Annika McGivern High Performance Coaching

Annika McGivern: Mental Training for Real Life High Performance Environments (Dealing With Goliath Podcast #013)

Show Notes:

Annika is a Performance, Sport and Exercise Psychologist. Coming from a high-performance equestrian sport background, she has gained over ten years professional coaching experience. Combining this experience with a BA of Psychology from the University of Victoria and a MSc of Sport and Exercise Psychology from Ulster University in Northern Ireland, she delivers highly practical solutions for teams and individuals with a focus understanding the complex interaction of the conscious and unconscious mind.

Annika is passionate about teaching the necessary skills to get the most from mental training in real-life performance environments. She creates and delivers specialized training for Personal Trainers and gym owners to help bring the benefits of exercise psychology to the gym environment. Annika also applies her skills and knowledge in business, specializing in resilience, mindset, communication and presentation skills.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The benefits and role of Cognitive Behavioural Coaching
  • What athletes are like to work with as coaching clients compared to others
  • The effect of athletes having previous exposure to sports psychology principles before
  • Conversational versus directive coaching in sport
  • Why equestrian sport is an extreme sport like downhill racing or big wave surfing
  • The key commonality between athletes and business people
  • The importance of mindset on performance
  • What Annika loves most about her work as a high performance coach
  • How a massive shift in perspective can occur quickly
  • The most common misunderstanding about high performance coaching and coaches
  • Why you have to turn off the conscious mind and just trust in the training
  • How Annika’s worst failure and frustration opened the door to sports psychology


Al McBride 0:03
So welcome to the dealing with Goliath podcast. Annika McGivern, great to have you on. So just to introduce the audience out there who Anika is and what she’s all about. Annika is a performance and exercise psychologist.Al McBride 0:19
Annika because of performance and exercise psychologists coming from a high performance equestrian sport background, she’s gained over 10 years professional coaching experience. Combining this experience with a BA in psychology from University of Victoria, and an MSc of Sport and Exercise psychology from Ulster University, she delivers highly practical solutions for teams and individuals.Al McBride 0:42
With a focus in understanding the complex interaction of the conscious and unconscious mind. Annika is passionate about teaching the necessary skills to get the most from mental training in real life performance environments.

Al McBride 0:56
She creates and delivers the specialized training for personal trainers and gym owners to help bring the benefits of exercise psychology to the gym environment, and also applies her skills and knowledge and business specializing in resilience, mindset communication, and presentation skills.

Al McBride 1:15
And I should also mention that you’re actually also guest lectured on the Masters in coaching program at University College Cork, which I was on previously as well. So we share that one we share the guest lecturing in cognitive behavioral coaching. Yes, so yes. Do you do you use cognitive behavioral coaching the the offshoot of cognitive behavioral therapy? Do you use it in your practice a lot? Or is it just one in a toolbox?

Annika McGivern 1:43
It is a toolbox. But I do find that the tool that I that I pull out often from the toolbox. I think it is it’s a it’s a wonderful theory, because I think it really underpins a lot of what we’re trying to do with psychology, which is help people shift their perspectives and shift their sort of broader frameworks and schemas and understandings of the world in order to think in a more helpful and productive way. So for me, that sort of foundational idea of, of cognitive behavioral coaching is is really useful in almost everything that I do.

Al McBride 2:16
Pretty good. And do you find this the CBC does it link in with a lot of the other theories or strategies or approaches you’d use with sports psychology with when you’re working with athletes? Or?

Annika McGivern 2:27
I do, actually, yeah. And the more that I continued on my work, the more I find those links, actually, with CBC. And I enjoy, you know, that process of strengthening the connections between the theories, the more that you put it into action, I think, the more you find all those connections, and the more you realize that all the different theories, or many different theories do work very well together in actual practice, or that you draw from or the best way is to draw from different theories in sort of a cohesive way.

Annika McGivern 2:56
But yet, it absolutely shows up and in so much of the work that I do, and I think that it hits on sort of the foundational element of take using psychology to address performance challenges.

Annika McGivern 3:11
I mean that in that it applies to athletes, it applies to people with business challenges, it applies to people who are just having some challenges in life that they need to get through.

Annika McGivern 3:21
Starting with that universal framework of just understanding how we’re seeing the world, and how that’s affecting us how that’s shaping us how our beliefs are shaping our thinking, I find that it just, it applies to absolutely everyone, and it can create some really wonderful shifts and results for people. Have you found the same?

Al McBride 3:39
I have? Yeah, no, I it’s one of the go to, I don’t think it’s, I think a lot of people fall into a little bit of a trap. With all sorts of styles of psychology. There’s personal opinion here, big, very controversial, but it’s one of those things that you know it if you get too big into any of these things.

Al McBride 4:00
It’s the classic of you know, when you have all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And I very much get that feeling that sometimes people while CBT and then in coaching CBC is hugely beneficial and has, it’s one of the more tested scientifically.

Al McBride 4:21
So there’s no doubt it’s hugely useful. But I also think that depending on the individual and their situation, and some of the difficulties that they’re trying to work through, it can be one in a series of very useful approaches. Yeah. I don’t mean to immediately sound controversial.

Al McBride 4:41
But for example, I know like my my cousin, is a clinical psychologist, and he’s big with with CBT. But as he said, one of the reason he’s particularly effective at what he does, is because he has all these other methodologies that may be a better fit for the individual or the individual situation. So I’m just intrigued. So what some of those other approaches you might go to?

