The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life

Course No. 1699
Clinical Sport Psychologist Eddie O'Connor, Ph.D.
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Course No. 1699
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers develop the best practice regimen to meet your goals.
  • numbers use mindfulness meditation to benefit your performance.
  • numbers overcome barriers to performance.
  • numbers become a positive leader for your team or business.

Course Overview

In the classic joke, a New York tourist asks, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The old answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice.” Today, the relatively new science of performance psychology tells us that the old answer is incomplete at best. In The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life, clinical sport psychologist Eddie O’Connor, Ph.D., shares the best ways for you to reach your personal Carnegie Hall based on the latest scientific research—whether your performance environment is music, dance, business, or sport. These often surprising research results will make you rethink your own performance strategies, offering approaches you might never have considered and busting myths you might have taken as truth.

In addition to the scientific research, Dr. O’Connor brings a wealth of anecdotal examples from his twenty years of clinical experience working with youth, college, international, and professional athletes; health professionals; and corporate executives. His easy-going manner, ability to make scientific theory and research results accessible to all, and numerous illustrative videos and demonstrations provide an energetic and interactive learning environment.

Sport Psychology for the Athlete and Non-Athlete

If you are an elite athlete—or aspire to become one—The Psychology of Performance will help you better benefit from your practice and identify the mental and emotional approaches that will best support your performance goals over the long term. But whether or not you have any connection to the world of sports, this course will help you achieve your personal goals in your chosen field of performance. As Dr. O’Connor explains, the work of a sport psychologist is not defined by sport, but by the science of performance psychology, the mental aspects of superior performance in settings where excellence is central—often sports, but also the performing arts, business, high-risk professions such as the military, and many other fields.

In Dr. O’Connor’s work and in this course, sport is a lens through which to view the issues of practice, anxiety, injury, confidence, and more—issues that apply to any performer. And, if you are the parent of a young athlete or performer, Dr. O’Connor will help you understand this journey from your child’s perspective and how to best support him or her along the way, too.

In these 24 exciting half-hour lectures, Dr. O’Connor explains why:

  • Practice might not lead to peak performance,
  • Excellence in anything isn’t easy or natural,
  • Talent is not necessary (and can even be a disadvantage),
  • You are not limited by genetics,
  • Positive thinking can get in your way, and
  • Being a perfectionist can help you—and hurt you.

Why 10,000 Hours Could Be Too Much—And Not Enough

Practicing an activity for 10,000 hours won’t make you great, or even good. Any person could practice shooting a basket for 10,000 hours, but that wouldn’t make him or her a great basketball player. Why not? Because contrary to what you might have heard, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. If you’re practicing incorrect technique, even two hours is too much.

Research reveals there is really only one thing that distinguishes those who achieve peak performance from everyone else: the amount of time spent in deliberate, purposeful, goal-oriented practice. This type of practice requires feedback from an expert coach, precise goals for each practice session, intense focus, and challenging yourself to consistently move forward out of your comfort zone.

Neuroscientists using brain-imaging techniques have discovered that the brains of individuals that have developed a specific skill over time differ from those without the skill. For example, in musicians, the cerebellum (a part of the brain that plays an important role in controlling body movements) is larger than in non-musicians. Similarly, there is more gray matter in three regions of the brain that plays a role in visualizing and controlling the diving movements of the body in divers than in non-divers.

If talent were the cause of these differences, they would show up in childhood before training began. But they don’t. Instead, they show up only in individuals who have dedicated themselves over time to the appropriate amount and type of practice. We’ve always known that physical training can reshape our bodies. This exciting research reveals that appropriate training can also modify the structure and function of our brains, resulting in an increased neurological ability to perform a particular skill. Purposeful practice gets you there. And it’s the only thing that can.

Mindfulness as a Performance Strategy

If you’ve never practiced mindfulness meditation, you might imagine it as a relaxation exercise on the floor at the end of a yoga class. To the contrary, Dr. O’Connor explains and demonstrates that mindfulness—paying attention in a particular way, with purpose, focused on the present moment, without judgment—can be practiced in a suit sitting in your desk chair, on the playing field, or anywhere else. Maybe you have tried a mindfulness practice and felt like a failure because you can’t seem to control your mind. In true mindfulness training, your wandering mind is not a problem; the benefit comes in actively bringing your thoughts back to focus over and over again. Constant awareness and self-correction is the point of the practice.

