"When I was told I had cancer after my operation, I was relieved. I had been under the hospital for 18 months without being diagnosed. Knowing was better than not knowing." Cancer Research, UK.
Hospital appointments. Sitting in the Beatson Cancer Centre waiting to discuss my 5 year clear! Hospitals like this one can make you feel very fortunate in that there is always someone worse off. I feel very lucky and fortunate.
My tumour the size of a basketball doesn't sounds as bad as the man across from me who has had 7 different tumours and the last one resulting in him losing his arm. I only lost a big part of my bowel. A part that nobody can see, nobody would know.
My scar can be hidden. But for many, their scars can't be hidden, the fight with cancer is an on-going process; and a fear that may always be there.
Speaking of my experience is not something I share very often, and not something I think about everyday. Yet today is different. Today, I get to say, "I am pretty much 5 years clear" (one more scan to go :))
Usually, I sit here in the waiting room and think that people may wonder if it's me that has or had cancer...I am the youngest in the room and I would say the healthiest looking, yet, I've also had to fight off the cancer curse. The question that my family members ask, "Why the healthiest one of all of us?"
Today is different, there are two people here for appointments around the same age as me. Brave smiles on their face, and one guy who decided he wanted to go into the appointment on his own. You have a wonder about what he is thinking and feeling but also his parents. For me, I knew I could deal, I knew I was resilient and strong, and wouldn't let it keep me down. I hope he has that feeling too.
This place brings back memories of Theresa. Theresa is the woman I met when I was going in for my second surgery. I was asleep in the waiting area, jet-lagged and knackered from exam cramming, but my mum who likes to chat, sparked up conversation with Theresa and Alex. What beautiful people! We kept in touch, and even visited Theresa in hospital when her cancer came back. She passed away, and as much as I prayed that she would recover she never did.
Everyone deals differently. I have found that I have dealt by being strong, not thinking of it as a bad thing, and not letting it define me. A lot of people wouldn't know that this is something I had endured but today, I felt like it would be good to share, and hopefully be a part in helping someone else.
My advice would be:
Keep living like each day is your last. You never know what's going to happen. I have always had the mindset of trying to cram as many things in as there's so much to do, so much to see, so much to learn, and when you deal with such a a thing like cancer, this helps you continue this mindset. Well mine.
Live for the moment. Live for the day. Take risks. Let go. Don't be afraid to try! Don't sweat the small stuff!
Before I had cancer, I never slowed down and carried out everything I did with stress and striving to be perfect. Always wanting to my best. I still have that. The strive to be my best, however, it doesn't come with the psychological stress I once had. Thanks to learning about psychology and sport psychology. I am now less concerned about meeting the harsh expectations that I put on myself, and try to enjoy life a lot more. Thank you to cancer for helping me relax in my mind, enjoy every day, and continue to strive for excellence in a healthy way.
Understanding the psychological components that help with optimal athletic performance is a key priority for applied sport psychology. A controversial issue within the field is perfectionism. Perfectionism is described as a broad multidimensional personality trait characterised by the pursuit of extremely high standards; striving for flawlessness, and over critical performance evaluation (Frost et al. 1990; Flett & Hewitt, 2005). Some may debate that being a perfectionist athlete is admirable because of the desire to achieve, and high motivation levels (Stoeber, Uphill, & Hotham, 2009). Nevertheless, perfectionism in sport is a controversial issue to which perfectionistic tendencies are seen as both adaptive and maladaptive (Frost et al, 1993; Terry-Short et al., 1995).
The multidimensional perfectionism scale devised by Hewitt & Flett (1991) evaluates perfectionism from three perspectives; self-orientated; other orientated and socially prescribed perfectionism. Self-orientated is the
excessive desire for perfectionism from one’s self, other orientated is demanding perfection from those around you and socially prescribed is the perception that significant others demand perfection from you (Flett &
Hewitt, 2005). There has been much controversy within the literature regarding which dimensions are adaptive and maladaptive, but the general consensus is that socially prescribed is associated with the unhealthy maladaptive perfectionism and self-orientated is linked to healthy adaptive (Hill et al. 1997; Flett &
Adaptive perfectionism can be explained as a positive pursuit towards achievement, whereas maladaptive perfectionism is associated with being concerned with evaluation; having a fear of failure and reacting negatively to defeat (Stoeber et al., 2008). Adaptive perfectionists typically set realistic goals prior to performance which ensures self confidence and motivation is maintained due to the belief that goals are obtainable (Slade & Owens, 1998). Therefore, adaptive perfectionism positively correlates with self-efficacy, motivation and high achievement amongst other desirable characteristics (Bieling et al. 2004).
