Sensory Overload Visualisation Training

The blood rush is worth it!

Here is a technique for Sensory Overload Visualisation Training. It’s all about taking athletes to the extreme to ensure they stay on track when it counts.

How to Overcome Fear with Mental Toughness

Fear is a natural and necessary human sensory behaviour, not taboo nor something to be avoided or eradicated. Learning how to overcome fear involves effective emotional management.

We have all experienced fear at one time or another, on many different levels and intensities.

However, more often than not we conquer fear and move on, internally storing how it made us feel, the impact it had at the time and what we did to overcome the fear – which is all useful internal processing data for future events.

Fear is a necessary internal sensory process. It enables us to evaluate our surroundings and any potential threats to our safety, it also enables us to make future decisions based on past events and possible outcomes. Essentially it’s part of our self-preservation mechanism that dates back to our caveman days and sets us apart from other animals.

In some cases fear grips us, it overwhelms us and grows deep within us. The more we think about it, try to deal with it and listen to the potential for disaster – the bigger, hairier and insurmountable it appears to become.

When this happens it can impact every facet of our lives, eroding our confidence, scrambling our logical thought process and greatly inhibiting us from moving forward.

In order to overcome fear we must first understand what fear really is and how it became so out of control and all consuming.

The first thing to understand is fear is just an emotion, no different in neurological construction from the emotions of being happy, feeling safe, excited or calm – these and many more emotions are used internally as an overall categorisation of every event (our evaluations and memories).

Our mind evaluates an event, takes a snapshot, assigns a level of importance and then an emotion. This allows our brain to store it in a way that when that or a similar event occurs again our brain already has the hard work of evaluation, assigning importance and categorisation done and thus an action can be taken much quicker and more efficiently.

When things go off the rails however it is normally self created – because our mind (or more specifically our imagination) has run away with its role as chief creator of possible threats and outcomes.

Our memory of a past event is primarily one dimensional with an emotion attached  and so holds little actual intel to effectively and realistically evaluate real-time threats. So in order for our brain to have all bases covered our imagination takes over and invents possible outcomes. We then mentally prepare for them.

However rather than ‘keeping it real’ our emotions and our imagination feed off each other to the point where we scare ourselves into a catatonic state, the possible outcomes are so big and so grandiose that we cannot see a way out and choose rather to avoid.

The same happens for an event that hasn’t even occurred before, in fact these self manufactured scenarios can be even more unrealistic and cause even more anxiety and fear.

Conquering fear requires unpacking, evaluating the process, then reprogramming and rebuilding.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Further details on how The Smart Mind Institute shows athletes, coaches and parents how to identify and manage the imagination monster can be found here.

Resilience for Athletes

Over the years, I’ve seen coaches create a reaction in their athlete by saying inflammatory things. They often do this to try to evoke an emotion. For some athletes, it works. For most athletes, it has a negative outcome. It may initially give coaches the reaction they are after, however, any enhancement in performance is short-lived.

It has a lot to do with the mental and emotional resilience of an athlete.

I was recently working with an athlete and their coach. The coach is very knowledgeable about their sport, they’ve got some great results out of their sport, and they’ve been around a long time; so they know how to coach.

While I was working with the athlete, I asked the coach to do what they’d normally do, to coach the athlete so I could observe the interaction, and work out what I could do to make it more effective and efficient. When the coach was watching the athlete doing some specific skills, the coach was imparting some great technical knowledge to the athlete. You could see this athlete actually adored this coach and hung off every word they were saying. Every time they gave an opinion, thought, or directive, this athlete was keen to apply what they’d just learned.

As the coach turned around to walk back to observe this athlete doing what he just told him to do, the coach made a flippant remark.

I watched the athlete completely deflate…

The next performance wasn’t what was expected…

The athlete was down, no longer processing information and was focusing on this flippant remark.

I could see the emotional weight they were carrying with them.

