A Better Approach to Goals??

Dr. Trish Jackman - Episode #183

dr-trich-jackman-catalyst-podcast
Catalyst - Health, Wellness & Performance Podcast

Full Transcript

Dr. Cooper

What, if everything you thought you knew about goal-setting was wrong? One of the traditional guidance to dial-in specific measurable time bound goals was causing many of us to actually to miss out on the opportunities resulting from a completely different approach. Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. And today’s guest is Dr. Trish Jackman. She’s a lecturer in sport and exercise psychology at the university of Lincoln in the UK. Her research focuses on optimal experiences, sport exercise in life and clusters around themes of flow performance and the key discussion today, open goals. For those of you considering pursuing certification as a health and wellness coach, you’ve got a couple of finals to keep in mind here. The final NBHWC approved certification training of this year is just weeks away. It’s also your last chance to get registered before the cost goes up next year. And if you’re planning to sit for the national board exam in 2022, this is the last chance to get everything in place for their required timeline. You can find out all the details at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com or as always shoot us an email [email protected] We’ll set up some time to discuss anything that you’ve got along those lines. Now it’s time to push back on traditional goal setting methodology with Dr. Trish Jackman on the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching Podcast. All right, well, Dr. Jackman is so fun to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Thanks so much, lovely to be invited. I’m looking forward to the chat.

Dr. Cooper

We’ve got a lot to cover your, and my research overlaps a lot, uh, but give us some background. How did you first come to study optimal experiences, flow performance, under pressure goal setting, all that kind of stuff? What, what, what brought you to that path?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, so I guess initially my interest in optimal experience as is often the case that a lot of people in the area of sport and exercise psychology is potentially through their own experiences.

Dr. Cooper

Me search instead of research. Is that right? Yeah.

Dr. Trish Jackman

So I think for me, it was definitely a curiosity and took me in adolescence. So I grew up playing the sport of Kamogi, which a lot of people may have been maybe familiar with the Irish sport of curling. So I played the women’s version of that. And I guess there were some experiences that I had in performances that I didn’t really know what they were. I didn’t know what the term was described. I knew they were very unusual and they usually happened when I played really well. So when I went to university, I learned about some of these ideas and I just remember kind of getting a, an assignment in my second year of university and it was about flow and it was almost like, wow, I’ve finally found what it is that I’ve been experiencing. It was kind of almost like a unique moment like from there, I guess I was really interested in it. Um, and I guess it came to then selecting my idea for my dissertation, for my undergraduate degree. And, um, I was very curious about learning about this experience, but in other athletes. And I remember that summer, kind of preparing my ideas for the following year. And I was looking at horse racing, which is obviously very big in Ireland. Um, I’ve, I’ve never sat on a horse. I had no background whatsoever, but I’m really curious now, what must it be like? Because you know, for them as athletes, they are one, or they’re a very small proportion of a very large industry and very few people get to do what they do when you look at the context of their sport. Very few were actually there as the top jockey. So, um, I embarked on a dissertation to look at flow and in horse racing, flat race jockeys, uh, and that’s pretty much where it started. And from there I can continue that on into my master’s and my PhD as well. And I think from there it’s kind of transitioned. So initially was, I was really interested in almost from my own point of view. And then I discovered what I can actually go into research. And when I can look at this, I might be able to help other athletes. And, and then I guess in the last few years, it’s also been about how can that move into more exercise and just generally helping people to feel more pleasure when they’re, when they’re exercising.

Dr. Cooper

In regular life.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. That’s a bit of an insight into where it started and essentially where it’s got to today.

Dr. Cooper

So the way that you and I connected, and I mentioned this during the intro is Dr. Noel Brick. We interviewed him for his book, the genius of athletes. And he talked about this concept of open goals that has become somewhat of a focus for you. Can you talk us through that? I think this is going to catch people by surprise. They’re going to be thinking, wait, what Dr. Jackman, what, what am I that’s, that’s not what I’ve heard. So can you walk us through, what is that? How does it work? What are we learning about it? That kind of thing.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. I say the idea of open goals is almost counter-intuitively in contrast to what is often recommended. Say, we go like back to goal setting and goal setting that people are generally recommended. Um, in terms of practice, people often advise to set goals that are smart, so specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based on generally speaking, if we look up advice for goals, that’s what we’re called to do. And I guess, uh, five years ago, uh, Christian Swan, who is my, my supervisor for my PhD. Um, who’s now leading a lot of this work on open goals. Um, he in an interview study with elite golfers and these golfers were talking about, you know, these experiences when they were performing at their best. And what he identified was that there were two different states, um, that these golfers, while reporting during these variances, and one of them was where they were letting it happen. It was really natural, effortless type of experience, akin to flow. So in essence, that that letting it happen was like flow. We ended with this other stakeholder making it happen, where it was a bit more effortful, often pressure moments when you’re, in the case of the golfers, they were coming down the stretch. And they were in, you know, in that top two or three looking, to win in the tournament. And one, he started to look into how were those experiences occurred. And when he started to explore these two states identified was when the golfers were making it happen and more describing that state, they were reporting these more typical, specific time or in their case outcome-based goals. Whereas when they were letting it happen, he referred to these types of goals where they were just seeing how well they could do, or they were just seeing how far they could, you know, move ahead in the rind where there wasn’t necessarily a specific time-based or measurable type of outcome they were looking to achieve.