People have been using mindfulness techniques for at least 2,500 years and they have been widely applied in medical settings and psychotherapy. Although its use as a performance strategy is in its infancy, science has already revealed positive changes in the brain, such as automatic and improved response to emotions and improved behavioral decision-making in the face of stress, after just eight weeks of mindfulness training.

The core belief of a mindful approach is that a person performs best when maintaining a state of non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness and acceptance of one’s internal state, with attention focused on what is essential for performance, coupled with consistent, intentional effort that supports what the performer values most.

Conquering the Obstacles to Success

In The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life, you will learn how to tackle some of the greatest challenges that arise as you work towards your goals. The very first step is to clearly define those goals and your values, discovering how to shape your practice and performance as you go. Even with your path clearly defined, however, there are difficulties you will need to tackle along the way.

One of the most common roadblocks to success is performance anxiety, which you can learn to overcome through imagery techniques and other tools. A crucial thing to remember as you “get in the zone”—that psychological place where everything comes together and feels easy—is to remember to be compassionate to yourself when you don’t succeed right away. Pushing ahead and struggling will always be a part of accomplishing your goals; Dr. O’Connor teaches not only how to succeed, but how to deal with the negative parts of your journey as well, including how to identify and prevent burnout.

The relatively new field of performance psychology is helping performers around the world up their mental, emotional, and physical games in sport, dance, art, and business. With The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life, you, too, can aim for the top with scientifically proven theories and skills.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Sport and Performance Psychology
    Sport psychology uses psychological knowledge and skills to help athletes achieve optimal performance, while caring for their overall well-being and development. This lecture begins your introduction to a relatively new field, revealing the science behind the most appropriate cognitive and physical practices leading to top performance. x
  • 2
    Deliberate Practice: Essential for Experts
    You say you don’t have athletic talent? You’ll be surprised to learn talent is overrated and can even become a disadvantage in the long run. Instead, discover the benefits of focusing your attention on practice—deliberate, purposeful practice with well-defined goals. That’s the way to challenge your brain and body to grow and adapt to achieve expertise. x
  • 3
    How Values and Goals Drive Performance
    If you want to reach your best performance level, you'll need to answer this one very important question: Why? Identifying what you want your performance life to be about will help determine your goals and values, and they will guide you through the hard work, wins, and losses ahead. x
  • 4
    The Benefits of Mindfulness in Performance
    Performers in any sport or art must be aware, intentional, and purposeful in focus, attention, and action. While the application of mindfulness meditation to sports performance is in its infancy, initial scientific studies reveal both short- and long-term benefits. Learn about the three major models of mindfulness and how to best apply them to your practice and performance. x
  • 5
    When Positive Thinking Doesn't Work
    We’ve all heard it: “Think positive! You can do it!” But when it comes to peak performance, is positive thinking a help or a hindrance? Cognitive defusion can help you see your thoughts for what they really are—experiences inside your head and nothing more. Gain the power of choosing which thoughts to follow and which to ignore. x
  • 6
    Acceptance and the Willingness to Feel
    All human emotions are based upon these basic four: anger, fear, happiness, and sadness. So why should you expect to be happy and positive all the time? That's only one out of four! Learn to accept the full range of your thoughts and emotions in order to free up your energy to focus on your performance goals and values. x
  • 7
    Commitment Means "No Matter What"
    If you want to achieve your peak performance potential, you know you must be committed. But committed to what? To the behaviors that lead to success. Will you prioritize commitment to your art, your sport, team, coach—or to the long-term goals and values you set for yourself? Learn how that choice affects your performance. x
  • 8
    Finding Internal Motivation
    What keeps elite performers motivated, continually sacrificing so much for their art or sport? Although coaches and parents sometimes think they are in charge of motivation, self-determination theory says humans have an inherent need for three things: competence, relatedness, and autonomy—to be good, to have connections to other people, and to be in control of their own lives. Understand your intrinsic motivation and see how it is the activating force for maximal growth. x
  • 9
    Using Imagery to Prepare for Action
    Athletes and coaches have believed in the power of visualization and have used it in their practice for decades. Now, medical imaging reveals exactly how imagery impacts the brain and the body's nervous system. See how musculature, respiration, and circulation are all stimulated for the betterment of eventual performance when this mental rehearsal is used to its best advantage. x
  • 10
    Confidence and Self-Talk
    Self-efficacy and sport confidence affect your ability to reach your practice and performance goals. But what are the sources of self-efficacy and how can you incorporate them into your life? Learn the ways in which instructional and motivational self-talk can work in your favor as a part of your training routine. x