I asked the coach if they knew what they had just done. They had no idea. They’d given information, made sure the athlete was aware of what to achieve and how to achieve it, and then in their mind, the job was done.

So I asked the coach what their role was. They said “My role is to coach and teach.”

I asked them to be more specific and the coach was silent.

This coach has a long history of success in the sport; a great technical knowledge of the sport; knows how to coach, and how to get a result for athletes.

What he didn’t understand was the key role he played.

Their role is to give information and make sure an athlete takes it on in a way they can use, see relevance to, and have a tangible application of.

This coach didn’t see it in that way.

The throwaway comment and the reaction from the athlete undoes all the great information just given.

Where does that leave a coach? Does it mean we have to be conscious of every single word we have to say?

In a way, yes.

Does it mean we can’t joke and have that human interaction with athletes?

Of course not. It’s part of the responsibility of the coach, and part of the athlete, to make sure they understand what they’re getting and what they’re giving.

From a coach’s perspective, being aware that once the information is given, the comments also given will be associated to an emotion. If you give information that makes the athlete feel really good about that, they’re more likely to apply it. If you give information and they feel great, then you give a parting comment that changes the associated emotion, you no longer have a clear and concise application of that information.

That all sounds technical, what it means is if you want an athlete to do their best, leave them with a positive emotion. Make sure you’ve left them feeling comfortable when trying to apply something new – let them use that information in the most efficient format.

From an athlete’s perspective, it comes down to having emotional and mental resilience. There are couple ways to do this.

For older athletes, it’s more about recognition of the relevance of the information. Take a logical approach of “This is what I need for this skill, let me sort that from my coach”. The relationship from the coach to the athlete has to be equal in communication. The information needs to sit well and they have to have an open relationship of good communication.

With younger athletes – teens and lower – building emotional resilience is asking them to see things through a ‘protective layer’. We all have filtering systems that have developed over our life spans and are formed by things we’ve experienced in life. Young athletes are influenced by themselves, parents, social groups, peers, etc. These are inbuilt, cultivated filtering systems.

By tweaking these filters to become more relevant for the younger set is to teach them to create an image in their brain. That is, when anyone is trying to give them information, having a set of filters to put that information through, in order to keep the relevance of that information – is key.

I explain the process of how to build resilience in athletes in detail on my Brain in the Game podcast.

The resilience process gives the athlete wider control over the information they receive, to apply the bits they need, or put it away for later. It also allows athletes to unemotionally bounce the negativity away.

As a coach, how do you give your information? Are you undoing all that great work with your throwaway comment, or not making information relevant?

If you’re an athlete saying “That’s me! My coach has made me feel really negative even after giving me great information…”, then be proactive about managing that information, more aware of what you need to use, to keep, to store and to bounce off.

Also being conscious about how you ask the questions will help this process. Asking in a certain way is more likely to get the response in the same way. If you ask very emotionally-charged questions, you’re more likely to get emotionally-charged responses. How you ask questions will often dictate how you receive the answer.

This process of emotional resilience is about being specific with what we get, how we get it, and how we used it; and letting all the other stuff that comes with it, go.

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport


The advances in chemistry are there to aid – and perhaps it was this thinking that started blurring the lines for those who drive the beast known as professional sport…


When Lance Armstrong admitted to the world the extent of doping in his cycling career, the world seemed to almost slip off it’s axis. Sports fans the world over were appalled and shocked at the depth of his betrayal. Armstrong was instantly and very publicly ostracised, and rightly so.

The sporting community at large watched in disbelief as the story unfolded to the extent, and apparent ease, these performance enhancing drugs were both distributed and accepted as part of the professional cycling scene.

Armstrong’s crafted response to those who questioned his sporting success including his 7 Tour de France wins was vague, weakly apologetic and even at times narcissistic. Armstrong appeared to be unsure as to why the world was even questioning his use of performance enhancers at that level.

What the Armstrong case has shown us is just how much our athletes are revered and placed on a moral pedestal by their adoring fans and how naive most of us are at what really goes on at that level.

