Posts Tagged ‘diary’

The Art of Journaling: the Secret Weapon of the Elite Athlete

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Assess and Analyse – What are you Forgetting to Remember?

Historically people have developed the ritual of writing diary entries to keep a record of their feelings, their daily activities and documenting significant events for posterity.

For an athlete or coach, the disciplined and pragmatic habit of keeping a journal can be a vital tool when assessing performance, analysing strategies and developing an effective structure to their game.

Once you have initially set up a strong foundation by designing an order and sequence of recording specific information, the practice of journaling your career has far reaching applications.

In my first contact with a new client, I encourage them to start keeping a detailed journal and spend a fair bit of time in the beginning educating them on the benefits of, not just keeping a regular diary, but a journal that plays a key role in their Mind Coaching programme.

When looking back through journal entries with athletes where we have been working together for a couple of seasons, the results have been both prophetic and astounding, especially in those who have fully embraced the journalling ritual. It’s so rewarding for an athlete to see, especially in some who previously wrote no more than a shopping list on a post-it note prior to our coaching relationship, the time spent reflecting on their own words in their journals is paying them back 10-fold.

The science behind this is quite simplistic: when we ‘think’ something or we ‘commit’ something to our memory, unless we assign it significant importance, it often becomes lost in the diverse, endless pieces of information and events we store in our minds. So the likelihood of us instantly recalling that specific memory when analysing or becoming aware of a cognitive pattern that could significantly impact performance is very low.

Think back to your last training session and try to recall everything you were told, you told yourself, you experienced and observed – how much detail can you truly recall?

Now think back to as little as one week ago or one month ago – how much detailed information can you recall from those sessions? I bet there are massive gaps in your conscious memory? What if the one piece of information that could make all the difference to your next game was lost in the chasms of your memory?

Detailing each session… each recovery… each thought process… each technique… and so on enables you to not only build an accurate picture of how you are going, what is and isn’t working but also enables you to pick up on patterns and emotional triggers long before they become an issue. By creating an effective recording process you will automatically both search and recall in a specifically designed manner, highlighting both abnormalities and learning efficiencies.

The biggest benefit I see in athletes who journal is the motivational boost it provides. A regular read-through of their journal feeds them with instant feedback on how far they have come in such a short space of time. These chronological markers of success breeds greater success – see previous post on feeding the motivation engine for more detail on how this works.

Clearly the secret isn’t only in the way the information is recorded but in the way it is deciphered too, so what are you forgetting to remember!