Al McBride 5:04
I’m very interested in the sport psychology angle. So whether you’re working with, say business people, but maybe even focus more so on the athletes, what what would be some of your starting approach? Or some of the like, do you have a particular methodology you work through when you start when you bring on a client? Who’s an athlete? Are there certain commonalities, they’re just I just love to know more about that, as a sports psychologist approach with an athlete in particular,

Annika McGivern 5:34
Absolutely, yeah, I would say that I do have sort of a basic methodology that I would follow somewhat loosely, I think everyone comes to the process, usually with their own unique challenge, or something particular that they’re wanting to focus on. And so that often sort of guides where we start, and maybe where we spend the bulk of the time focusing right off the bat.

Annika McGivern 5:57
But what I try and do is provide every client with a real grounding a real sort of foundational across the board set of skills that they can take forward and use so that yes, we’re addressing the particular problem that they may be coming with, or the particular challenge they’re facing, but that they’re also walking away with like a nice broad set of tools, so that they’re feel equipped to address other in different challenges that they may encounter in the future. And also,

Al McBride 6:26
no, sorry, go Yeah, keep going.

Annika McGivern 6:28
I was just gonna say to that also, what often happens is they may come with a with one particular challenge, and then through the work and through teaching them a broader set of skills, they start to connect with other other challenges that maybe they weren’t viewing as challenges or sort of discover new ways of looking at things that maybe they didn’t even realize we’re holding them back. So that can be really interesting process of discovery.

Al McBride 6:53
Okay, that’s very interesting. Because often, yeah, I see that in my own coaching practice where there’s a presenting problem, and then you dig into it. And that’s not the cause. That’s a symptom, if you will, is that what is that kind of what you’re referring to? Or something slightly different? Again, okay,

Annika McGivern 7:09
no, I take that as a great way of putting is that often the immediate pain point, or the immediate issue that they’re struggling with, is very much a symptom of maybe a larger problem. Not always, but But often, and, and I think, too the the work, and what I really try and do is give it give the athlete broader awareness of how their mental state is affecting their performance.

Annika McGivern 7:33
So the more that they learn about that, and the more self awareness, they get around that interaction between the mental state and the performance outcome, so to speak, the more they start to sort of dig into themselves almost a little bit and start to connect the dots and see other places where the the tools or the work would be really useful to them.

Annika McGivern 7:55
What I find amazing about athletes is that they are incredibly good at getting to the meat of the of the problem once they have the tools because they’re already very used to performance and pressure and goal setting and moving forward and finding the information they need and problem solving because of their experience in sport. And so I really enjoy the process of watching most of these individuals kind of take the information and then like really fly with it, and start to release almost sort of coach themselves in real time. Yeah, it’s amazing.

Al McBride 8:32
They sound like a coach.

Annika McGivern 8:35
They can be it’s a real privilege to work with people like that, who are already very driven and very goal oriented. And in a way some know a lot about themselves as a result of going through a competitive sport process, which has many ups and downs and provides many challenges and failures and therefore provides many opportunities for for growth and self learning, I suppose

Al McBride 8:58
Good and this is kind of the interesting thing. And don’t get too much just yet into the difference between maybe working with athletes versus working with people in the business sphere. But it does prompt a thought of, you know, as you said, athletes aren’t really ideal in the sense that they’re very internally motivated, or inspired to make those changes.

Al McBride 9:21
Do you find that they have less resistance to some of the things that you bring to them or some of the behavior change? Or some of the strategies or like it because it sounds like they’re quite bought into a lot of this, like, give me the tools to make me better or? Or is there still a lot of areas where they’re like, Oh, I don’t want to change that is there a lot of resistance there still or

Annika McGivern 9:42
I’ve actually experienced both of those types of clients. I think it depends on how much exposure the client or the athlete has had to the concept of sports psychology before. There’s definitely still a little bit of a lingering stigma or fear on this concept of to like, sit down and talk with someone about how they’re thinking and feeling and not being really sure how that really links to, you know, being better at their sport.

Annika McGivern 10:08
So in those scenarios, there’s definitely still some resistance or just some uncertainty about sort of what it’s all about and whether or not it’s actually something that’s going to be useful to them. And then on the other side of the spectrum, sort of, you get the clients who they’re really kind of dialed into what sports psychology is, and what it offers.

Annika McGivern 10:26
They’ve heard and maybe seen many cases of other people who’ve had a lot of success or federal exchange experience through using sports psychology, and then they come to the table, like very keen and very interested and very much like, yeah, give me the tools, as you said, like, let’s do this.

Al McBride 10:43
It’s just because I wonder, Is it is it an easier sale in some ways to athletes, you know, because everybody knows, you know, the biggest, the highest performing athletes in the world, in every sport, usually have a coach.

Al McBride 10:55
I mean, it’s often the analogy I gave, you know, that, you know, like Roger Federer, the greatest tennis player ever, arguably, still has a coach. Yeah. So you know, it’s it’s that it’s that approach so that even in sports, I’d imagine, as they say that they’re already bought in onboard that have, give me feedback make me better.

Annika McGivern 11:15
Yes. And as you say, they’re very used to that coaching relationship. They’re used to being coached, they’re used to going to that outside perspective for additional feedback on their, you know, tactical and technical performance. And so I don’t think it’s that much of a jump then to apply that to a psychology environment.

Al McBride 11:34
Very cool. Very cool. I suppose the difference now that I think about, because that’s really interesting course, they’re used to coaching, having had sports coaches for years, probably when the time that they’ve met with you, but there is quite a different relationship to them.

Al McBride 11:46
And usually, sports coaches have a kind of, for want of a better phrase, you know, a parent child, I’m the expert, you’re the newbie, you’re the novice, or even if they’re super talented, it’s still this top down, do what I say do it faster, do it better, you know, whereas you guys, if that must be the difference isn’t where you’re actually more adult to adult, where again, you’re talking as equals, you’re talking as you’re trying to get that emotional connection with them that element of trust and rapport.