This week, Australia faces its own Armstrong crisis with a damming report released into the extensive and prolonged substance abuse culture in Australian professional sport. The report released by the Australian Government and integrity agencies focused on the elite sporting community and eluded to a much deeper and systemic problem.

According to the official report the culture of elicit drug use, performance enhancement drugs, human growth hormones, peptides, blood transfusions – even the use of drugs that have yet to be approved for humans – is widespread amongst many of the major sporting codes.

The report points the finger squarely at the coaches, managers and the sports science support staff and put them in bed with organised crime by the acknowledgment that this issue was underpinned by multiple organised crime syndicates and administered from within the sports’ own management structure.

This report makes the Lance Armstrong case look, well quite honestly, amateur.

For those of us who already move in the professional sporting arena, this is not a breaking story. For many of us it is more bewilderment as to why it has taken this long to be exposed.

Back in the 80s, competing in an enviroment where the performance enhancing substances of choice were far more rudimentary and primarily limited to anabolic steroids, the playing field was never going to be a level one.

I was a clean athlete (as was the majority of my team) and never entered the slippery slope of taking banned substances.

I can still remember turning up at some international events and by merely looking at the physique, incredible levels of strength and the skills being performed realised some of the competitors were on the juice.

Today as a professional Mind Coach whose job is to help elite and professional athletes to perform better, faster and more reliably, I am very aware that the playing field is even less level today than in the 80s.

On the surface, the use of mental, physical and cognitive techniques to stimulate performance; the use of language patterns, hypnosis, psychology, neural patterning to lower anxiety, manage emotions, build behavioural structure, accountability and the such like may look a little out of its league!

But they work and they work well…

Lets be honest, the physical demands on athletes today is astronomical, not only is asked more of them physically, they are asked to back up and do it all again, playing more frequently.

The advances in chemistry are there to aid – and perhaps it was this thinking that started blurring the lines for those who drive the beast known as professional sport. 

Performing better is only part of the appeal, the ability to sustain longer training hours, recover from injury faster, be less prone to fatigue and to require less down time makes financial sense both for the athlete and the club.

So as you read this, you may be thinking – I get why they would turn to the chemical enhancement. But there is much more to this story than just helping an athlete run faster, jump higher or lift more.

As with most things, supply is driven by demand. If there was no demand there would be little need for a supply. As the industry of professional sport grows so does the need to have bigger, better, stronger athletes – athletes who will back up game after game, are marketable and drive the fans to spend more.

The clubs, even the codes, bottom line is in someway dependent upon the products: the athletes.

And of course innovation drives sophistication of avoiding detection. There appears to be more investment in designing these drugs than in the sporting codes building the systems to stop them..

So what drives this undesirable element in our sport?

How does the seedy world manage to get its hooks into our young up and coming stars?

What are the real alternatives to doping in the multi billion dollar industry that is sport?

I am frequently asked my opinion on the use of chemicals as performance enhancers by coaches, athletes and commentators – as I am very vocal with my beliefs on externally added drugs and their place in sport.

For me it’s simple – there really isn’t any need!

There is no need to place ourselves in potentially fatal danger by injecting chemical stimulants into our athletes, nor do I believe it’s in the spirit of sport or competition… it’s just not cricket!

…or football …or athletics …or swimming

…you get the picture.

For me the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Mind you, this comes from someone who wholeheartedly believes we have the same capabilities sitting between our ears – natural potentiality, untapped and free. 

I believe many factors contributed to the evolution of this apparent systemic cheating culture gripping certain aspects of our global sporting community. From simple accessibility, to obvious shifts in society standards, to internally and externally placed pressure, the change in the dynamics of an athletes career and also none less guilty than the unbelievable (somewhat stupid and unbalanced) money that can be made in professional sport today.

Until only recently athletes were, for the vast majority, amateurs – part-timers. They were students, or held down jobs and trained wherever and whenever they could.