Flett and Hewitt reported that although certain components of perfectionism may be positive, perfectionism is primarily maladaptive among athletes and exercisers (2005). Maladaptive perfectionism is positively associated with psychological difficulties such as distress (Stoeber & Eismann, 2007), injury (Krasnow et al. 1999), depression (Minarik & Ahrens, 1996); self destruction; anxiety (Antony et al, 1998; Egan et al, 2006); neuroticism; personality disorders and eating disorders (Haase et al 2001; Anshel, 2004); decreased physical health and well-being due to over training, disordered eating, and low self esteem (Hill et al, 2010; Hewitt & Flett 1991; Hewitt et al. 1992). Hall (2006) also detailed that perfectionism is also associated with shame (Tangney, 2002); performance anxiety (Hall, Kerr & Mathew, 1998); and suicide ideation (Hewitt, Flett, & Turnbull-Donavon, 1992). Evidence suggests that perfectionism may also act as a predisposing factor to athletes developing burnout during their performance career (Hill et al, 2008). When goals are not reached, maladaptive perfectionists engage in harsh self criticism and irrational beliefs resulting in feelings of inadequacy; reduced motivation and decreased self-confidence (Flett & Hewitt 2005).
The cognitive processes underpinning perfectionism were first examined by Horney (1950 In, Hall, 2013) and Ellis (1962, In. Hall, Hill & Appleton, 2013) who argued the core qualities of perfectionism are having a set of
irrational beliefs and a dysfunctional attitude. Flett et al. (1998) found that perfectionists may induce a pattern of intrusive self-focused thoughts about achieving perfectionism. Hill and Appleton (2011) showed that this cognitive process has corrosive influence on the quality of motivation in elite junior athletes. Nevertheless, there has been little research conducted on how perfectionism has been defined in sport, as the core qualities have emerged from other achievement disciplines.
Blatt (1995) offered that perfectionists may be resistant to direct attempts to alter ways of thinking and therefore, it may be effective to structure the learning and performance environment to change the perfectionist cognitions. Being able to create an optimal motivational climate in athletes is also likely
to lead to increased participation and enjoyment (Keegan, Harwood, Spray & Lavallee, 2009). Environments which are seen to be extremely critical, rigid and promote social comparison will foster numerous debilitating cognitive and affective outcomes (Mainwaring, 2009 In. Hall & Hill, 2012). Providing a learning environment to promote adaptive perfectionism may be an effective way to challenge perfectionist mindset.
Are coaches able to identify which athletes have perfectionist traits? And how can we help coaches create an environment to promote adaptive perfectionism and healthy motivation? Ideally, for coaches, it would be beneficial to not only know the signs of a perfectionist athlete, but also how to create the best environment to dissolve maladaptive perfectionism. In line with Stirling and Kerrs’ suggestions for future research, “the development of guidelines for coaches and parents to assist them in assessing, monitoring, and motivating
perfectionistic athletes may also be helpful.” (2001, p. 22), I believe that it would be beneficial for coachecs to have a better understanding on getting the best out of their perfectionist players.
Appleton, P. R., Hall, H. K.,& Hill, A. P.(2009) Relations between multidimensional perfectionism and burnout in junior-elite male athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10, 457-465 DOI:10.1016/j.psychsport.2008.12.006
Appleton, P. R., Hall, H. K.,& Hill, A. P. (2011) Examining the influence of the parent-initiated and coach-created motivational climate upon athletes’ perfectionistic cognitions. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29, 661-671.DOI:10.1080/02640414.2010.551541
Bieling, P.J., Israeli, A., Smith, J. & Antony, M.M. (2004) Is perfectionism good, bad, or both? Examining models of the perfectionism construct. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 1373-1385.
