To an onlooker, a tennis match at the sport’s highest competitive levels may seem like a duel of skill and nerves between two relentlessly focused rivals. In reality, Dr. Jim Loehr said on this week’s Walker Webcast, the man or woman wielding a racket and a wicked backhand spends 30% or less of the match actually playing for points. The remaining 70% or so is “dead time”—a time to reset in order to perform at one’s absolute peak, even if that dead time occurs in increments of a few seconds.
A world-renowned performance psychologist and author of 17 books including Leading with Character, Loehr has worked with dozens of elite athletes not only in tennis but also in other individual and team-focused sports. “Across all sports, there’s someplace that people go” in order to focus on what’s relevant, Loehr told Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker.
The ability to get to that place time and time again—Loehr calls it the Ideal Performance State—can help make the difference between victory and loss. “That is an acquired skillset that is not easily acquired but is absolutely essential” to achieving peak performance, said Loehr.
He cited the body language of Roger Federer: calm, confident and positive, regardless of whether he had just scored a point or missed the shot. Federer and others of his caliber use the dead time to map out what they’re going to do next, rather than dwell on mistakes or moments of defeat.
It’s a trained capacity for mental toughness that applies to “every dimension of life,” and not only sports, said Loehr, co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. He described it as “a sense of self-control and self-regulation that can be brought into a much bigger arena.” Outside of sports, clients ranging from Procter & Gamble to the FBI have called upon Loehr’s coaching.
The capacity Loehr described goes beyond moment-to-moment strategizing and into the realm of determining one’s goals and purpose in life. “Without a ‘why,’ life becomes a total nightmare and chaos,” said Loehr. He noted that the human brain functions on images, including visualization, and words.
To provide the latter component of goal- and purpose-setting, Loehr advocates journaling and scripting. “Get it in writing, over and over and over again,” he advised.
Journaling builds character, said Loehr, as does establishing a credo, a “true north.” With that credo firmly in mind, one can then focus on how to “get home” to what is most important.
Serving your own interests isn’t the final destination, though. Whether in sports or business, putting a priority on the organization or community, and its other members, is key to a fulfilling life. “We actually feel like we’re winning in our own lives when we help others to win,” Loehr said.
Regardless of the endeavor, said Loehr, “Full engagement is your greatest gift to the world.”
Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism.
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