- Excellent Mental Performance -
Blog for Athletes and High Performers

Why joy matters for high performance?

Maybe because it all started from joy...?

1. The Often Missing Element in High Performance/Sports world: Joy ✨

I always hated when someone said “Oh I wish I could just train twice a day and get paid for it!”. People who say that don’t often see what goes into the pro athlete life.

For example in volleyball, you’ll play your pro season for 8-9 months that you get paid for, and then join the national team for the summer making sports a full year commitment. Away from your family.

It demands more dedication to the sport than many can realize. And the goal in every season is to win more and get better. That means that everything evolves around improving and chasing perfection. Often making life quite serious.

Every day you are pretty much failing at something that you then try to improve. The growth game is fun but can also make us lose joy in the sport/work due to the yearlong focus on it. Same for coaches. It can be mentally and emotionally taxing, leading to a loss of the fun that initially drew us to our chosen sport/field.

So, what happens when joy starts to slip further and is overshadowed by the relentless pursuit of excellence? I wanna show you some interesting findings from research.

Research has consistently shown that joy and happiness have a direct and positive impact on our physical and mental health. In the context of sports, experiencing joy can lead to:

2. How joy can help your performance?

1. Enhanced Performance 🔝 : “The Effect of Positive Affect on Sports Performance: A Systematic Review” by Tamir et al. (2019) found that positive affect, which includes feelings of joy, happiness, and excitement, is associated with improved sports performance. The study reviewed 26 studies and found that positive affect was positively correlated with performance in a variety of sports, including swimming, basketball, and soccer.

“The Role of Endorphins in Sports Performance” by Petruzzelli et al. (1991) found that endorphins, which are hormones released during exercise, can improve sports performance. The study found that endorphins can increase pain tolerance, reduce fatigue, and improve mood, all of which can contribute to better performance.

2. Increased Resilience 💪 : “Joyful Athletes Are More Resilient” by Welch (2017) found that joyful athletes are more likely to recover from injuries and setbacks than athletes who are not joyful. The study found that joy can help athletes to stay motivated, focused, and positive, all of which can contribute to resilience.

3. Improved Team Dynamics 🤝 : “The Power of Joy in Teams” by Kramer (2017) found that joy can help to improve team dynamics. The study found that joy can help teams to communicate more effectively, collaborate more efficiently, and resolve conflict more peacefully. “The Joy of Teamwork” by Cohn et al. (2011) found that joy can lead to stronger teamwork. The study found that when team members experience joy together, they are more likely to trust each other, cooperate with each other, and support each other.

4. Mental Clarity 😌 : “The Effect of Joy on Mental Clarity” by Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) found that joy can improve mental clarity. The study found that joy can help people to focus better, make better decisions, and solve problems more effectively. “Joyful Athletes Make Better Decisions” by Cohn et al. (2014) found that joyful athletes are more likely to make better decisions under pressure. The study found that joy can help athletes to stay calm, focused, and objective, all of which can contribute to better decision-making.

5. Longevity 👵🏻 : “The Joyful Athlete: A Study of Longevity in Professional Sports” by Seligman et al. (2016) found that joyful athletes are more likely to have longer and more successful careers. The study found that joy can help athletes to stay motivated, healthy, and injury-free, all of which can contribute to longevity in sports.

3. 🇫🇮 Joy in the Professional Sports World: A lesson from the Finnish National Team 🇫🇮

One particular memory from my time with the Finnish national volleyball team came to mind about the power of joy. It was an intensive summer of travel, practice, and competition across Europe, we were all feeling the weight of our commitments. Bodies and minds getting tired. Missing the loved ones.

It was during this time that our coach, Tapio Kangasniemi, reminded us that, ‘The better you get, the less time off you can expect and have.’ It was a good reminder – this is the direction we have wanted to go towards as a team. But then we also needed to find a bit more joy and fun in the daily grind.

👉 So one of our players took the initiative and led a Zumba session as part of our warm-up routine. Now, I must say, for most of us, ‘dancing’ wasn’t exactly our cup of tea. But that wasn’t the point.

​We jumped in, were out of our comfort zones together and had fun while getting warm. Even our coaches joined in, not as spectators but as active participants, setting an example that joy has a place even in the most serious of endeavors. 😊

4. Embracing Joy in Your High Performance Journey 😊

I encourage you to reflect on the role of joy in your path to success. Here are five questions to consider:
What brings you genuine joy in your pursuit of excellence?
How can you infuse even a small moment of joy into your daily routine or training regimen?
In times of pressure and seriousness, how do you ensure that joy remains a constant companion?
Are there activities or experiences that you’ve overlooked because they didn’t seem ‘serious’ enough, yet could bring immense joy to your life?
What steps can you take to create a culture of joy and unity within your team, workplace, or personal circle?

The journey to success doesn’t have to be so serious as we sometimes think. In fact, it thrives when joy is an integral part of the process. So, whether you’re an athlete, an artist, a professional, or someone on their unique life journey, maybe try prioritizing joy and see how the path to greatness could also include fun elements and how that can positively affect your results ❤️

​​Ps. One big thief of joy is the pressure and expectations we put on ourselves so here is a great (free!!) training for anyone looking to elevate that and add more joy and confidence in their sport again!

Saana Koljonen

​​P.S. Join my email community for more insights and stories from the world of high-performance. Click [here] to subscribe and let's connect our journeys of personal growth and professional excellence!

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Hi, I Am Saana Koljonen

CEO Of Authentic Excellence LLC

As a mental performance coach/consultant and a certified breathwork facilitator, I specialize in helping athletes and high performers overcome mental barriers and achieve greater success with better speed, joy and confidence.

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