Train Your Brain With These Winning Mindset Techniques From Olympic Medalist Nicole Davis
Nicole Davis is a retired American indoor volleyball superstar and mindset coach at Compete To Create, founded by Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and high-performance psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais. A two-time Olympic silver medal winner, she was known to be one of the best -- if not the best -- in the world at her craft.
Today, she helps business professionals become the best version of themselves by focusing on recovery, mindfulness and other critical routines. During our chat she discussed her career, the lessons she's learned and passes along some valuable high-performance tips.
Learning to do less
"I was a two-time Olympian before I started formally training my mind. I used to engage in what Dr. Michael Gervais calls the 'Do more to be more' model. So when we were training eight hours a day, I would ask to do extra reps. I needed those extra reps to feel good and generate confidence. But the trap in that is that if the last rep isn't good, it plants a seed of doubt. What I've come to know now is that incessant need to do extra work to feel like I'm enough was born out anxiety -- not knowing if things are going to work out, not knowing if I'll be enough."
Finding a relaxed mindset
"I used to worry if I was going to be able to bring it on a particular day or not, and that worry would compound the stress of competition. What I know now is to be present and to sift through the noise and really get to the signal. A lot of that comes from training your mind to find quiet -- mindfulness or meditation is a great way to do it. One of the greatest reset buttons that we have available to us is just taking a deep breath. Because our breath takes place in the present moment and creates a little bit of a relaxation response. From a relaxed mental state, you can move into mental imagery for performance and defining success. I moved away from defining it based on the outcome and focused on how I wanted to show up and express myself."
Training your mind to smile through tough times
"For the first eight years of the 12 years that I was on the USA team, I hadn't formally trained my mind and we had kind of a dysfunctional culture, so every day felt really hard for me. I didn't have a filter that enabled me to celebrate the little wins. Most days I left the gym feeling like a failure in some sort of way. It is, unfortunately, something we see a lot: High performers in their craft whose personal life is completely screwed up. They're completely under-recovered and have mental health issues. Living like that ultimately limits our potential for success and for experiencing joy. But you can train your mind to recognize joy. You can be in really difficult situations and smile because you know that something good is on the other side of that."
Hustling non-stop is a recipe for poor performance
"As a young athlete I outcompeted everybody and I hustled hard and that directly correlated to my success through college. Then I got to the national team and realized the hustle is a prerequisite. Everyone's working hard on the world stage. The difference is how fast you can learn and iterate and get 1% better -- and it's really hard to do that if you're under recovered or if you're highly anxious.
"When I retired and I jumped into working in the corporate environment, I learned a lot of people think it is a badge of honor to say, ‘Yeah, man, I got five hours of sleep last night and I'm grinding.’ But really what you're saying is, ‘I'm suboptimal right now and, for some reason, I think that's cool.’"
Recovery needs to be a daily routine
"Recovery and self-care is a built-in mechanism on the world stage of elite performance. You need to recover on a daily basis in a really intelligent way so that you can push it to the absolute limits physically, emotionally and cognitively the next day. Otherwise, it's a very, very quick path to burn out.
"What I would say to an entrepreneur is that science is really clear that this 'hustle hard' mentality is a short-term approach to high performance, but it's not sustainable. It will lead to fatigue and burnout and will cost you relationships. There's just not a whole lot of joy in that experience. So if you don't want to enjoy yourself, go for it! But know that there is a better way to find peak performance and happiness at the same time."
Compete to Create is hosting Finding Mastery Live on September 27th in Seattle. Participants can purchase tickets to join an intimate audience as Dr. Michael Gervais interviews a surprise guest. Nicole Davis will be in attendance at this exclusive event as well!