Al McBride 12:16
Do you find as a city because you did mention that it is a little bit different? If suddenly, we’re talking about their feelings and their emotional states and how that impacts their performance? How do you go about establishing some of that rapport and establishing that trust with with new clients in particular?

Annika McGivern 12:33
Yeah, it’s very good point. Because Yeah, as you say, even though I think a lot of that sort of top down, do what I say modeling coaching is starting to evolve as coaches sort of bring on the concepts of psychology into their work as well.

Annika McGivern 12:46
However, I think the key difference is that with the sports coaching, it’s very directive, so and often the athlete isn’t necessarily asked for a lot of their own personal opinions or feedback, although to sports coaches out there listening, that is a great technique to get your athletes involved in or motivated.

Annika McGivern 13:02
But the main difference then with the the sports psychology is that it’s very much based in the the client interaction and feedback. And so it’s potentially more of a conversation and less of a directive experience, where there’s just taking on instructions and executing those instructions, and then getting more feedback and getting more feedback.

Annika McGivern 13:23
With sports psychology, we really need the athlete to fully actively participate in the conversation and open up in for and sort of bring their ideas and perspectives and, and what they think and what they’re feeling about the situation to the table in order to really create solutions and tools and skills around solving those and moving forward.

Annika McGivern 13:45
So yeah, I think it’s, it can be an odd experience for them to be maybe asked so many questions about themselves, and maybe to be asked to reflect as deeply about the way that they think and feel about their experience in sport. And, and so again, different people respond to that differently.

Annika McGivern 14:03
It’s more natural to sound a little bit more uncomfortable and, and usual for others. And so I think one of the techniques that I use, if I try to just bring a lot of stories into the way that I explain the concepts, I try to make it as relatable as possible for that athlete in their sport, and make a big effort to even if it’s a sport that I don’t have much previous experience in.

Annika McGivern 14:28
I would make a big effort to learn as much as I can about that sport, about the language about the norms about what’s difficult, and sometimes by directly asking the athlete for that information, and not trying to come to the conversation as an expert in the sport. They’re the expert in the sport, and I’m there to learn about the sport, learn about their experience, and then use my knowledge to help them optimize the situation.

Al McBride 14:53
No, sorry. Go ahead. Yeah,

Annika McGivern 14:54
I’m just gonna say that, that that I find that that is a really great way to help build the rapport.

Al McBride 14:59
salutely Yeah, because as I said, you’re putting them as a highly knowledgeable individual. Mm hmm. Who knows their their sphere very well. In you work is it to work mostly with equestrian finance, because I know your expertise in sport, from your own experience was very high in the equestrian realm, working with horses.

Al McBride 15:24
And that’s a whole other, literally a whole other animal. Yes, the athlete, but then there’s this, you know, this huge, powerful beast with its own mind. Yeah, in the equation as well. So I’d be very interested to know how that is quite different to a lot of other athletes and how, you know, obviously, there’s a lot to translate over, of course, compared to someone who you know, plays football, or is a track and field type of athlete versus some huge horse beneath them. How is that different?

Annika McGivern 16:04
I think the main difference, I suppose first answer that first question, I do do a lot of work primarily with equestrian, because of my own connection. And I do love the opportunity to do that. And it’s a real, it’s a great place for an easy place for me to step into.

Annika McGivern 16:18
Because I do have a really deep well of knowledge and experience in the sport. And so it makes it very easy to to understand the issues that those athletes are facing and an even more kind of nuanced way. I think that the main difference with equestrian sport, and we often don’t think of a question as an extreme sport, in the same way that we would think about maybe downhill racing or you know, big wave surfing or mountain climbing, right.

Annika McGivern 16:44
But if you think about it, it has similar levels of risk as all of those extreme sports. And actually, the cross country jumping, which is an element of 3d eventing has been listed as one of the most dangerous sports on land, because of the combined risk of you know, galloping very quickly at very large obstacles that don’t fall down if you if you hit them if you fail to clear them.

Annika McGivern 17:09
And at speed on it on a live animal that very much has its own mind and can react very quickly to things. So it does create a huge element of risk. And I think that, in a way, equestrian sort of go a little bit unsung for the way that they have to confront that risk and incorporate that risk into their performance challenges.

Annika McGivern 17:31
So it creates a huge level of fear that equestrians have to confront and come to terms with, they have to figure out how to accept that risk every time they get on the back of a horse and try something new and challenge themselves. And it can be it can be a big challenge.

Al McBride 17:48
Yeah, I’m really glad you said that, actually, because I was gonna bring it up. And I was wondering how, how would you say it because, as you said, it’s one of the it is pretty, is one of the most dangerous as you said, land sports? Mm hmm.

Al McBride 18:00
Well, people don’t think about it, because there’s this lovely image of all the noble horse and there’s beautiful animals and all this stuff. For myself, it was only on a horse ever, actually, once and Chile is in Chile, of all places. Beautiful animal, beautiful place enjoyed the experience very much when tracking through a forest.

Al McBride 18:19
But I very much got the feeling that as you said, You’re on a you’re on an animal and noble and beautiful as the animal is, it’s still an animal. And if it decides, it takes a disliking to you or makes its feelings known, you could be in big trouble. So as I said it was that kind of little wake up call.

Al McBride 18:40
Like, let’s let’s hope we get along. Yes, no, I’m with you on the bravery is part because we were just, you know, going on a normal pace. We weren’t galloping. So yeah. So that that’s a very interesting point about the extreme sports, how do you then relate to business people because we’re talking about, you know, highly motivated, self sort of motivated athletes, and then more specifically, self motivated athletes in a horse context where they used to dealing with a far more fear than, say, a football player.

