The Missing Link in Training: The Mental Aspects of Performance

In the mid-1980s, sports psychologist Gary Mack and I authored the first edition of The Mental Aspects of Performance. The first M.A.P. was on the market for 12 years. In October 2002, Gary and I decided to create the second edition of the book, but a...


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1. Growth.

2. Attention. Learning to move from scattered, distracted and unfocused to centered, concentrated and focused in the present and on the task at hand.

3. Motivation. Learning to develop an inner desire to move from unclear, unrealistic, uncontrollable outcome goals to realistic performance goals. Being committed to a mission and pulled by a vision.

4. Energy. Learning to move from tense, unproductive racing to relaxed, productive pacing of energy and emotions.

5. Thoughts. Learning to move from negative, critical and discouraging to positive, coaching and encouraging thoughts and self-talk.

6. Images. Learning to move from unclear, destructive self and situational images of failures to clear, constructive images of success.

7. Performance. Learning to move from weak, forced and dreaded to peak, flowing and enjoyed performances.

8. Self. Learning to move from a low, rejecting and limiting self-concept to high, accepting and unlimited self-confidence.

Recognizing the enormous impact our mental state has on our physiological state, performance psychology principles are a fundamental part of all kinds of high performance training from world-class athletes to artists and astronauts. Fortunately, much has been learned about the mind-body connection and its effect on performance.

We have come to realize that firefighters and fire officers are mental and physical athletes of the highest degree; athletes who must perform at an optimum level at a time when pressure is at its greatest – when life is on the line. And just as world-class and professional athletic teams have come to recognize the importance of the mind-and-body connection in developing and executing physical skills at critical moments, so must those in the fire service.

The M.A.P. incorporates many concepts, skills and exercises. In firefighting, in sports and in life, we are constantly dealing with things that are potential barriers to peak performance. Training and practice are at the heart of any athletic experience, just as with the mental aspects of being a firefighter or fire officer.

The M.A.P. represents a critical performance element that should be integrated into all training programs, lessons and exercises. Just as we select the best people we can to serve in our fire departments, equip them appropriately, and teach them the knowledge and physical skills they need to perform, we must do a better job of giving them the mental and emotional capacity to perform well in a variety of stressful situations.

In the fire service, ours is not a game of winning or losing; it is often a matter of life and death. The stakes are high, and so is the stress and so are the expectations of our customers. There’s little room for human error – and The M.A.P. helps minimize those errors.

Many fire service superstars and some fire departments currently use all or part of The M.A.P. in their training. All exceptional athletes at the college and professional levels, most entertainers and many other high-stress performers regularly use mental training to prepare for real performances.

Whether trying to excel as a firefighter, stay composed and make better decisions as a fire officer, give a speech, take a test or deal with the challenges of life, The M.A.P. will help you tremendously. It is developed in a format that is easily adaptable to self-study or used by students and instructors in a workshop format.

I encourage you to incorporate The M.A.P. into your training and development programs. It could become the most critical addition you’ve ever made to training and development, personally and for others in your organization. It is truly the missing link in firefighter and fire officer training.

Dennis Compton will present “Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers” at Firehouse Expo 2005, July 26-31 in Baltimore.