The shift to full-time athlete has seen a dramatic spike in what athletes could achieve as they dedicated their lives to their sport. We probably wouldn’t have the Ennis’ or the Phelps’ or the Woods’ of the world if they also worked in the local factory.

However this shift is not only on an athlete’s focus, but also their accountability. When an athlete had a career other than their sport, it gave them some external stability, a safety net, something that if they became injured, dropped or retired they could turn to. After all, they were never going to be millionaires as amateurs anyway.

When your whole future is based on what goes on on the field, there is a huge expectation to stay fit, to stay healthy, to be on top, to perform, to get results over and above your desire to be the best athlete you can.

This expectation can lean to an athlete feeling vulnerable and willing to take something to help them back up from a tough game. Their priority could become focussed on sustaining the results that are linked to their potential to earn, to make the selection, to create longevity and become even more marketable.

This is not a justification, rather, a rationalisation in their minds. Most of these athletes who do cheat do so with a sound reasoning – or so they think. This is why I believe the problem isn’t the athletes alone. It is a result of the process, the culture, the machine that is sport.

Many of these same athletes have lifestyles they would not have without their sporting success and notoriety. They are given access to a world of opportunity, privilege, fame and infamousy… and often with a pocket full of cash.

For some this can often lead to exposure to the elicit drug scene with the means to explore. The recreational drug world is dark, murky and powerful and for these highly stimulated, vulnerable and adrenaline driven youngsters with time, means and exposure could be an attractive proposition.

Statistically, if we look at where the vast majority of doping issues occur it is in the more lucrative and publicly passionate sports. The sports where the athletes on the field can mean the difference between a full stadium, a multi million dollar sponsor, a TV deal or even survival of the club. So if you control the product (the athlete) you control the outcome, the result, the dollar.

As I said this is by no means a justification to those who choose to cheat, it is the environment that has supported their cheating tendencies, their look for the easier ride to fame, fortune and success.

So what are the alternatives to doping, to injecting yourself with human growth hormones, to having blood transfusions of laced calfs blood, to selling your soul to the underworld?

Well in my world, the alternative is where the same highs, the same controls, the same stimulants, the same replicability can be achieved naturally, clean and legally. It can be learnt, applied and cultivated without fear of being caught, getting a criminal record or dying.

Those same chemically induced outcomes can be triggered within the human brain. Studies have shown you can release specific chemicals in your brain that give you just as much increased resilience, strength and recovery capabilities as the synthetic versions.

Of course I recognise and acknowledge my way is harder work…

It takes more commitment, more time, more knowledge, more personal investment than just flooding your body with peptides and laced calf blood.

However stimulating our brain has far less repercussions. The legal repercussions of the current report on the drug cheats are yet to play out in the public and official courts. What I am referring to is the physical and psychological repercussions of some of these drugs.

Increased likelihood of heart problems, higher rates of strokes, of blood disorders, kidney failure, liver failure, sight issues, brain damage, bone deterioration and impotency to name a few.

And then there is the psychological effects of these drugs, ranging from increased rates of schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, emotional irrationality, psychosis and much more. And these are only from those we know the risks to.

Mind Coaching isn’t just for the now, it’s not going to dissipate out of your body when you stop using it, leaving you a broken shell. Mental stimulation and cognitive conditioning is a skill-set that stays with you forever.

Irrespective of how the Australian government handles this current crisis, the use of illegal substances won’t go away. What you as an athlete choose to do is the only way to send a message to those who prey on the young up and coming athlete.


Using Your Neurons to Achieve Your Objective

Discover how to find the confidence and self trust to follow your path step by step, knowing where to go, what to expect and how to achieve it.


Athletes are often told by their coaches they need to set goals and then set out to achieve those goals.

However many athletes are never educated in HOW to effectively set and or achieve goals or what the difference is between a goal and an objective.

As a professional Mind Coach I get all our athletes and coaches to set an OBJECTIVE, a big ticket outcome, and then plot and plan the Goals to achieve that Objective.