Al McBride 19:18
Or now I’m just using the word maybe football players do have a lot of fear, I don’t know, to overcome, but I imagine the horse more so. But how does that then translate when you’re working with business people like what? How does that help to bring new insights to them or insights in your own work?

Annika McGivern 19:37
I think that the real commonality across sports and equestrian sport and business is the element of pressure of people wanting wanting to be able to do their very best perform the very best whether that’s, you know, jumping around a showjumping course or knocking down to the park on a presentation and getting the promotion both of those situations are extremely high pressured.

Annika McGivern 20:01
Both of them require a high level of performance for success. And so even though in one hand, the worlds are completely different, and another hand, they’re exactly the same. And I, what I’ve noticed is that people experience pressure in a very similar way.

Annika McGivern 20:17
For the equestrian athlete, the pressure is is the performing pressure to perform well and maybe get the result for the business person, it’s the pressure to perform well within their context and get the result.

Annika McGivern 20:28
So there’s an amazing amount of crossover in the experience. And what I’ve found is that the techniques to to deal with those challenges work incredibly well, in both contexts with very little adjustment.

Al McBride 20:43
Good. And what are some of those techniques you most advocate? Because, you know, the there’s been a big increase of interest in the last 10 or 15 years in resilience and being able to perform better under pressure, and rightly so.

Al McBride 20:58
I mean, it’s a big part of my, you know, Goliath negotiation course, I think it’s a huge benefit to people haven’t done negotiate or sell and people just doing business in general. So I’m just intrigued as to what some of those methods that maybe some of the listeners could look into further, that would help them yeah.

Annika McGivern 21:19
So there’s a few, I suppose, one of the most universal ones, I think, is it’s applying the concept of, of mindset. And essentially using that to evaluate how we’re actually viewing the challenge or viewing the pressure, sort of what it means to us and how the challenge itself represents our own experience.

Annika McGivern 21:42
So essentially, the in if we tie into the growth, fixed mindset theory that’s been really researched and put forward a lot in recent years by Carol Dweck. And you can see it explained as either you see challenge as an opportunity, as an opportunity for growth, an opportunity to learn something, and the that you additionally see it as a necessary vehicle to mastery so that you aren’t you see the challenge as essential that you can’t actually get to where you you want to go without moving through that challenge and learning what it is you need to learn from that challenge.

Annika McGivern 22:22
Conversely, if we we look at the challenge from a fixed mindset, we see it as a threat to our our image, that the potential failure that you could experience as a result of embracing that challenge is almost too much of a risk to take on.

Annika McGivern 22:40
Because in the fixed mindset, we believe that we just sort of are who we are, and that there’s no real opportunity to grow and develop past that. And so someone with a fixed mindset spends a lot of time desperately trying to protect their image to appear as good as they can.

Annika McGivern 22:59
In doing so they don’t want to expose themselves to situations that could demonstrate that they’ve made a mistake, or messed up or have just, you know, gone completely off track. Because they see that as sort of a an unchangeable event that will forever label them as someone who hasn’t measured up so that those two perspectives are really powerful.

Annika McGivern 23:26
What I’ve noticed is that people, we tend to default into that fixed mindset, if we don’t have the the training or the context with the understanding of what’s happening, as we view challenges. And I think that’s very much linked into the brain sort of natural reaction to threat.

Annika McGivern 23:44
That, you know, that older part of our brain that is very concerned with keeping us safe, it makes a lot of sense to that part of the brain to you know, to stay safe to avoid discomfort to keep yourself protected. And so you’re really going up against that part of the brain, I think every time you choose the growth mindset, or you choose to embrace the challenge, but learning to see a challenge that way, is a really big pivotal shift in sport.

Annika McGivern 24:12
I think also in business, because it immediately shifts the the feeling around it, it goes from being something that’s really terrifying and quite overwhelming and difficult to deal with. And that’ll feed into a lot of fears and beliefs or not being able to do it and not having the skills which can become sort of a self fulfilling prophecy as you know.

Annika McGivern 24:36
So the, the answer to that is really to shift the perspective of the challenge itself. And I think it’s it’s a really fun thing to teach people because they get this really cool like, Whoa, aha moment when it all starts to sink in and click and that yeah, that can be one of my sort of favorite moments with that.

Al McBride 24:56
Very good, very cool and that that kind of brings me on to Another question I’ve asked you, which is, what do you love most about your work?

Annika McGivern 25:04
Hmm. It’s it is actually that kind of what I just said. It’s like, it’s like that moment where you see that you’ve helped someone really shift, shift or pivot their perspective. And what I find so amazing about that is that with a simple shift, you can, the world can look completely different to someone in an instant.

Annika McGivern 25:28
It can go from being completely unmanageable, very confusing, feeling very stuck and lost and frustrated, to all of a sudden, feeling interested and curious and excited about the possibility, seeing the path forward seeing what the next step is, and all of a sudden having more faith and trust in your own ability to make that happen.

Annika McGivern 25:51
It never fails to amaze me how that shift can happen so quickly, once the the appropriate framework has been kind of set up, and people are understanding and able to just step into that different perspective.

Al McBride 26:07
Very cool, very cold. I agree completely. As I said, it’s, it’s moving people, whatever their domain, whether they’re artists, or whether they’re, yeah, sports people or business people, as you said, it’s a simple human thing that going from stuck feeling that you’ve no choice or very limited choice to suddenly seeing options.