Blatt, S.J. (1995). The destructiveness of perfectionism; implications for the treatment of depression. American Psychologist, 50, 1003-1020.
DiBartolo, P.M., Frost, R., Dixon, A. & Almodovar, S. (2001) Can Cognitive Restructuring Reduce the Disruption Associated with Perfectionistic Concerns? Behavior Therapy, 32, 167-184.
Dunn, J.G.H., Gotwals, J.K., Causgrove-Dunn, J. & Syrotuik, D.G. (2006) Examining the relationship between perfectionism and trait anger in competitive sport. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 4 (1), 7-24.
Flett, G.L., Hewitt, P.L., Blankstein, K.R., & Gray, L. (1998) Psychological stress and the frequency of perfectionistic thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1363-1381. 2009
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Psychological Science, 14, 14-18
Flett, G.L., Hewitt, P.L. & Dyck, D.J. (1989) Self-orientated perfectionism, neuroticism, and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 10, 731-735.
Frost, R.O., Heimberg, R.G., Holt, C.S., Mattia, J.I., Neubauer, A.L. (1993). A comparison of two measures of perfection. Personality and Individual Differences, 14(1), 119-126.
Frost, R.O., Marten, P., Lahart, C. & Rosenblate, R. (1990) The dimensions of perfectionism. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 14, 449-468.
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Sport and Exercise Psychology, Volume 1, Essential Processes for Attaining Peak Performance. Pages 178-211. Meyer & Meyer Publishers, Oxford UK.
Hall, H. K. (2013) From adaptive achievement striving to athletic burnout: The debilitating influence of perfectionism. In D. Hackfort and I. Seidelmeier (Editors) Bridging Gaps in Applied Sport and Exercise
Psychology, 53-78, FIT Publishers. ISBN 978-1-935412-30-4.
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Hall, H. K., Hill, A. P., & Appleton, P. R. (2012) Perfectionism: A foundation for sporting excellence or an uneasy pathway toward purgatory? In Roberts, G.C. & Treasure D. (2012) Advances in motivation in sport and exercise:, 3, 129-168. Human Kinetics Publishers.
Hall, H. K., Hill, A. P., & Appleton, P. R. (2013) Perfectionism: Its development, and its influence on emerging talent in youth sport. In Lidor, R. & Cote, J. Conditions of Children's Talent Development in Sport, 117-137. FIT Publishers.
Hewitt, P.L. & Flett, G.L. (1991) Perfectionism in the self and social contexts: Conceptualization, assessment,
and association with psychopathology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 456-470.
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(MMPI) indices of personality disorder. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioural Assessment, 14, 323-335.
Hill, A.P. & Appleton, P.R. (2011) The predictive ability of the frequency of perfectionistic cognitions,
self-orientated perfectionism, and socially prescribed perfectionism in relation to symptoms of burnout in youth rugby players. Journal of Sport Sciences, 29 (7), 695-703.
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Coping, 23, 415-430 DOI:10.1080/10615800903330966
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Kearns, H., Forbes, A., & Gardiner, M. (2007). A cognitive behavioural coaching intervention for treatment of perfectionism and self handicapping in a non-clinical population. Behaviour Change, 24(3), 157-172.
Krasnow, D., Mainwaring, L. & Kerr, G. (1999) Injury, Stress and Perfectionism in Young Dancers and Gymnasts. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 3 (2), 51-58.
Lemyre, P.-N., Hall, H.K. & Roberts, G.C. (2008). A Social Cognitive Approach to Burnout in Elite Athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 18, 221-234.
Shafran, R., Cooper, Z. & Fairburn, C.G. (2002) Clinical perfectionism: A cognitive-behavioural analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 773-791.
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Slade, P.D. & Owens, R.G. (1998) A dual process model of perfectionism based on reinforcement theory. Behavior Modification, 22 (3), 372-390.
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Stoeber, J., Uphill, M.A., & Hotham, S. (2009). Predicting race performance in triathlon: The role of perfectionism, achievement goals, and personal goal setting. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 37, 211-245.