So the difference between an OBJECTIVE and a GOAL is an objective is the destination, the final outcome where as a goal is the path of stepping stones along the way. The design of this direction promotes sustained motivation.

Today we are going to look at something called NEURAL PATTERNING and an innovation we have created to really get this skill ingrained in the body is Blindfolded Rock Climbing.

The concept behind this exercise is to firstly teach the athlete how to gain clarity on their objective and then design and create their path in a systematic and specific way.

Learn how to achieve the confidence and self trust to follow your path step by step, knowing where to go, what to expect and how to achieve it.


Stage One: Create The Objective

Establish what you are striving for: International representation, an Olympic gold, a World Record or something more intimate such as a personal achievement.

Whatever the objective is, it needs to be clear, concise and precise with an understanding of what will be the final step, the recognition of job done.

Then the path to the objective is designed. Selecting goals that support and enhance the journey, and part of this process includes allowing the athlete to set their own goals to the objective and the reward system that goes with it.

Stage Two: Own The Objective

Once we have our established objective and our specifically designed set of goals as the pathway we need to embed this strategy into the neural pathway of the athlete, rendering it as the optimal behavioural option.

Having a pre-designed clear and structured path allows an athlete and coach to maintain focus and if the athlete does veer off the path, the specific point of reference will instantly show, allowing them to correct and bring it back on track (by utilising effective visualisation, both with associated and disassociated techniques).

If we take ownership of something, then we are more likely to stick to it, have an emotional connection to it and be motivated by it. The athlete designed this unique path so they are not bound by the strategies of others. By selecting the path that best suits them they hold themselves accountable to the outcome.

Stage Three: Follow The Path

A very effective exercise to teach the athlete the benefits of selecting, embedding and following a path is our “Blindfolded Rock Climbing” process. This is the last stage in building effective performance neural patterning.

The idea behind this is to feel comfortable in trusting our internal judgement – Once we remove our ability to see, adjust and react we must trust our internal picture.

Our eyesight overrides and over-writes our memory – instantly becoming our primary process – reacting to an ever changing environment. But what it CAN do is react without planning and we could easily find ourselves without options or on a path where we are following another athletes strategy.

Blindfolded RockclimbingSo by creating our path, succeeding at the path and rewarding ourselves … and all whilst doing it blindfolded – we enforce our self belief and confidence in trusting our own judgement.

I am often asked to work with athletes who are experiencing confidence issues around their performance – when they are reminded of success by completing this Neural patterning process their confidence and self worth is instantly lifted. Once they have this point of reference they have a history of success, they see and feel their ability is once again reinforced.

Sports Commentary and it’s Effect on Athlete Performance

Does the past always influence the future based on fact, or is it all psychology?

When economists forecast the rise and fall of financial trends or when political commentators predict the swings in government – and get it right – are they just clever predictions based on past events and cold statistics, or is there more to it? Could they be psychologically influencing our decisions and future choices unwittingly with the words they use?

If we take the same parallel with sport, sporting commentators speculate on the outcome of a game based on past results of the player or team.

Again is this just the sum total of interesting statistics, relevant information and probable mathematics, or does their suggestibility hold a more subconscious influence over the players and impact on the potential outcome of the game.

In the same way people are influenced into believing and blindly following social, economic, health and even fashion trends, covert use of targeted language can also heavily influence our athletes into following performance trends.

This could result in either psychologically winning or losing a competition before they ever step onto the pitch – all based on the expert’s analysis.

Most sporting commentators are past or current players, coaches or influential people within their sporting community and often hold a great deal of respect from within that code.

So clearly their opinions and predictions matter to those who they are commentating on!

If the commentators believe a particular team is certain to lose and they publically verbalise these beliefs, boosting their point of view with statistics, history and plays as proof then the self-belief of the players on the potentially losing team will diminish – thus becoming a self fulfilling prophecy instigated from the commentary box.