Al McBride 26:27
That’s really the difference is suddenly option versus no option. And the freedom and then, as I said the control and the agency that they then have when they suddenly see certain potentialities? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. And

Al McBride 26:43
Just to flip it there for a minute, because we’re getting all very positive and everything, which is brilliant, but I’m always interested when I talk to experts and very knowledgeable people in different fields. I’m always interested in what the common myths are maybe big misunderstanding about your profession or your industry that a lot of people seem to hold. I’m always interested to hear it so it the can be straightened. Yeah.

Annika McGivern 27:11
I think this is, this is a common issue, I would say an equestrian sport. And that and has actually, as I first became familiar with it through my exposure, the question in Sport and Sport psychology, but I now I’m starting to kind of see it in a lot of different areas, which I find really interesting, which is the idea that when something’s going wrong, that you need to, like double down and focus and try harder and like think forcibly like think your way out of it.

Annika McGivern 27:45
So to put that in context, in an equestrian world, what we often see is, say someone is in a showjumping lesson, and a really common challenge. And so jumping is finding the correct takeoff point for your horse to clear the jump in the in the best rhythm possible. And this is a very kind of nuanced thing.

Annika McGivern 28:06
So it can easily go wrong. And the rider can arrive at an incorrect or an awkward takeoff point. And this has the effect of often really rattling riders. And inevitably, then the next time they like, they’re like, I’m not doing that again, and they like tense up and they like really think hard about it.

Annika McGivern 28:26
They get tense in their body. And long story short, it interferes even more with the horses rhythm. And they get even worse, or another bad takeoff point. And then this, this process starts to build on itself. And so a lot of what I teach riders around that is this idea that you have to be able to trust in the training that you’ve already done trusting your own ability and knowledge and expertise and skills, and be able to essentially sort of turn off the conscious brain in those moments and stop trying so hard.

Annika McGivern 29:02
And just let yourself do it. And it’s a really hard thing to do for like high achieving people because the answers always seems to be like no, no, like, I will, I will will this into being and although that has a place and a role in life, absolutely.

Annika McGivern 29:19
You know, that determination and bringing the will and not taking no for an answer. within that context of performance. I find it fascinating that it is exactly the wrong thing to do in that moment. And that in doing so, where we’re missing the the ability to just trust in ourselves and trust in what we’ve done up into that point and relax a little bit and sort of surrender into the process of of the thing.

Annika McGivern 29:45
So that example of the of the horse. The that example of the horse world is or that context with the showjumping is that when the rider is then successfully Find a way back to just trust what they’re doing turn off that conscious mind or kind of distract that conscious mind and allow their skills that they have that they’ve all spent years developing, what they do is they then fall back into that ability of just feeling the correct rhythm and finding their way to that takeoff point without having to think about it, because it’s something they’ve done a million times, it’s something that’s measured and are managed by the subconscious mind.

Annika McGivern 30:25
And is actually better managed by the subconscious mind. And, and so I think that that whole concept sort of applies across into into different sports in in very obvious ways, in terms of just helping athletes to, especially in those competition moments are those moments where they need to perform, or they’re not training or not trying to develop new skills, they’re just trying to execute what they know how to do.

Annika McGivern 30:50
That it can be a really pivotal idea for them to learn to just trust. And then in business and similarily, I don’t think we trust our own skills and our own abilities enough. I think there’s this idea that we were always having to work harder and get the next skill and get to the next level and get the next qualification and get the next promotion. And we don’t take the time to relax into and trust into a trust what we have spent so many years developing already.

Al McBride 31:20
It’s a very interesting point. And a lot of what you were talking about there sounds a lot like being mindful. In some ways, it’s it’s counter to what people feel, brought them success in the first place, as you said, that grit, that perseverance that Yeah, oh, I’ll just shoulder my way through the storm, you know, nothing will stop me and all this attitude.

Al McBride 31:43
But it to me, I often explain it to people, it’s often like like sleep, same meditation, like you kind of like, I’m now going to sleep, I will be asleep. I see, you know, that doesn’t make you sleep faster, you have to fall back into it, you know, try not to sleep.

Al McBride 32:00
But it’s a very interesting point. It’s a very, very interesting point. Just on that idea of at development on the idea of trusting oneself, we all have ups and downs in our career, whether that’s a sporting career, amateur professional, whether that’s, as I said, you’re running a business or you’re in an organization structure. But again, another question really interested Ask, ask you there is what failure are you most proud of what or what failure Are you was most instructive and helpful?

Annika McGivern 32:37
It’s a really interesting question. And I think we don’t tend to think about failures in that light. And so it’s a really cool lens to look back at your your life on isn’t it and think, okay, which

Al McBride 32:48
failures, the big growth mindset question?

Annika McGivern 32:51
And you know, it is and it’s that really gets to the core of it. Like, if you can do that with your failures, you’re well on your way to getting your head around this growth mindset. thing.

Annika McGivern 32:59
So, um, I think, for me, I’ve got to say that there was a real pivotal moment for me when I was about 21, I was competing down in America and Seattle, and I just gotten a new course I was really excited about. And he like really had kind of what it took to potentially get me up to this love this next level that I’ve been really, really excited to get you.

Annika McGivern 33:23
I think that’s an interesting element of equestrian sport as well, right? That, that there’s two, there’s two athletes involved. So you need you need yourself to be there. And then you also need the horse to be there. So it’s an interesting, dynamic, interesting struggle sometimes.

Annika McGivern 33:36
So I was very, very excited. And I felt like everything I’ve been working for was, like, right there in front of me. And what I did was I pushed too far, way too fast. And I absolutely just like I tried to just reach out and grab that thing.