Dr. Trish Jackman

So in that respect, um, the idea was that these goals weren’t specific, they were the opposite of that. They were not this specific. And from there, this idea of open goals started to develop. So from that work, Christian has then gone on to build in some further qualitative studies. And in more recent years, we did some walking studies, including one study by my colleague, Rebecca Hawkins, um, been looking at this idea of open goals, um, and open goals. They are not time-based, they’re not specific. Um, and they’re not necessarily measurable. Um, so an open goal could be just see how well you can do, or if I’m a runner. So I do a lot of running. I’m like wanting to run. I’ll just see how far I can run. Um, and again, it’s that concept that we’re not necessarily putting any type of end point on what it is we’re trying to achieve. So in that respect, there is a bit more flexibility when it comes to that. I guess if we look at smart goals and the principle smart goals, what we’ve been really interested in as well as well, what is the evidence behind them? Because if we actually look at where smart goals have come from,

Dr. Cooper

No not the evidence.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. But if we go back to the very start, where did smart goals come from? Obviously a lot of people assume there’s lots of evidence behind them. When in actual fact it was a very brief article by marketing consultant in the early nineties. Um, and that’s kind of where a lot of, um, that that idea has come from. So if we look at the evidence behind it, we know that there’s work around specific goals. So if we look at someone like Desmond McHugh and he looked up the use of specific versus vaguer or non-specific goals and physical activity did a really nice meta analysis a few years ago, where you combined all the evidence that we did have and what he finds, which is obviously really interesting from an exercise perspective is that there was no significant difference between setting a specific goal and setting a vague or non-specific goal. In the case of promoting physical activity, both of the goals produced, you know, increases in physical activity. So that suggests that maybe this idea that smart, specific goals are best practice for everyone is not necessarily holding up as much when we look at some of the evidence behind this. So yeah, the idea of open goals I guess, is really developed over the last five years. And I would say we’re still at a really early stage, but it’s really interesting and exciting area. I think moving forward as well.

Dr. Cooper

And you’re freaking people out right now, cause they’re gone, wait, no, we’ve been doing this forever. What do you, what are you doing to me? So are there certain situations where the smart goals have more value or have been shown to have more value and other times where the open goals or are we still kind of feeling that out a little bit?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I think we’re still probably at a really early stage, but I’ll, I’ll give you a little bit of an insight into some of the evidence that we, we do have a presence. They, um, I think one of the really interesting studies was as a symptom, but my colleague Rebecca Hawkins, and she looked at these specific goals and these open goals in both a group of participants who were really active and also a group who were what we would term insufficient, active. So they were less than 30 minutes a week. Um, and they came into the lab on four occasions and they were doing six minute walk tests, which is pretty common test for physical function and exercise. And, but this was kind of the starting point for this. And she looked at a whole host of different variables, but the ones that were kind of really interested from a, from an exercise perspective is around like enjoyment and affect. So how enjoyable was the activity and what was the degree of pleasure that people experience? We’re obviously we’re interested in how far they walked as well, but in terms of physical activity promotion, I guess why we play so much emphasis on the enjoyment. And the pleasure is that if we look at a lot of the contemporary perspectives on promoting physical activity, promoting exercise, we know that there’s been a real emphasis on pleasure because if, if we have pleasure in the activities we’re doing, we’re more likely to want them to do it again. Rebecca did this study a really neat study. So she had these two groups and what she found was that in terms of the, the distance walk, um, what was identified, there was this specific goal produced, um, greater distance for the active group, but in the case of the insufficient active group, they actually walked further when they were told to pursue a specific or nonspecific goal.

Dr. Cooper

Right, right.

Dr. Trish Jackman

So in this case, the open goal, and then if we then start to build on that, we look at, okay, so what were the psychological responses? Um, so if we look at the active group again, they found the specific goal more enjoyable than the goal. Whereas the flip was the case for the insufficient active group, and much more enjoyable in the, um, open goal instead of the specific goal condition. And again, if we look at pleasure during the activity, so this is a measure that you take, um, at different interval. So two minute intervals during that walking task, and you then look to get an average across the actual six minute test. Again, what was fun there was that specific goal produced significantly more pleasure for the active group, whereas the open goal, produced significantly more pleasure for the insufficient individual? So in essence, that produces some really important findings. First, it suggests that, you know, if we’re looking to improve physical activity in those who are insufficiently active, we might need to adopt an alternative approach to what we’re commonly doing right now. So a lot of people are advised to set specific goals. Um, but if that’s producing an experience that is less pleasant, that might not necessarily produce the long-term increase in physical activity that we’re after. Um, and if the second key point is that we need to move away from this one size fits all. And when it comes to setting goals, so we need to consider, okay, we have this principle of this idea of smart goals, or just generally more specific goals, but maybe we need to consider whether or not they’re suitable for everyone. And particularly for those in the early stages of learning. Because even if we go back to goal setting theory, which is one of the really big theories in this field, um, if we look at what they say, and then look at some of their work around this period, they have suggested that specific goals could be really useful for improving performance. But if someone is in the early stages of learning a new task, which for a lot of people, it could be actually getting more physically setting specific goals might not necessarily be a good idea for them, and it might not produce the desired effect. So again, just moving away from that one size fits all approach could be really beneficial. Again, we’re at quite an early stage with this one. I think we’re, we’re looking to now build on that study and look at it, let’s say over the course of a week or a month, and start to build up the time frame to look at how we can use these goals. So I guess in terms of what we’ve published so far, and that’s one of the really cool studies that has actually tried to look at some intricacies of open goals and how they might actually function differently for different people, you know, depending on their levels of physical activity.

