to enjoy the present is critical for competitive success.
Elite athletes learn to focus their concentration so that they pay attention
only to the things which will help them succeed. As a result, their
performance flows smoothly.
Strong emotions are a natural part of sports and business. The best
performers use their emotions constructively. They learn to deal with
the inevitable negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration
and sadness. It's important to be able to refocus after getting upset
if you wish to be successful.
Doing your best on a consistent basis takes lots of energy. The skill
of Energizing enables you to keep going when you feel like quitting.
You need Energizing if you frequently feel tired and worn out.
Sport psychologists have found that the best athletes prepare very carefully
for every performance. They often have a set routine that they follow
What does it take to reach the Achievement
Zone? The eight mind/body skills we've identified are crucial
for successful performance. Some of these skills are used on a daily
basis by successful people. Other skills are used only when needed,
for example, when dealing with distractions. But all eight skills are
needed at some time to consistently reach the Achievement Zone.
Achievement Zone is when everything becomes clear and focused.
Nothing bothers you -- you know instinctively what to do. You know that
whatever happens your reaction will be the right one. Nothing rattles
Annemarie Infantino Murphy, Ph.D.