Annika McGivern 33:54
Even though I wasn’t actually right there in front of me, I was a little further than I realized at the time. And I was far too focused on getting that outcome that I’d been, you know, I thought I’d had on my list as a big check, you know, compete at this level for many years, and I didn’t I sort of lost track of the process and lost that that real necessary can day by day connection you have to have with with the process in order to actually reach that outcome.

Annika McGivern 34:24
So I flew up into that level far too fast. I had two big crashes where I fell off my horse and the first two competitions and and didn’t didn’t seriously hurt myself physically, but like really rattled my confidence really, really rattled it and that was probably the first time I’d had my confidence rattled that severely and as a result that had a fairly disastrous remainder of my season.

Annika McGivern 34:51
Like I don’t think any show went well. It was just it was a bit of like a spiral down and that put me In a really challenging place I was I was very kind of lost. I didn’t, I wasn’t sure at the time what I was doing wrong. I thought I was trying to do all the right things, and it just sort of wasn’t working. And I was very discouraged.

Annika McGivern 35:13
But it is that exact experience that led me to sport psychology. Because it was, in that moment, when I was desperately trying to figure out what the heck to do to turn this around, that I remembered a sports psychology talk that I’d been at, as a part of BM, some sort of young rider team event, I think, earlier on back when I was in Canada. And at the time, I thought it was pretty cool.

Annika McGivern 35:42
But I sort of didn’t really realize the full benefit of it. And I thought to myself, right, okay, maybe this is when that sports psychology stuff could actually really come in handy. So I got in touch with sports psychologists who had done that talk. And he does a lot of work with the questions in my area.

Annika McGivern 36:01
He, I think it was like three Skype calls. And he absolutely turned it around for me, all of a sudden, I understood exactly what was going on. And I understood exactly why it had all fallen apart. And I knew exactly what I needed to do to fix it. And it was like this absolute lightbulb moment.

Annika McGivern 36:22
It was like I suddenly saw this whole other world to sport that I had been somewhat unaware of, which was the mental side of performance. And if once you see it, you can’t unsee it right, as they say, and, and I was just totally hooked and fascinated.

Annika McGivern 36:36
And so through that, and then I was able to then turn things around really, really powerfully for myself as a result of of taking that information on board and adding that into my training. And so that’s really what started me on my whole journey of deciding to pursue it as a career when when I was sort of moving out of out of equestrian sport full time.

Annika McGivern 36:58
So it was a very difficult year. But in hindsight, it was a very big failure at the time, it felt like a huge failure. But in hindsight, it was an incredibly important moment in my life. Excellent stuff.

Al McBride 37:11
Yeah, no, that sounds fascinating. I hadn’t realized I’ll tell you how you got there. Okay. Very good, very good. Just interested then again, not to go too negative. But I again, I’m interested in, in that sort of side of things.

Al McBride 37:23
So when you’re when you’re deciding who you’re going to work with, or if the client is ready to work with you. What might some of those red flags be some of those who they don’t think they’re ready to work with me just yet? Or maybe they need to do some work on themselves or do something at just before you take them on? Is there anything there that kind of you think, Oh, I’m not working with you? Yes.

Annika McGivern 37:48
I think the the only thing that, well, one of the only things that can potentially raise a red flag is if someone clearly has a very sort of misguided idea of what sports psychology is. Okay,

Annika McGivern 38:00
If they see if it’s very clear right away, that they think they’re going to be able to do have like two chats, and then just, absolutely, it’s going to be like a silver bullet or like a quick fix. And that and that there’s not going to be any kind of need for them to actually continually change the way they think whether or not that’s through sessions as a psychologist, but just sort of take it on in their own lives and apply more work to it.

Annika McGivern 38:26
Then I suppose to me, that comes up as problematic, because I know that that person is probably going to have very limited success with the process. Because they’re, they’re not, they’re not sort of fully understanding what it is. And they’re maybe setting themselves up for disappointment, because they’re thinking great, I’m going to like, learn these two tips and tricks, and then it’s going to completely change my whole my whole experience.

Annika McGivern 38:49
Now, having said that, there is the odd time where, you know, it is just a couple of cool little perspective shifts like that can sort of create some really pivotal change for people.

Annika McGivern 38:59
But what I find is that that happens when the client or the person or the athlete is very much on board with this idea of of being an ongoing process of it being something that they’re going to continually invest in that they’re building a new habit around the way that they think and the way that they incorporate mental training.

Annika McGivern 39:17
So there’s something about the way that that they can come into it, which can maybe be a bit of a red flag. However, that’s usually addressed with just some kind of upfront education about what it is and what it isn’t and, and just being very clear, and sometimes then the person’s like, Oh, you can maybe that isn’t for me. And then but very often the person just kind of goes Oh, okay, I didn’t realize, you know, like, That’s good to know. And, and, and then, you know, you move forward from there.

Al McBride 39:42
Very good. That puts a lovely perspective, as you said, yeah, it’s just really just setting people’s expectations maybe to the right level. Now, what do you believe that most Don’t I know that can sound like quite a broad question, but a lot of people often when you talk to them when they’re when they are very well informed and quite experienced in their industry often have a slightly unique take on something whether it’s very specific, or maybe a little bit broader. What what might be a unique point of view that you’d have?

Annika McGivern 40:16
I suppose maybe the first thing that comes to mind isn’t specific, it’s probably more of a generalized point of view on life. But something I’ve noticed is that I, I sort of really believe in finding a balance between being very future oriented, setting big goals for yourself, and having a plan and putting a lot of work into that plan, but then also balancing that with a real like enjoyment of life in the present.

Annika McGivern 40:48
I think if I look back over my life up to this point, it’s, I’ve done a fairly good job of doing that in terms of following a career path and a plan, but but also doing a lot of, sort of unique experiences like traveling and, and just sort of trying to experience all of the fun and joy and unique experiences that life has to offer.

