It is physically impossible to pay attention to two separate things at the same time. Therefore, if a person is not in control of his attention, he is not in control of himself, said a former sports psychologist for the Soviet Olympic Team.
The ability to control attention is just one thing that makes a person a winner, Gregory Raiport said at a Riverwood Hospital seminar recently. During his speech on performance enhancement techniques, he said all winners have universal characteristics.Winners take responsibility for all that happens to them and losers blame their failure on external factors, he said. "All of us have experienced failure, but some people have chosen to fail as a career and are full-time losers."
Self-esteem is another quality that can make a person a winner or loser, Raiport said. "If you don't believe you deserve to be number one, then you will be number two or six or whatever."
However, he said unrealistically high self-esteem also holds dangers. "If a person believes he possesses the quality when he doesn't, it becomes a waste of time and effort to prove that he has a talent."
Americans are taught that anything can happen with enough desire, but Raiport said this is wrong. "Desire alone is not enough. You need talent to succeed."
As a sports psychologist, he said one of his jobs is to protect the athlete from stress. By understanding how the athlete reacts to stress, the athlete will be able to improve his performance.
He said people have two major reactions when they are under stress. They are either inhibited and immobilized or overly excited.
Once he knows an athlete's reaction, he can tell whether the athlete needs a longer warm-up time to prepare his nervous system for the peak performance state. A generally excitable person would need less warm-up time, he said.
Raiport said, "It is very important not to be an optimist or a pessimist, but a realist. That's where lies the root of success. Optimists see only one side of reality, and there are two sides to everything and everybody."
Experiencing inspiration is another characteristic of a winner, he said. A true athlete will experience this state of optimal functioning and use it to his advantage during a performance. He described this inspirational feeling as a sense of being able to perform beyond ability and feeling as if everything is done with great ease.
A winner will concentrate on the means instead of the goal, Raiport said. "Only the means can bring you to your goal." He suggested that athletes will be more successful when they monitor their state of being and concentrate on the present.
Raiport came to the United States in 1977 on a visa and technically defected, "although it didn't look like it," he said. He got the visa from a Soviet general after helping the general's son overcome a speech defect.
He received his degree in sports psychology from the National Research Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow and worked on the Soviet Olympic staff as a sports psychologist for the 1976 games.