Dr. Cooper

Trish, this is so interesting. All right, so I’m jotting all this stuff down. It sounds like different stages of the journey. So I start off, I’m just not active and we start with the open goals, and then as I, as I move along and now it’s more of a habit I’m kind of getting my hour a day in or whatever, and now I want to run a little faster, we’ll stay with the running topic. I enjoy running also. Um, I want to run a little faster now. I might want to switch to the smart goals. Is that kind of what I’m hearing?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I think that’s, that’s definitely, you know, uh, an idea that we’ve started to talk about quite a bit. But then equally, I think, you know what, I’m really interested in so I’m doing some of some work and running around this at the moment, say, um, I run a bit to myself, but myself and Noel, we’ve been working on some qualitative studies and we’re looking at, um, people’s experiences during really rewarding running experiences. Um, and what’s really interesting is that even within individual ones, you might actually set open goals at some stage in the run, but then you might switch to a smart goal or a specific goal at a different stage. Um, so I think we might actually use different goals on different days. So for example, um, tomorrow I’m going out for my easy run, so I won’t be too concerned about my pacemaker. Um, so I’m not going to be, can really focus on that. But if I know I have to go for an interval session, I’m probably going to be looking at the pacer. So I think, yeah, I think that’s a really interesting idea range over time. How can we progress to, um, helping people, supporting people to use those more specific goals as in when they may need them, but equally, are there some benefits at other stages to us then maybe using those more non-specific goals at times as well?

Dr. Cooper

I love the way you brought in the day-to-day stuff, because yeah, same thing. If I’m doing a tempo run, I want to be at 6:10 pace for 10 miles, but if I’m going out for a trail run, I’m just, I’m just out for a run. I don’t even care. So, and so that’s, it’s good to point that out. Now, some people that are listening, I know they’re going, oh my gosh, this is so wishy-washy, it’s just so soft. Like, they’re the intense folks, they’re the, like, that doesn’t help you just going to do what you can. Well, then you’re going to be a slacker. And what would you say to that person that’s looking at you cross-eyed and saying Trish, yeah. That’s kind of the slacker method. What, what, what do you say to that person?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I think you know from a performance perspective. I think there’s, you know, if we look at a lot of the work in this area and even just drawing some of our own evidence, I think, you know, those specific goals are going to be really important for you. But equally at times, you know, it’s a recovery run, um, that you’re trying to get in. It could be, you know, useful to set an open goal or equally think about if you’re doing something that’s really new. So let’s say you’re stepping up distance for the first time. You might not necessarily want to put pressure on yourself because that’s one of the things that we know when it comes to those specific goals is that often people get really concerned with the outcome, because, well, what would happen if we don’t achieve that outcome? You know, so all of a sudden, you’re almost creating a scenario where you may start to perceive some more pressure as a result of that. Say, you know, what we tend to find is that when people are going into a new situation, some novelty there, but also maybe they can afford to be a little bit flexible with those goals, um, that these more nonspecific open goals could be quite useful. So I think it depends on, depends on your focus. Um, and if you’re really performance oriented, those specific goals can be really useful and good for your performance with any equally. It’s about marrying that up with what strategies that are going to help you. So when you get into that, you know, really high intensity workout, what strategies are you going to combine with that? Are you going to add in some self-talk to kind of keep you going when it starts to get a little bit tougher, for example, um, because you know, those distraction strategies are probably not going to help you too much when you’re coming down the stretch and your body is probably telling you that’s, you know, not really enjoying what it’s doing. So I guess it’s being aware that when we’re looking at those specific goals, um, it’s about then having the tools in your mental toolkit, almost to be able to adapt to what you need to adapt to in those stages.