Annika McGivern 41:11
I think sometimes people get into this place where they feel that they have to grind it out and get to a certain point, and then they’ll start to enjoy life, or then they’ll start to, then they’ll reap the benefits of it, and they’ll do all the traveling and the do all the things.

Annika McGivern 41:29
I just don’t believe that I just don’t believe that that I suppose is is the best way, because you never know what’s gonna happen. You may, you may never get to the point that that nature of future goals is that they tend to keep moving into the future. And there’s always a next point to get to, there’s always another level to reach.

Annika McGivern 41:49
I really believe that it’s essential to enjoy the process. And I suppose it’s very much linked into sort of goal setting philosophy, I would use this word psychology in psychology, where it’s, you know, you balance the outcome goals with the, with the process goals, and how, and the enjoyment of the day to day process of what you’re doing is, is what your life is, you know, your life is a sum of all these day to day moments. And the big, the big goals are really amazing moments, and they come but then they go, and at the end of the day, they’re just a moment.

Annika McGivern 42:18
So if you’re living for those few moments that you’re going to get in your life, where you check the big goals off your list, you’re just missing out on so many other wonderful moments along the way, which can be found in in very simple day to day letters, as well as you know, traveling the world and doing exciting things.

Al McBride 42:37
It’s something that I suppose particularly athletes are aware of more than maybe business people because at least there’s a certain, you know, a competition. And there’s clear rules. And this sort of, it’s maybe a bit more structured and a lot of business people’s lives, which is more of an ongoing thing. And it’s harder, you’re drawing your own rules as to how maybe you win. Yeah, it’s very much that idea that I said, how you use your downtime, can improve your uptime, you know, we’re

Annika McGivern 43:05
definitely one of

Al McBride 43:06
the top performers are much better at being either zero or one, you know, whereas a lot of us are struggling, you know, to turn off in the evenings and then fully be fully present. And funnily enough, during the day, I think that’s probably a commonality that we both work with people on that sort of stuff.

Annika McGivern 43:23

Al McBride 43:25
Very, very interesting stuff. And yeah, if people want to understand some of the fundamentals of your area of expertise, what might be some of those resources that you’d recommend either books or maybe courses? Or sometimes they’re free or not? What kind of where would you send people to?

Annika McGivern 43:51
I think that there’s some fantastic reading. And there’s some really, really good books out there things that especially seem to have come out like in the last five years or so. And that I find, do a fantastic job of taking all of the kind of psychology can be so kind of up in the air and conceptual and theoretical.

Annika McGivern 44:11
I think what’s really wonderful as to find resources that grounded in kind of practicality and real life experiences, and connect really well to that day to day experience that we all have. So I really love that those are the people that I tend to have, I’m really drawn to who do like an exceptional job of making it real and practical.

Annika McGivern 44:30
That’s a real value of mine in my work that I aim to do that I try to try to learn from those people and then try to make what I teach as grounded and practical as possible. And so one coach who has a lot of online presences is a gentleman called Michael Neal, and he actually works a lot with with business and he works a bit in sport. I think he’s primarily a business coach.

Annika McGivern 44:54
He has two books. One’s called The Space Within and one’s called Super coach and He just does a really cool job of taking all of that kind of conceptual theoretical stuff about the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, how they interact, how thoughts and feelings interact with our experience and shape our experience, and how there’s such a common misconception where we think that we’re, we’re feeling our experiences.

Annika McGivern 45:20
So the experiences directly creating our feeling of happy or sad, where often in reality, our feeling of being happy or sad is shaping the experience, you know, little interesting flips like that. And he does a fantastic job of just like really explaining it in really, really cool ways that are entrenched in like stories and examples.

Annika McGivern 45:42
It makes it all very real and very applicable. I love love his his stuff, his books, you can get them on Audible. I love listening to his books, he has a very relaxing, calming voice. He’s just a great guy to listen to on a on a Sunday morning. Or you can or purchase the books as well. He also has a course through mind Valley.

Annika McGivern 46:03
And I know you’re familiar with mind Valley, they do a really fantastic array of courses. And so they’re a resource that I always point people towards, if they’re looking for a course type of experience. And because they do a really good job, I think of finding all the really relevant people are really at the top of their game at the moment, and bring them on board.

Annika McGivern 46:23
So that’s one and actually along the line of of mind Valley, the founder of mine Valley, vishen. lakhiani, has a great book called the Code of the Extraordinary mind. Yeah, yeah, love that one. Again, just really practical, like this is how you apply all these concepts in your life on a day to day basis to make the changes and see the difference.

Annika McGivern 46:44
And so I just I love that about his book. And I think in terms of sports psychology, the rise of Superman by Steven Kotler is a fantastic flow. You read all these, you’re like, yeah, yeah. And it’s just a great one.

Annika McGivern 46:50
That just really gets into like, what’s going on with that ultra high performance and, and he does a really fun job of linking into some pretty wild stories, hey, about a really high performance, extreme sport athletes that make it all very real and very interesting. So that’s a great one. And two more books.

Annika McGivern 47:19
There’s an author called Daniel Coyle, who wrote the talent code and the culture code. Oh, yes. Yeah, both fantastic books as well. Talent code is very much about performance in sports and, and in the arts.

Annika McGivern 47:31
I think a little bit about business. And then the culture code really dives into the cultures of business and how they shape everybody’s mindsets and and beliefs and how that all works, and culminates to creating a reader a successful organization or a brand success organization. So those are those are fantastic reading.

