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Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game?

Interview by Crispin Andrews for The Cricketer Magazine January 2017 Edition Do cricketers need a big ego to perform at the top of their game? Steven Sylvester, psychologist to county champions Middlesex County Cricket Club, thinks not. If you want to get the best out of yourself, rather than give into selfish drives, simply detox that ego. Realise that ego is not belief

Ego is your natural defence system, triggered when strong emotions such as anxiety and fear sweep through you. It is a concentration on self-interest so it’s thinking about yourself. Am I good at this? Will I do well here? Whereas self belief is a lateral deep understanding that you can choose - a level of confidence that you can do well at what you do just for the sheer desire. Ego or selfishness is more of an arrogance, there is no belief in it, just a desire to do well. It’s about protecting what we think we are good at or not good at. That ego covers up lack of belief Often, when you scratch the surface, belief in your competence is not as high as it seems. Someone with high levels of belief has high levels of perceived competence, so they relax. Someone with a lower level of belief is more egotistical because they are worried about their performance. Master your skills From a very early age we are taught that life is about winning and losing, and we focus on results. Something that we cannot control. This creates stress and can lead to poor mental health as well as poor performance. Instead, we should focus on what we can actually do - our skills. Focus on what we can do differently so we can master our craft Learn from your mistakes Rather than seeing errors as failures, we must learn from them. Do not resist, or try to cover them up. Drill down into that, examine them and work out what they are telling you, rather than covering up mistakes. Set wider goals When we think about ourselves we tend to get nervous and worry about what could go wrong. But when we play for others, when the focus is outwards rather than inward, we become more creative and resolved, more effective. If you have a reason beyond yourself for performing, you seem to play better. Moeen Ali, who I have worked with, has a deep religious perspective on life. He feels there is something more to his performance than just him, which means he is more selfless in what he’s doing. Playing cricket is how he is serving others, and his God, and as a result, he is much freer as a performer than someone who is quite self-obsessed or quite self-centred about what they do today. What their performance will be tomorrow - that kind of approach. Be consistent If we feel one thing and do another, it causes problems. To be authentic and have integrity, what you feel and what you say and do, need to be the same. Have fun If you are having fun, you are free - and if you are free, you will have a far greater sense of well being. Have clarity in life Are you clear on what your purpose and contribution to the team, the club or the community that you live in or serve? There is more to life than just work or just our play, and we need to ask what the ultimate legacy is that we wish leave behind.


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