Humans are socially and psychologically pack animals, guided by the community, socially driven to assimilate and conditioned to believe and follow our leaders – especially those we emotionally adorn. So it stands to reason when a well respected social influencer tells you you’re destined to lose, the doubt enters your mind and becomes a focus point now giving you the option to lose – as it is expected.

The same outcome is achieved when statistics are highlighted as a probable outcome of the future such as ‘the last time these teams met they lost by 100 points’ or ‘this team have never won at this venue before!’ All these factors and the social expectation weigh heavily on their minds and performance.

So has our thirst for up to the minute knowledge, opinions and statistics and the medias willingness to supply that information begun to influence how an athlete physically and mentally performs? Athletes will tell you ‘No!’ They will say the media plays little part in their preparation or performance – they say this because they are told to say it not necessarily because they believe it.

So as a coach or commentator we have a duty and responsibility to understand that what we say could have an impact on the outcome and psychology of an athlete.

Athletes and Confidence: How to Create a Natural High

Confidence in both the coach and athletes is a hot topic, something associated with both our success and our downfalls. Our confidence is something that needs to be managed just as pragmatically as we manage our physical fitness and diet.

Some coaches and athletes however view the psychology of confidence as a taboo subject, thinking if they don’t talk about it, mention the word ‘confidence’ let alone prepare and nurture it then it won’t break!

Confidence is not a fragile entity to be tip-toed around – it is a system, a replicable system of specific neurological triggers and chemical stimulants in our bodies. It deserves our full attention!


In most cases, I have found confidence issues are a lack of  — or a stalling of — positive forward momentum.

What I mean by this is – our confidence and motivation is fuelled by consistent injections of success, each and every time we succeed at something – no matter how small – we are neurologically rewarded for our trouble.

We are rewarded with generous doses of serotonin and dopamine – this concoction of naturally derived happy drugs are supplied by our own bodies as a recognition of achievement.

Serotonin and Dopamine (like many other natural chemicals) are highly stimulating and exceptionally addictive. Our brain likes this reward system and wants more and more of it, so urges us forward to the next success and reward point – eagerly waiting for the next big hit.

Whilst it is our subconscious brains that have a higher understanding of what we are actually capable of – it is our conscious filtration system that normally ‘plays safe’ and pulls us back into a conservative line.

This natural high feeds our confidence, and sometimes fools our conscious mind into thinking we could, and should, take on more and more challenging tasks to gain the higher reward.

Many top athletes speak of being caught up in the moment, feeling un-stoppable and almost superhuman when at their peak. The reward driven highs becoming ‘the norm’ and a constant flooding of neural stimulants keeps them there.

(This is also part of the reason why retiring athletes struggle to maintain the stimulation in their after sport life – but that is a whole other topic  we will cover in another post!)

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” ~ Vince Lombardi

Where the wheels fall off this gravy train is if we STOP or lose this positive forward momentum of natural rewards.

If we stop acknowledging our successes, we begin to suffer withdrawal from our happy drugs – like a drug addict without the next fix this begins to reinforce our subconscious doubts over our ability to ever again ‘score’ or succeed and be rewarded. The next logical steps elude us, we lose direction, focus and perspective.

The longer the period of time where our reward cravings are not met the bigger the desire is to have that ‘hit’ and the more important that next success becomes. All this does is increase our anxiety levels and feeds the emotional monster.

These gorged emotions cloud our skill-set, our cognitive clarity and our perception on our ability to succeed.

And so a perpetual cycle of failure is born.

Breaking this slippery downward cycle and restoring forward upward momentum is just as systematic a process as the creation of the problem in the first place.

After all, our confidence is fuelled by our success, acknowledgment and our neural-reward!

And as this feeds the motivation engine, the strategy is simple:

1. Start setting small achievable goals, acknowledging them along the way.

2. Reward yourself again and again – it gains traction in the motivation game, like stoking the fire of a steam engine the more fuel you put in the better the results that come out.

And so, instead of feeding a perpetual cycle of failure, we are maintaining a perpetual cycle of success.

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