Dr. Cooper

I love this, and the way you presented it as when you’re starting something, even if you’re the high performer, as you step into that new, you know, I’m going to do Prefontaine’s old 20 by 400 session, and I’ve never done it before. Instead of saying, I’ve got to hit 72s on that, let’s just see what we can do. It’s the first one. Now, eventually we’ll set some smart goals, but initially, and you didn’t use these words, but I’m guessing you’re thinking about it. The whole challenge, threat research of, if I say, I’ve got to hit 72s, and on the 12th interval, I hit a 75 and I don’t feel like I’m going to go any faster. Now we said, and we kick in the threat methodology instead of the challenge. And we start going downhill, is that, uh, am I on the right path? And in terms of what’s going on behind the scenes.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I think, I think that’s a really good way of framing it. So we’ve kind of caught a lot about that in terms of, you know, what’s really key to having these more rewarding experiences, whether that be kind of this more effortless type flow state, or more intense, um, type experience, which you referred to is, um, what’s really key to the two of those that you do feel confident. So obviously that’s going to be key to your challenge appraisal. Um, one of the things, again, if we start to, to think about performance, what would often get us a little bit concerned is if we’re not hitting performance benchmarks. Um, so like you said, there, I think that’s a really good example when we’re going into the first time where I’m doing a really big session. We’ve never done anything like that before. Um, you know, we don’t want to have any additional anxiety going in there, if you can a have done this before and then be okay, so I need to hit this level of performance all the way through that session, for example. Um, so I think that’s a really, really good way of looking at how we could build it in over time. So then you might change the focus in your next session because you almost have, you have that reference point now, whereas you didn’t have it in the first occasion.

Dr. Cooper

I love this when I first was reading your research and looking at it I thought, boy, I don’t know, but this is, I love that. So let’s, I want to get into your other stuff, the flow of the performance under pressure, that kind of thing. But one more question on this open versus smart goals, how would someone like a coach, an educator, a parent, I see a lot of opportunity here for parents to use these strategies when they’re come along other people we’ve talked around a lot of these things, any kind of final thoughts, and I’m sure we’ll circle back to it, but before we move into your other focus areas, any other suggestions for that parent, that coach, that educator to kind of tie this stuff together?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I guess it’s probably the key thing is to, to recognize that maybe at different stages or different times, even in a season that these different goals might be more relevant. So if there’s a more of a performance focus, uh, at a specific stage in the year, you may be more aligned to those more specific goals. Um, but then at different stages, it could be that setting those more open goals, again, as we sit there, maybe in those situations, novelty where we don’t want to place too much expectation on people. I think that’s one of the key things about the open goal is that it doesn’t necessarily create that barometer performance that we need. Um, so again, it’s probably seeing what works for the athlete, um, is really important or for the exerciser, um, on how might we try to, to combine those. So, yeah, I think, you know, if someone’s new to an activity, maybe more of a non-specific goal could be really useful. And then over time you might build into those more specific goals. But yeah, I think we’re, we’re probably at an early stage as regards the applied angle. Um, but I think they will be some of my suggestions at the minute.

Dr. Cooper

Uh, and I said, that was my last one on that topic, but I lied here one more. As you talked about that, I’m thinking about the outside. So the, the when it, you and your running, or me, and I’m, I know, okay. It’s baseline. It’d be best for me to, to go with the open goal today because such and such, and then I’ll move in because I’ve got this huge intrinsic motivation. What about the coach, the parent, the educator who’s working, somebody that maybe that student, that athlete that child doesn’t have a lot of intrinsic motivation at what point. And I know you haven’t researched this yet, so just hypothetically, at what point would you suggest shifting from open, oh, son, just do the best you can for five years versus now it’s time for a smart goal. Are there any hints as to when an outsider, you and I know for ourselves, but this is an outsider, a coach, an educator, a parent, an outsider can come alongside and say, okay, now you’ve done the open. Now it’s time to, let’s do some little shifting into the smart goals.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. Uh, uh, I don’t know when the time point will be, but I think in terms of voice around that, I think what’s really important is that we, we want to make sure that it’s an autonomous decision on the part of the athlete as well. Um, so you know, that we are retain that, that athlete centered person centered perspective with it. So, yeah, I think maybe, you know, speaking to the athlete and working through what their motives are, you know, what is their reason, what do they value? And then try to align those goals with that as well. That’s really important because again, if we look at some of the work around motives and goal motions, we know that if it’s those specific goals can be more autonomous. So we’ve actually chosen to do them. The likelihood is that they are going to have more positive impact for us. So I think, yeah, definitely that, um, working in collaboration with, with the athlete and trying to tap into their motives, I think would be a really good start.

