How to Harness an Athlete’s Level of Metacognition for Success


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If you’re an entrepreneur looking to hone in on some soft skills to up your game, you should consider incorporating metacognitive practices into your routine. Psychologists will tell you that athletes are a model example of how metacognition transforms rookies into elite athletes. They spend hours visualizing their future outcomes, essentially playing the game before it’s happened.

Related: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Better Thinking

Metacognition is the key that unlocks soft skills

More and more, we are realizing the value of soft skills in business, and the need to hone these skills is more relevant than ever with the continued advancement of technology that is replacing historically needed technical skills. These are the skills that influence the way we do our work and how we work with other people. They’re more difficult to teach than “hard skills” or the technical, concrete skills related to our jobs. In fact, most soft skills are learned through life experience, or in the case of the athlete — experience on the field.

Metacognition is the soft skill that enhances all other soft skills because it’s the awareness of your thought processes. It enables you to reflect on what you were thinking when you faced a challenge so that you can develop a solution that works. Research shows that metacognition is the linchpin in business growth. Successfully implementing change in your business hinges on a higher understanding of everything involved.

Related: How To Make Better Decisions


Athletes use metacognitive processes to envision a game before it’s played. But this process is more complex than just imagining the winning play of a game. What is sometimes called “meta-imagery” describes the athlete’s ability to visualize specific details about their future games. They actively engage with imagined scenarios and outcomes, visualizing various responses. It’s this process that facilitates “game-time decisions” – those momentary decisions that change the game’s trajectory.

Any elite athlete will tell you that having a natural talent for your sport is useless without the tools to improve that talent. You can’t improve your performance without understanding where you fell short in the first place. And just recognizing the shortcomings isn’t enough. To improve your skills, you must analyze all the factors contributing to your performance. What environmental stimuli triggered your brain to initiate this response? What were the cognitive processes involved when you acted?

Recall the last negotiation you went into in business. Before the negotiation, did you spend time visualizing all the possible responses and outcomes? Did you see the situation? Could you feel it? If you were a college athlete, chances are high that this came naturally.

Related: 5 Ways to Run Your Business Like an Elite Athlete and Push Through Tough Times

Deliberate practice is a game changer

Entrepreneurs are no stranger to high-stakes performance moments. The idea that so much of our success hinges on the outcome of one meeting is the pressure that drives all the other moments of our day. It’s also a pressure that can result in obsessing about an upcoming meeting rather than productively preparing.

Athletes rely on deliberate practice to prepare for upcoming games. It’s a cousin to metacognition and meta-imagery, whereby the athlete visualizes all the details of their upcoming performance. So not only do they envision themselves making the pass that wins the game, but they imagine all the actions involved in that pass. Then, they rehearse the action play over and over in their mind.

Deliberate practice in business can look like rehearsing your elevator pitch or deck presentation ad nauseam where you plan to present. The more you practice, the more awareness you gain. Deliberate practice results in a strategically automated performance, allowing you to attune to nuanced shifts in the moment.

In conclusion, as an entrepreneur seeking to thrive in the competitive world of business, the incorporation of metacognitive practices can be a game-changer. By drawing inspiration from the methodology employed by elite athletes, who dedicate themselves to mental exercises and visualization techniques, one can harness the power of metacognition to elevate their performance. The ability to meticulously analyze and fine-tune one’s soft skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving, and adaptability, is invaluable.

Like athletes who envision their victories, entrepreneurs can anticipate and navigate challenges more effectively, ultimately achieving their goals more precisely. The transformative potential of metacognitive practices is a testament to their relevance and significance, offering a roadmap for entrepreneurial success that transcends the boundaries of the playing field and ventures into the dynamic arena of business. So, whether you’re striving to secure that game-changing contract or propel your startup to new heights, remember that metacognition is your mental training ground, and it’s a strategy worth investing in.


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