  • 11
    Developing Focused Attention
    Focused attention is the single most important psychological skill for all performers, whether executive or athlete. But is it possible for us to fully control our attention? And what can go wrong when we try? Learn why hyper-accessibility will inevitably lead to problems and how the five principles of effective concentration can improve your performance outcomes. x
  • 12
    Superstitions, Rituals, and Routines
    What’s the difference between an athlete’s legitimate pre-performance ritual and a long-held superstition? Routines are always under the athlete’s control and directly improve performance. Superstitions—which tend to be more prevalent among athletes the higher their achievement level and number of years played—include some magical thinking and are not directly helpful. So why are there so many superstitious performers? x
  • 13
    Peak Performance: Getting in the Zone
    If you’ve ever stumbled into “the zone,” you know you want to get there again. Also known as flow, the zone is that time when you’re doing your sport, art, or job without thinking, just flowing from moment to moment, completely immersed. Learn how to prepare mentally and physically to increase your chances of entering this optimal performance state. x
  • 14
    Performance Anxiety and Choking
    Anxiety is normal, and every performer is familiar with its physiological symptoms. But it does not have to negatively affect your performance. Learn about Quiet Eye training and how it can be applied in a variety of athletic or artistic situations. QE techniques can help draw internal attention away from anxiety and refocus attention on the critical physical actions of performance. x
  • 15
    Being the Perfect Perfectionist
    Perfectionism is a paradox faced by almost all elite performers. It energizes achievement and contributes to success, but can also undermine performance and/or the enjoyment of success. Learn how to become a “perfect perfectionist,” using its positive attributes to your benefit while avoiding the perfectionist’s battle with feelings of shame and lack of self-worth. x
  • 16
    Self-Compassion for Self-Improvement
    Athletes know all about boxing up their feelings in order to get tough, get the job done, and cope with crises. But research shows routinely taking time to acknowledge and process your feelings affects the psychological variables that improve performance. Learn how specific exercises can help you increase self-compassion and get results. x
  • 17
    Burnout and the Need for Recovery
    The consequences of burnout can be devastating. Beginning with an exhaustion no amount of rest can relieve, burnout spirals downward through declining performance, frustration, decreasing motivation, and devaluation. Explore the underlying causes behind burnout, how to avoid and treat the problem, and the serious issue of burnout in today's youth sports. x
  • 18
    Pain Tolerance and Injury Rehabilitation
    If you’re an athlete striving for your highest performance level, pain and injury are just part of the game. But pain is never experienced in a vacuum. See how, for each athlete, pain exists within a unique bio-psycho-social context—the matrix that influences the athlete’s individual relationship to pain and the choice of association or dissociation strategies for moving forward. x
  • 19
    The Dangerous Pursuit of the Ideal Body
    Athletes can feel tremendous pressure to achieve the “ideal body” as early as elementary school. Consequently, although most of us recognize disordered eating and performance-enhancing drugs as problems, athletes can see them as short-term positives despite long-term damage. What does the latest research reveal regarding the health risks of methods many athletes use to improve sport performance? x
  • 20
    Fan Psychology, Identification, and Violence
    Teams need their fans, and fans need their teams. Uncover what the latest research says about the difference in the social and emotional health of higher- and lower-identified fans. Learn how being a fan can make you happy. Explore as well the risks and darker side of passionate fandom—not only does your level of identification affect your mood and enjoyment, but also your potential for anger and violence. x
  • 21
    Four Qualities of a Successful Team
    Learn how the four correlates of teamwork—cohesion, cooperation, role relationships, and leadership—function together to best enable sport teams to reach their goals. No matter whether you’re in the world of sports or business, the Team Captain’s Leadership Model will show you how to lead by example to better your team and yourself. x
  • 22
    Talent: A Developmental Process
    Understand why the typical talent identification model works against the development of athletic talent in youngsters. Instead, turn to another model, the Developmental Model of Sports Participation, which research shows promotes the physical health and psychosocial development of all children involved in youth sport—in addition to most effectively promoting the development of specialized expertise. x
  • 23
    How to Be a Great Sport Parent
    Whether parents want to help their children develop into successful achievers in sports, art, music, or life, it’s important to remember that everything you say and do matters. Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes sports parents make—words and actions that work against your child’s goals and your own—and what you can say that your child always needs to hear. x
  • 24
    Aging Athletes: Competing and Retiring
    Learn what it takes to keep up skills and performance levels as we age. With appropriate planning, older athletes can often compete well beyond the age of peak performance and even remain competitive compared to their younger peers. But the time will eventually come to retire from your sport, and the sooner you start preparing for that transition, the better you will feel about it. x