Dr. Cooper

Okay. Good, good advice. All right. Let’s, let’s spend a couple minutes on each of these flow performance under pressure optimal experience. Uh, obviously these overlap, there’s a lot of combination in them, but can you share some of the highlights that you’ve discovered that might be a surprise to our listeners related to each one of these? So let’s start with flow. People probably know that term, maybe have even read some of his research, but can you give us maybe a couple of surprising things you’ve discovered when it comes to flow and how that all plays out in our lives?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I say, um, I guess over the last five years or so, um, we’ve been looking into this in a number of different sports, particularly, uh, using qualitative methods. So typically we’ll interview people, um, and we’ve been using a method called, uh, event focused interviewing. So we try to interview people pretty soon after an activity. Um, so if we look a lot of the really good work, um, some of the early work in particular, and even some of my own initial studies, we used interviews where, you know, we get people to talk about their experiences over the whole of their career, for example. Um, whereas this method we’ve been using over the last few years, we’re actually trying to interview people within hours or a few days of the activity. So within three or four days, whatever it may be. Um, and I guess, you know, if we look at the history of flow and work started in 1975, some of the theory sport work in the 1990s, some really great work by Susan Jackson. And I suppose over the years, it’s research to develop and to grow. And, um, what in the, I guess in the last five years, we’ve started to look for through using this, this alternative method, but equally, um, trying to really look at the athlete experience and the exerciser perspective on this, because, um, I guess initially the work was there. It was focused on the nine dimensions, which, you know, has been adopted really widely. So again, if we look at the, where flow has been researched, it’s pretty much been researched in, you know, every type of activity you can think. And, um, I guess from there, there has been this assumption that when an athlete is at their best, they are in flow and that’s kind of been a common thing if there is one optimal psychological state, right. And I think that’s kind of an assumption that a lot of people have had for many years. Again, if we even look, um, you know, at some really big sporting movements over the last few years, often, you will hear the commentator refer to, you know, they’re, they’re getting into flow in those situations. But I guess to that, that golf work that I referred to earlier, um, Christian’s work started to explore this idea of, of two psychological states. So these golfers, they delivered excellent performances and Christian interviewed them soon after. And they started to differentiate between flow when they were letting it happen really natural, automatic, effortless, that type of state that, you know, a lot of people know about what then also they were talking about making it happen, that in subsequent work we’ve gone on to refer to this as lush state, which I’m sure we’re probably going to get onto a little bit more in a while as well, but in terms of flow, I guess that, that idea, I guess, one kind of difference in some of our work is suggesting that it’s not just flow when an athlete is performing at their best, um, that there may be an alternative state that people can also get into. Um, particularly when they’re in a pressure situation, game is on the line on that sort of thing. So, yeah, I think that’s probably one of the main areas we’ve identified through some of this work in the last number of years.

Dr. Cooper

Okay, good. Um, do you want to touch on the clutch state now? Do you want to pull that into the performance under pressure? Your call on this one.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah I think we should keep going. So in terms of this clutch state, um, this, this experience was much more effortful. Um, it was a state in which there was a really deliberate and complete focus. So if we think about flow, one of the whole, my characteristics is this idea that we’re really focused on what we’re doing, what it doesn’t seem to take as much mental effort for us to actually concentrate or focus. Whereas in the clutch state, it was much more the sense of, I am really focusing in on something here. It’s, you know, whether it’s, I need to execute a pass, I need to catch a ball or whatever it may be. Um, so it was a much more intense state in that regard, but also physically people were saying that they were exerting a lot more effort. Now, if we look at it from a performance perspective, what we tend to find is that people, when they were first, both of these states, for example, in the same performance, at different stages, we tend to see flow happens early on when they aren’t necessarily as concerned with the outcome of the performance. So maybe they are going out there seeing how that first half goes, let’s say for a football player. But then in the second half, we’re thinking about the end result. We’re thinking about what we need to do if we want to be ahead on that scoreboard when the clock ticks time. And that’s when the athletes tend to report this clutch state.

Dr. Trish Jackman

And now these two states share some similarities. So where we feel really confident, you’re both these states. We also really absorbed in what we’re doing. Um, so we have that, that real focus, but those differences around the concentration. It’s much, there’s much greater, um, uh, perception of effort in terms of our mental focus. Also our physical effort would perceive that as being a lot more intense, which again, if we think about a runner in a race, um, early on, we’re probably going to be a little bit more conservative, but we’re also really fresh. We’re feeling really good already on, but as we start to unwind or effort, and we’re starting to, you know, push towards the end, we’re going to open and we might start to move into maybe more that day. Um, and another key characteristic was around the levels of arousal flow tends to be a much more relaxed type of experience. Whereas clutch was much more intense and tended to happen in, you know, real discreet phases. So again, if we’re runner, when the last mile we’re pushing for a PB, um, we really tried to up our effort and that’s one of the key points. Where in clutch, when the athletes were reporting the state, they actually also reported a real distinct concerted effort to what they were doing to really try to push on to exert and to really get as much out of themselves as they could in those clutching stages. And again, one of the key elements behind that state that touch state was the specific goal because they had something specific in mind that they were going after and they really focused and honed in on trying to achieve that in that period.

Dr. Cooper

So, right when we started today, you started, you were talking about the golf study and you said there was this distinction between letting it happen, making it happen. Is the clutch state the making it happen or is the making it happen the negative side when you go too far and you start freezing up?