Al McBride 47:51
And to ask you that, because I know you, you have actually recommended you have a page on your website where you recommend those resources and some of those users. But I also believe you just recently put up your own little free resource course with several videos. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Annika McGivern 48:08
Yeah, absolutely. So it’s a free mini course. It’s called How to find and keep your highperformance self. And it’s, it basically talks people yeah, it talks people through. It’s all rooted in mindset in the what we talked about earlier about how the different perspective how we either embracing that growth mindset, or getting stuck in that fixed mindset can have such an incredibly powerful influence over our ability to perform.

Annika McGivern 48:37
The high performance self is somebody who understands and embodies all of those characteristics of a growth mindset. And the low performance self is the the self that embodies all of the characteristics about a fixed mindset. And what I think is really key to understand is that we all have those two selves within us all the time.

Annika McGivern 48:57
Every day, every hour, every you know, every challenge is we have to make the choice to be one self or the other. And in order to make that choice, effectively, we have to know who those two selves are, we have to be familiar with what our highperformance self thinks, like, what they believe what what the how they’re seeing the situation.

Annika McGivern 49:17
Similarly, how the low performance self thinks and feels and sees the situation. And, and so yeah, so I created a course around that helping people build out their understanding of who those two selves are, and then how to consciously make the choice to decide to be that high performance self, and, and all the benefits that that can bring.

Al McBride 49:38
It’s a brilliant point, because what I always found with when you talk to people with mindset and growth mindset, in particular, and they ask, which do you think you are, you know, 80% of people will say, Oh, I’m growth mindset, and they’ll be able to list all the examples of growth mindset.

Al McBride 49:53
Well, what as you just as you said, what’s always fascinating is almost in the same sentence, sometimes they’ll then show a fixed mindset. Uh huh. So you know, same, you know, my dear mother how she’ll hate it if she hears this. But, you know, it’s often sort of says, you know, she’s a very, it’s a great example.

Al McBride 50:12
She’s a great growth mindset for things that she’s very good at, like speaking languages and things like this. Yet almost in the same sentence, just say something very self deprecating. I go, but I’m terrible at maths, or I’m terrible at, x, y, Zed. And I think a huge one of people have that when they have those feedback loops, that, oh, I am quite good at this. And this is similar domain, so I could transfer some skills.

Al McBride 50:37
So I probably be able to learn that and integrate it and so on. And that’s brilliant. But as you rightfully pointed out, is that other voice in their head that they often ignore, which goes, Oh, I’m no good at that. And there’s no interruption saying, Well, how do you know?

Al McBride 50:51
Did you have a terrible teacher? Were you just not in the right frame of mind? Does it need to be taught to you in a different way? bla bla, bla, bla, bla, did you actually put in the effort in the first place? All the sort of Yeah, that people just got, I’m bad at that, you know, yeah. Which, and they’ll say the same, as I said, in nearly the same size. So it sounds like a really great course, for getting that clear in your head where we’re stopping ourselves.

Annika McGivern 51:13
Yeah. And I think the real aim is says it gives people the the, or empowers them to sort of have those skills to recognize which of that which version of themselves is showing up in that moment, and responding to the challenge. And then, as you said, so often, we need to be our own our own evaluator and ask him to the habit of asking yourself, Well, hold on a minute.

Annika McGivern 51:35
Why? Why do I think I’m so bad at that? Why, like, why do I have this idea that I’m terrible at math? Where did that come from, and to, you know, push into it a little bit and, and sort of bring the growth mindset perspective to it. I think that’s where the mindset stuff gets really hard.

Annika McGivern 51:51
It’s so easy, it’s so easy to get on board with a growth mindset about things that we’re good at, or we enjoy. And it’s really challenging to apply it to things that we’ve spent a lifetime thinking we’re bad at, or that we don’t enjoy. And so if you can start doing that, then you’re then you’re really on the path to to really embracing what mindset has to offer.

Al McBride 52:14
That’s telling stuff. So we’ll pause it there. We’re just as we finish off just where can listeners for people watching the YouTube video. And by the way, I’ll post the links below, where can people catch up with you or sign up for this free course that you have for stay in touch, see what you’re up to.

Annika McGivern 52:32
So the best place to find the most direct place to find the course is my website, which is just my name. So it’s www dot Annika And you will find a link or a page on that website for courses. And that will bring you right into the opportunity to sign up for that free course.

Annika McGivern 52:52
You can also follow me on Instagram, which the handle is at AMP underscore performance psych. And I post a lot of just relevant context content around using all these ideas in everyday life in sport and in business. So if you’re interested in that type of content, you can find me there.

Annika McGivern 53:12
And and yeah, those are probably really the the two best places. And I always welcome people to reach out to me via the website. And even if they just want to have a chat, and just have some questions about what sports psychology is all about. I always just do an initial conversation with people no obligation no charge to to see if it’s something that they’re interested in.

Al McBride 53:35
There you go. Excellent stuff, excellent stuff on you, you’ve been working like myself via zoom or Skype for quite a while even pre COVID haven’t you. So yeah, geography is not an issue.

Annika McGivern 53:47
It’s not which is one of the silver linings of it all, but it has allowed allowed us to Yeah, really expand who we’re able to work with on a regular basis, which is a lot of fun. And, and I find that the zoom format is great for for psychology for sport or business or, or whatever it is.

Annika McGivern 54:06
It really does work and you know, you get that same kind of privacy in the conversation and, and you’re able to teach and learn really in the same way that you can face to face which is great.

Al McBride 54:20
Excellent stuff. Well, the very best look in the future. And thank you for being on the show and brilliant stuff. Thanks again, Annika.

Annika McGivern 54:29
Thanks so much for having me on the show. This was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.

Al McBride 54:33
That’s great. Have a great weekend. Thanks. Bye

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