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Stoeber, J., & Eismann, U. (2007). Perfectionism in young musicians: Relations with motivation, effort, achievement, and distress. Personality and Individual Differences, 43(8), 2182- 2192.
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“A good coach doesn’t let ego and self worth get tied to outcome”
Are you bringing out the best in the people you work with? What leadership skills do you hold? Do you display positive emotions and bring out positive emotions in others? The Intentional Change Theory by Boyatzis helps us look at our leadership skills and how we influence others. It is a model of sustained, desired change for humans for leaders to influence others to make positive changes.
According to this theory, change occurs when people are in the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA). This is a state where you activate Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) resulting in the body rebuilding itself, and your immune system being engaged to help health. With PEA, you feel positive and hopeful; and think about the future, and dreams. You are more open to ideas and emotions, and are able to explore new possibilities and learning. PEA is also related to having positive relationships characterized by openness and empathy.
Sometimes with modern day life, and the stress of being a leader, we trigger the opposite state which is the Negative Emotional Attractor. In this state, we activate the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and get into fight or flight mode. Your body tries to prepare to defend itself which can also result in effecting cognitions, perceptions and emotions. We feel negative, and fearful. We think about the past or focus on present expectations of others and problems. We are more likely to focus on weaknesses, and feel obligated to do things because you ‘should’ or because others ‘expect’ you to. In this state, our relationships are usually inharmonious.
In order to have positive changes, and grow as individuals and performers, we need to get into the Positive Emotional Attractor state. Study by Khawaja (2011) has shown that a patient’s experience of shared PEA (i.e. shared vision and positive mood) is likely to result in adherence to treatment in Type II diabetics patients. In other words, when your Doctor is positive and hopeful, you are more likely to comply with recommendations which in turn would make you healthier. Other study in IT showed that PEA predicts effectiveness (In.Boyatzis, 2010).
Nevertheless, sometimes we need stress. It helps us survive and also takes us out of our comfort zone. We can use stress to grow as individuals by continually moving out of comfort zone and into learning. . Therefore, the positive aspect of NEA is that we learn to grow because NEA challenges us. But most of the time, we are exposed to too much stress. The following ways can help with activating PEA more than NEA.
Mindfulness and Compassion (Boyatzis & Yeganeh, 2013).
You can help a person get into the PEA by promoting hope, compassion, mindfulness or playfulness. Mindfulness is about being in the moment. Are you able to tune into yourself, others and the environment? Do you focus on problems or do you tune into excellence? To be mindful, you could pause and try to tune it. Appreciate your environment, your athletes, and try to be in the moment. As I usually describe it, ‘being in the moment’ is when you were a kid, and you were playing for hours on end, and time flies by because you are having fun. How can you promote this feeling when leading others?
Shared Vision (Boyatzis, 2010)
Another way to get people into PEA is by having a shared vision. Having an image of our desired future and working towards goals with passion and aspiration can help us get into PEA. In teams, sustained desired change can be motivated by bringing people into the PEA in creating a shared vision, and then reminding them about the purpose. Shared vision is a predictor of championing behaviour and as leaders, coaches, sport psychologists, it is part of our responsibility to help players performance at their best. We can do this by working together towards a common purpose.
Social Identity of Groups (Boyatzis, 2010)
Shared identity for a group, is the sense of belonging and having an attachment to that group. It is promoting the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘vision’ of the group to create a shared identity. By recalling proud team moments, and discussing values and purpose; the the players can become more aware of the shared PEA and NEA and how it helps or hinders the team. For example. The PEA “pulls teams toward their shared vision or purpose, encouraging them to focus on future possibilities and experience hope as a group” (Boyatzis, Smith & Blaize, 2006). This in return helps the group feel calm or motivated. This reduces stress, helps team members be more open to learning, and increases the sustainability of the team (Haslam & Reicher, 2006 In. Boyatzis, 2010). PEA opens the team up to learning and adapting to change, where as the NEA inhibits or blocks openness or change. That is why as a group leader, it is important to not only be in PEA yourself, but to find ways to get your players and team functioning and feeling at PEA.
Tracy Donachie, MSc in Performance Psychology.