Dr. Trish Jackman

I think that, I think there’s a really good from a theoretical perspective, but equally just from how we discuss it, I think that’s a really good contrast say there’s probably a very, you know, subtle distinction line in terms of just going over it and it’s too much versus just doing enough. I think that’s, that’s something that I think is quite exciting to look at. We may have heard of the idea of choking before. Um, and you know, is there is clutch, um, stepping up your performance under pressure, for example, is that something that’s, in some ways the opposite of choking, I think that that’s an interesting idea to explore in the future. Um, so a lot of your listeners, you may have heard of this idea of clutch performance before. Um, so that’s a term that we regularly see, you know, in the media, news whatever it may be. Um, so this idea behind the clutch state is like that is the psychological experience that often occurs in when an athlete delivers a clutch performance. Um, uh, Matthew Schweiker, he’s a PhD researcher at university of Woolongong. So he’s published a review last year on clutch performance and what we know around that area. So I think there’ll be some really interesting work come out of that in the future, as regard to clutch performance, clutch state, you have any to recur to, uh, simultaneously and so on. So I think that’s a really interesting concept, but as you said, I think it’s probably a really fine line between trying to push to hard and just trying to push so that you actually deliver that top performance in the most crucial moments.

Dr. Cooper

Again, just asking you to hypothesize here, cause it’s, you’re talking about it’s being done, but are there tips, practical suggestions you can give us for that person who says, oh yeah, I recognize that. Like, I, I see the flow when I’m kind of letting it happen. I see when I’m in that clutch and I’m just like, I’m nailing it. I’m going all in. I’m super focused. And I also noticed when I take that too far, are there some tips on how to not cross that sliver that we’re talking about here?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. So that’s a really interesting one because I think some of the qualitative work that we’re we’re analyzing at the moment is probably tapping into some of those ideas. And again, if, uh, talk about some of the runners in particular, um, they often talk about it as almost like the red line. You want to push it to that red line, but you want to make sure that you don’t go over. If you do manage to get back down again in time before it has a detrimental impact. So I think what’s, what’s really important. And again, it will differ depending on the activity, um, is around some of the strategies that you do use in those moments, um, to be aware that if you’re exerting a big effort, you need to be monitoring your bodily sensations for that. For example, if you are a runner, because you want to make sure that you’re going to be able to manage that effort, to be able to optimize it, obviously you don’t want to, to get to a stage at the end where you think I could have exerted a bit more, but then equally don’t want to get to a situation where, you know, you are the equivalent of bonking before you get to the end. And so being able to develop those skills around knowing your body, for example, um, in the case for runner, no, your body being able to monitor those internal sensations, um, and then be able to make some judgements around, okay, do I need to use a different strategy at this point?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Um, so for example, if you do, let’s say external monitoring as well. We might do that. So I’m a runner. I’m going to look at my watch. I see my pace is a little bit too quick. So I’m thinking, okay, higher order thinking, I’m thinking, all right, the pace is too quick, that’s going to have a detrimental impact down the line. I need to change my strategy. So then I then look at self-regulation. Um, so I’m trying to think about, okay, change my pace here. I need to bring the pace back a stretch, and that’s obviously going to help me in the long run. So I think again, it’s probably going to differ depending on the activity. Um, I’m, I’m thinking also about my own experiences in teams for the teams where I was playing. And obviously when you’re in pressure situations, a lot of the time it’s actually just being able to regulate your emotions. Um, so obviously you’re in those situations, there are going to be ups and downs. It’s probably just about keeping a nice and level in those scenarios. So I think there’s a really good thing around when the highs are too highs, don’t allow the highest be too high or the lowest too low. You need to be able to manage that. Um, so when we talk about clutch, um, you know, some, three really good things we firstly, are in confidence. So just make sure you maintain that confidence after what is before you. So again, we’ve spoken about challenge and threats, maintaining that challenge on those scenarios. And control, maintaining control, focusing on what it is we can control in that moment. So whether that be, you know, whatever processes we’re in acting in our performance, I’m a golfer am I focused on my routine, whatever that might be. So those kind of three C elements could be really nice focuses for people when they’re in those pressure moments and they’re looking to maximize their performance.

