Sports Psychology and Leadership


As a runner, it’s never easy but you have to take the challenges head-on. After running marathons across three different continents, I have learned that leadership, business management, and running have a lot in common.

” IT’S OK” yelled my coach as I tossed “my cookies” after running up a steep hill on the outskirts of Istanbul. “Throw up but don’t give up” he screamed, “get over it Doc and move on.” I did exactly that!

I remember when I started training for my first marathon. The summer of 2012 was a particularly grueling experience for an amateur runner like me. Luckily, my coach knew how to contain my fear while keeping me motivated. That year, I ran my first ever marathon: Istanbul Euro Asia Marathon. It took 12 months of running uphill in Belgrade forest, five days a week to finally develop the stamina to accomplish my goal.

Growing up in Pakistan, I only ran when the neighbor’s dogs were chasing me around the block. I never thought I could run 2 km, let alone run entire marathons but the human mind is a magnificent organ and psychology provides brilliant tools to nudge our behavior patterns.

After running my second marathon, I started appreciating the connection between sports psychology and leadership; I became acutely aware of how my training could directly influence my professional skills, including my time management and general management expertise. Since then, I have been an avid believer of channeling benefits of sports psychology to enhance team morale and performance both in and out of boardrooms.

Some of the key takeaways from my experience as a long-distance runner are:

– Be specific about your goals because goals can affect outcomes. Vague goals create confusion and decrease capacity to influence change.

– Stay flexible. When you’re going through the transition (downsizing, restructuring, expanding operations) it’s best to keep the goals in mind while adjusting quickly to whenever is needed to improve focus and motivation.

– Keep your energy levels up. Exercise, sleep, meditate, repeat. Depleted energy shortens the ability to come up with creative solutions. For instance, when I learned how to overcome my incessant need to throw up during long distance runs through deep breathing, I also realized how I could develop techniques to be more deliberate and focused as a project manager.

–  I found that running proved wondrous for my self-confidence and self-image. While developing innovative technologies to overcome my fear of failure to complete the marathon in under 4 hours, I also overcame my fear of unknown related to the outcome of projects; many doubts about plans simply evaporated – feasibility, scale, financial wherewithal, staying power seemed natural to overcome, which increased my ability to cope with unexpected obstacles.

Last but not the least, I learned how to stay humble while accomplishing my goals and realized my innate ability to inspire myself and others through my endeavors. #Leadership #Sports #SportsPsychology #Psychology #Marathons #Running #Runners



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