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Problems and solutions

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Your professor

Eddie O'Connor

About Your Professor

Eddie O'Connor, Ph.D.
Eddie O’Connor is a clinical sport psychologist who specializes in helping athletes, teams, and organizations improve performance by developing mental toughness and overcoming performance barriers. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Binghamton University and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Dr. O’Connor is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant and a Fellow of the...
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The Psychology of Performance: How to Be Your Best in Life is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 38.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Course I Have Ever Listened Too! This was an exceptional product. The professor was warm, engaging, and BEYOND knowledgeable. There was so much research presented to back his points; it was fully absorbing, and I learned how to manage a difficult work project as a result of listening the professor. I am in-debt to the Great Course. Everyone needs to have access to this course. It is life changing.
Date published: 2020-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommend! Good for novices, but also proves resourceful for intermediates and advanced practitioners.
Date published: 2020-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I'm halfway through and very happy with this course. I especially appreciate the presentation of the various methods of mental/psychological skills training and the details (supported by research) about what actually works/doesn't work in specific applications and why. It is well organized and well presented and would be very helpful to anyone who is interested in improving their performance at any level by integrating mental and physical skill set development. In my case I'm just a retired senior citizen trying to lower my golf index (14) to single digit.
Date published: 2018-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from practical mindfulness I've watched other courses were mindfulness is discussed. Dr. O'Connor makes the application of mindfulness concrete and specific, presenting the concepts in a manner readily understood and applied.
Date published: 2018-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing & Extremely Applicable Content I bought this course in audio format as I was interested in psychology in general, but more specifically how it could be applied to my life, work, sports, and fitness, and this course seemed to cover it all! The content is extremely useful and interesting as everything that I learned, from mindfulness meditation to realistic goal setting, was stated in clear and concise language that was easy to understand, so don't be afraid of the academic jargon or lofty theories as he breaks it all down for you point by point. He does cover a wide range of topics and I did find myself more interested in the lectures in the first half of the course more than the second half, but it was still an interesting and informative learning experience overall. A word of caution to anyone who does buy the audio format as he does use a few visual examples in the video format to illustrate some points, but it was nothing that my imagination couldn't picture so I didn't feel like I was missing anything. I will definitely be re-listening to this course in the future!
Date published: 2018-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent for players, coaches, and parents. I bought this course about a year ago and listened to it at least a half dozen times. As a youth baseball and softball coach through the years as my kids were growing up and now as a private instructor, I've always been impressed at how much a part the mental game plays in the success of an athlete on the field and in life. Parts of Dr. Eddie's lectures reenforced and clarified what I've learned through the years, like his balanced and realistic approach to having a Positive Attitude, while newer concepts opened new doors to me as a coach, as with his explanation of the PETTLEP model of Imagery. These two concepts alone were worth the price of the course. For example, I was able to help a twelve year old student of mine who was having a tough time dealing with hitting the curveball develop an effective game plan and improve his confidence at the plate through the process of Imagery and a Deliberate Practice plan. The "Quiet Eye" training was also helpful in keeping stay focused on the moment. I've used these concepts mainly in the athletic arena, but I see how they can be used in all areas of performance. I highly recommend this program, whether you're a performer, parent or coach!
Date published: 2018-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title says it all. After listening to this and just being more aware of what is going on, I've noticed vast improvements in my life. From my time at work to sport and my family, everything has noticeable improvements. I promise this is worth your time to listen to. Dr O'Conner is also a genuinely nice guy. He returned my emails promptly and for that and the time he spent making this course, I am truly grateful. Goggles
Date published: 2018-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loaded With Information Of the courses I have watched, this one has taken me the longest to get through as it is packed with so much interesting information. The presentations flow naturally and have visual aids to enhance the lecture subject. The topics go beyond what I expected. It is primarily focused on sports but does briefly touch on other topics like dance and can be applied to activities outside of sports. I never realized how complex sports psychology is; it is a multifaceted field. My favorite part was the last disc; some of the topics covered are fan violence, child athletes, parents, and aging. Some of the lectures should be mandatory for parents of kids in sports so the parents can get a realistic perspective and learn how to be a better sports parent. These lectures are for athletes, parents of sports kids, former athletes, sports fans, coaches, or anyone wanting to better understand performance in any activity including dance, music and so-on.
Date published: 2018-09-07
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