Dr. Cooper

Good, good. So, so in a lot of ways, you, you mentioned watching their pace, not just recognizing what the body’s doing, but becoming familiar with what our head’s doing, what our self-talk is doing, what our positive negative up and down is doing in that. So we recognize it later when we’re in that next high pressure situation.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. And that’s really good. And I think also that builds into that period of reflection, right. Because after that performance, we want to look back and think, okay, did that strategy work at that time? If not, is there something I need to change to? Um, so Noel Brick has done a lot of work around this and he talks about this idea of reflection of how we then use that to go in and plan for our next performance. So we’re almost trying to close the loop in some respects, but bring that forward into our next performance. So again, if we think about a lot of runners, again, I’m just going to use this example. But if you were trying to run a longer distance, maybe you’re planning for something like an ultra, you’re going to try out your fielding strategy in advance. You’re going to reflect on that and you’re going to bring it forward into the planning for the next event. So I think it’s, it’s very, very similar. And again, that encouraging that reflection and that introspection, and one thing I do find with a lot of runners when I, when I talked to them about these specific races or runs that they’ve had is that I asked them when I turn off the recorder, what, what was it like? And they’ll always say, oh, I never thought about my performance or how I run in that much detail because we get them to just recall it chronologically. Um, they’re often the standard, uh, uh, you know, some of the finer nuances, all they’re thinking what they’ve never entered into a time or never even thought about actually, how can I use that to build into the future as well? Um, so I think, yeah, by reflecting on that, it then becomes a learning process. So we can actually learn from that strategy used to see what was effective, what wasn’t so effective and how much we’ll use that experience to feed forward into the future as well.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. All right. We’ve talked about a lot of optimal experience things already. Anything else you want to throw into that bucket if you will, before we jumped into the next one?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, I think, um, for me, I guess the, the big thing is that to identify, you know, which of those states you might want to come into, uh, different points in a performance and just to know some of the outcomes. So again, thinking about our clutch state, it’s going to be effortful. It’s going to be, you know, potentially have feelings of difficulty in there. So again, just managing that I think is, is really key. So like who it is, you don’t want to go out and storm out really early in the race and just get to a stage where you’re not going to have energy later on. Um, so it was about managing that effort, for example. Um, but then equally, if we look at these, these states, what we tend to see as again, the goal is might be really valuable here. Um, so we’re thinking about those that the flow type state, we may be looking at those more flexible non-specific goals, but then equally, if we want to focus on the performance again, as we progress on and we’re thinking about a certain time, those more specific goals could be really helpful. And again, it’s just looking at how we might use those performance and also retraining, but equally just the more recreation run when you’re going up there for run and how we might build that. I’d be curious to see, you know, what people find when they do try this up, because again, it’s going to be quite individual as well to people. So yeah, I’d be keen to see what, what people, um, try out and what may work for that.

Dr. Cooper

I love it. Alright. So let’s take a left turn a little bit here. You’re studying stress in doctoral students. I found that interesting. Any initial, I know that’s just getting started, any initial findings that might be beneficial to folks that are not necessarily doctoral students, but entering other stressful situations in life or settings or pursuits, that kind of thing.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. And I think it’s, you know, it’s, it’s the type of, um, you know, work that, that can leak into different, different employment areas. You know, I’ve done a lot of work in policing as well. Um, you know, so be looking at stress and wellbeing in police and now looking in doctoral students say, yeah, over the last kind of three or four years, this has been another strength of my work. And I guess we look a lot, the statistics around doctoral students, we know that there, there are some concerns around psychological wellbeing and mental health in this group. So we’ve definitely be trying to do some work around trying to help this scenario. Um, so over the last couple of years in particular been looking at early stages. So looking at even the induction process and those early stage, that transition, because we know for example, that, you know, certainly in the UK, um, in terms of context, someone does a doctoral research or study. Um, they’re pretty much going to be in isolation for a lot of that. So even though there will be other people like them doing other projects, they are focused on their project. That is their project for three to four years. And the really demanding, um, type of study, because a lot of the time there won’t be a taught component. There’s not necessarily that structure that we’re often so used to an undergraduate or master’s level. Right. Um, you know, we speak to a lot of that. Some, some research people actually say I was in those first few weeks. I wasn’t really sure. Should I be doing this? And if I am doing something, is that the right thing, there is that kind of uncertainty. We’re not really that sure. Um, so we’ve been seeing some work renderings and yeah, there’s, there’s definitely some ideas that I think I can share, um, that, that we’re seeing quite a bit of. We’re going to be hopefully sharing this a lot more widely over the next few weeks and months as well. Um, but I think, you know, in particular what’s really important is support from supervisors. And again, this can apply to, to work any workplace setting as well is around supporting that, that new employee, for example, into that transition. Um, how do we support them? Are we having that kind of maybe that meeting at the start to clarify expectations that is really gonna obviously firm up some of the, um, how we’re gonna operate moving forward. Um, so that supervisor relationship is really, really key because, again, again, if we look at sport, we talk about the coach athlete relationship. So from the context of a doctoral student, um, or a doctoral researcher, what’s really important is that supervisor, researcher, relationship.

Dr. Trish Jackman

And the other key thing is around peers. So we’ve been really, um, you know, we’ve heard a lot around the importance of actually connecting with people like me. So for example, as a doctoral researcher, I feel I’m having these challenges. And then I go and talk to other people and they’re saying the same thing. So maybe it’s not just me, maybe there are actually other people who are experiencing some of these, uh, these challenges. And I think that’s one of the difficulties that we don’t have a natural cohort we’re sitting beside every day, right. And we’re able to speak in the same room, for example, encountering the same difficulty with understanding a piece of text or whatever, maybe. Um, so peer connections is really, really important. So for example, if, if we’re working with students, how do we prepare them before they arrive? Can we create links for those new doctoral researchers? So could we, for example, get them to email one of the current students to find out, for example, that simple things are what we consider simple, but, you know, accommodation, where, where should I stay? Where would you recommend? Or what are the social activities like? Um, and then equally when, when people get on campus is how can we, how can we facilitate those connections to the, well, how can we get them to interact in a way that is going to potentially help them academically, but equally is going to give them that social outlet and those people that they can talk to when maybe they are having some difficulties.

