Openness and Performance

Something to think about: Are you stuck in your ways? The role of openness for enhancing performance.

Continuing to stay open can take some effort. It is easy to get stuck in your ways and shutdown outside explanations, suggestions, and possibilities that don’t stem from your line of thought. Coaches and athletes can both fall into these traps, and it’s easy to see how: people get to the top because of a commitment to their method and philosophy.  So, why would they keep an open mind when they know something works? I would argue that the people who stay at the top are the ones who are constantly evolving, innovating, questioning, searching for improvement, and refining their methods. Openness can impact training and performance from a multitude of angles. For example;

·      Openness can impact your willingness to try different workouts / training elements

·      Openness can change the way you think about races, injuries, weather conditions, and even performance venues

·      Considering alternatives can increase opportunities for success and improve your self-awareness

For example, you can start to associate slow race times with certain performance venues, or a specific workout with failure or underperformance, or certain weather conditions as bad luck. The negative narrowing of your attention will likely impact your performance and re-confirm your beliefs. This spiral makes it easy to become closed off to alternatives. However, having flexibility in your thoughts can, at times, save your performance. Openness prepares you for dealing with multiple competition scenarios and can allow you to perform to your potential under uncertain circumstances.

Some research highlighting the benefits of openness:

·      Openness to experiences is positively related to fluid intelligence (Lochbuam, Karoly, & Lando, 2002)

o   Basically, this means that people who are high in trait openness are better at problem solving on their feet. Think about a race situation when things start going down hill. Having the ability to adapt your race plan and trouble shoot under distress could save your performance.

·      Preliminary evidence suggests that openness lessens the stress response when presented with a threat (Schneider, Rench, Lyons, & Riffle, 2011).  There are a lot of stressful situations for athletes, especially in the lead up to important competitions. Having an open attitude can help your body save resources for the race instead of worrying about things that are out of your control.

·      People higher in openness perform better when faced with a challenge. Competing is all about rising to the challenge!