What is on your mind and where do you put it! Mindfulness at the Olympic Games

Peter Haberl, USOC, USA

Theme: Consulting/private practice

Program ID: SYM-29

Presentation: October 5, 2013 2:45 pm - 3:45 pm

Room: Napoleon


My theory of performance was and is heavily influenced by the privilege of working with athletes at the Olympic Games. The Olympic environment poses a significant challenge to the mind of the athlete. We know that optimal performance happens when attention is fully focused on the task at hand (Czikszentmihalyi 1990), and performance breaks down when attention wanders (Gardner & Moore, 2006). A wandering mind, however, is part of the human condition (Teasdale 2012) and difficult to avoid at the Games. Mindfulness exercises cultivate awareness of the wandering mind (Davidson 2012, Siegel 2010) and they develop the ability to aim, sustain and regain attention (Bishop et al., 2004). So mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn 1990) has become the guiding paradigm I apply in my case conceptualizations and my applied work. The aim of mindfulness is to understand how the mind works, and to learn how to work with it effectively (Kabat-Zinn 2005). To this end, and as theory guides practice, implicitly, if not explicitly, I start with two simple questions: do you know what is on your mind? And can you put your mind where it needs to be?

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