Dr. Trish Jackman

And then I think the third key area, um, that certainly come through is a range, you know, just some of the student services support and when it comes to well-being provision or student services provision, a lot of the focus quite naturally and understand because of the size of the cohorts or, or, uh, when it comes to undergraduate students, it does tend to be focused on graduate students. Um, so a lot of doctoral researchers are wrong or less certain on what might be the offering that is there to help me. And I think from that perspective, it’s just, you’re being really clear, maybe having a dedicated area on the website around, you know, doctoral students, maybe activities that they can access. And again, it’s, you know, what some of the participants are talking about is just trying to make it really practically oriented. So, you know, we’ve heard people talk about, you know, well-being for writing or time management. And again, these are really practical aides that are going to help people to manage the challenges. Um, they’ll get better. And, and another key thing I think linked to that, certainly that we found through the review that we did recently was so many of the participants talk about the importance of just taking time for yourself, engaging in that, in that self care, can you avoid a circumstance where we are overworking? So getting critical academia, there is that tendencies where it’s very long working hours but is there a pause? Um, and if we can try to shift to go out a little bit with that and ensure that we are taking a break and recognize that those breaks are two really important, um, they’re going to help to restore us and ultimately can have a better impact in the long run for us.

Dr. Cooper

That’s all really valuable insight. And I’m thinking it’s, we’re phrasing it in terms of the PhD student, but as you’re talking about, I’m thinking that applies to employers that applies to teachers that applies to coaches. I mean, the application is wonderful across that board and I’ll just give a shout out, you mentioned the supervisor impact it. As you were coming into this. I was thinking what had the biggest impact for me when I was going through my PhD? No question, Dr. Martin Jones, Dr. Mark Wilson. They had to talk me off the ledge multiple times. And I’m, I was a 50 year old going through this thing. So I knew how to do the time management. I knew how to monitor the step, make sure, but still had it not been for them. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I mean, they got it. They connected, they understood what I needed. They knew. So yes, for the supervisors out there, the impact you can have. And again, I’m talking to Trish from the PhD side, but managers, parents, coaches it, et cetera. It’s so, so, so important. All right. One more. I want to, before we do the last question, how can folks follow you? Are you on Twitter, a website? What would you like folks that are thinking, wow, this is so interesting. And I want to stay up to date on what she’s doing. How do they find you? How do they follow you?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah. I’ve sent you, so you found me on Twitter, on @Trish_Jackman. So you’ll find me there. And also you can just drop me an email. So I’m [email protected]. So yeah, more than happy to, to get emails, get in touch with me on Twitter. And I try to share research, get it out there as much as I possibly can via social media. And hopefully in the coming weeks, we’ll have some more work up there that we can share, but anyone who wants to get in touch with me please do.

Dr. Cooper

Yeah. And you’re a great, I think you responded to me an hour after I sent you the email about this when we talked to Noel. So last question. Non-running, how are you applying your findings in your life? Whether it’s with your studies, your work, your relationships, your personal health and wellness. What are you doing in the non-running? Cause we’ve talked a lot of running and people are going, Brad stop talking about running, but what else, how else are you applying this for you personally?

Dr. Trish Jackman

Yeah, it’s interesting. Cause I think, um, so before the pandemic started, I was playing still pretty, pretty good level of top level komugi in Ireland, uh, which meant traveling over and back quite a lot. Say I think, you know, over the last 16 months I’ve learned quite a bit around, um, it’s been very, very different. Let’s just say, but in terms of what I implement, you know, I think for me, I place a great importance on getting outside, getting into nature. That’s that’s really important for me so generally I tried to start the morning before I get started with my work is, um, getting outside for a run. Um, but then in the evenings I also try to almost bookend my day and I don’t do any work after that point. So I get out in the evenings, um, and try to, you know, take that break, take that rest. I know that in the evenings, I’m not going to function anyway. Uh, that, that tends to be a thing, but yeah, I think I’ve probably not always the best at it. Um, but I’m definitely learning to get better at it. Know what the signs are that maybe I’m, I’m tired and I I’m in need of a break. So yeah, I think for me, nature is really important to go into the, to green areas for these spaces and just to take in that environment as well. And to just appreciate it, I think as well, when, when you do have the opportunity to do it.

Dr. Cooper

Beautiful, Dr. Jackman, such a privilege. Thank you so much for joining us. This is great.

Dr. Trish Jackman

Thank you so much. And uh, hope everyone enjoys it.

Dr. Cooper

Those of you who heard our interview with bestselling author and researcher, Noel Brick, you now understand why he spoke so highly of Dr. Jackman and her research. Thank you for tuning into the number one podcast for health and wellness coaching. We love hearing from our listeners, email is [email protected] and there are plenty of additional resources for you over at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. Next week’s guest is professor Moyez Jiwa he’s with health design. And the story of how we got connected is one you’ll appreciate, but his insights about the direction of health and wellness around the world will definitely give you a spark. Now it’s time to be a catalyst on this journey of life, the chance to make positive difference in the world while simultaneously improving our own lives. The essence of being a catalyst, this Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute, make it a great rest of your week. And I’ll speak with you soon on the next episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching Podcast, or maybe over on the YouTube coaching channel.