123. Danielle McDonough: The power of mindset on athletic performance

Photo of Danielle McDonough a mindset coach = woman with dark hair, smiling and holding a cup. In episode 123 we explore the world of sports and mindset mastery with Danielle McDonough, a former professional ice hockey player turned mindset coach. Danielle shares her journey from the ice rink to coaching, emphasising the importance of overcoming self-doubt to achieve peak performance. Host Sue Stockdale talks to Danielle about athlete psychology, imposter syndrome, and practical strategies for reshaping our thinking in challenging situations.

Danielle McDonough started skating at age 4 and playing hockey at age 5, and later received a BA in Sociology from Providence College while on full athletic scholarship for ice hockey. She played in the National Women’s Hockey League (WNHL) for 2 years and professionally in Lugano, Switzerland for 2 years. After retiring from professional sport Danielle gained a MA in Sport & Exercise Psychology and is now CEO of Peak Performance Training LLC working with athletes, coaches, and parents on the mental side of performance. She is the official Mental Skills Coach for the USA Hockey National Development Camp and author of  The Empowered Athlete—Self-Confidence, Self-Acceptance, and Self-Worth: An Athlete’s Guide to Excellence.

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Time Stamps

01:25 – Danielle McDonagh’s Early Skating Experiences
04:40 – The Only Girl in an All-Boys Team
05:11 – Forming a Girls Team and Being Recruited
07:57 – Mental Challenges and Imposter Syndrome
08:17 – Psyching Out and Overcoming Mental Hurdles
12:41 – Transitioning to Professional Sports and Pressure
15:20 – Identifying with Imposter Syndrome
16:40 – From Professional Athlete to Mindset Coach
19:00 – The Importance of Mindset Tools
20:02 – Breathing as a Fundamental Tool
21:59 – Visualizing Success and Overcoming Fear of Failure
29:10 – Using Mental Skills in Personal Life
31:12 – Top Tips for Mindset Management in Sports and Business

Key Quotes

  • “As soon as I step on the ice, I’m just free in a way. I really love that about it.”
  • “I like the full contact aspect. I like the hitting piece.”
  • “Your mind can sabotage everything. It doesn’t matter how physically fit or capable you are. If your mind isn’t right, you can talk yourself out of everything”
  • “I thought I was the only person on the entire face of this earth who was experiencing these things.”
  • “Diaphragmatic breathing is so powerful and so important and can change your state of mind and the way that you’re feeling in your body in as little as three deep breaths.”
  • “If we’re not making mistakes, if we’re not failing, then ultimately we’re not really growing because we learn in making these mistakes.”

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Other episodes we recommend:

108. Kevin Chapman: Discovering our physical intelligence

68. Caitriona Jennings: The mindset of the long distance runner 

Danielle McDonough Transcription

Sue: Welcome back to the Access to Inspiration podcast, where we explore the extraordinary journeys of individuals who are transforming lives and redefining success. In today’s episode, number 123, we venture into the dynamic world of sports and mindset mastery. Imagine the exhilaration of gliding across the ice rink, the sound of skates cutting through frosty air and the adrenaline rush of competition driving you forward. But what happens when the final buzzer sounds and the game is over? How do athletes navigate the mental hurdles that come with the pursuit of excellence? Well, today I’m joined by Danielle McDonough. Her journey took her from being a professional ice hockey player to her current role as a sought-after mindset coach for athletes. Danielle’s story isn’t just about athletic prowess, it’s about the power of the mind to transcend limiting self-talk to unlock peak performance. So join us as we delve into the psyche of athletes how to overcome imposter syndrome, and some practices that any of us can use to reshape the way we think in stressful situations. Grab your headphones, settle in, and be prepared to be inspired. Welcome to the podcast, Danielle McDonough. How are you today?

Danielle McDonagh’s Early Skating Experiences

Danielle: Thank you, Sue. I’m doing well.

Sue: Danielle, I’ve gave our listener some context of your background and experience in ice hockey. I understand that you were on the ice for the first time at four years old. Is that right?

Danielle: Yes, I was. So I learned to skate with figure skates on. Both my brother and I did. He’s a couple of years younger than me, but he transitioned to hockey because he was bored. To be honest, I was a little bit bored too. My mom is a nurse, so she worked nights. So my dad would be on the ice with my brother and I’d be sort of running around the rink by myself. And so my dad one day asked me, hey, do you want to try playing hockey? And I was, yes, I was all in. He thought I’d last maybe a season or two, but here we are 30 some years later and I’m still playing.

Sue: And what is it that you enjoy about the sport?

Danielle: Oh my goodness. So that’s, it’s so funny because when I start working with athletes, I always ask them that, tell me what you love about your sport and to be asked it back is just kind of funny. I love everything about it. Well, maybe not everything, but there are a lot of things that I love about it. And there are things that you may not really think of when you think about a sport, but silly things like sounds. I like the sounds of the edge work, like making a hard turn in that edge work, that sound. smells when I walk into an ice rink. There’s a smell. Every ice rink doesn’t smell the same, but yet it does. There’s always that smell like, oh, I get to play hockey today. That’s just what it makes me think of. But besides those things, I just like the way that it makes me feel. I like that it’s an escape. I can go out there and it doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life or my day or whatever is happening. As soon as I step on the ice, all of that just melts away and I’m just free in a way. I really love that about it. And it’s super fast, very competitive. I could go on and on. I just really, really love everything about it.

Sue: It seems like it’s all consuming in terms of, I’m sure, mindset, focus, attention, physicality.

Danielle: Yeah, absolutely.

Sue: Definitely. So I’m fascinated to get your story about from that four year old youngster on the ice and then starting to have a try at ice hockey, how it’s taken you into a professional career and now you helping people in sport to think about their mindset and their performance. So just continuing that journey, there are you and your brother starting to play ice hockey. Now this was in California, so not somewhere you would associate necessarily with ice hockey.

Forming a Girls Team and Being Recruited

Danielle: No. And so it’s interesting because everybody always asks me, how did you get involved in ice hockey being from California? So the first thing I say is my parents are Canadian. So they moved to Southern California after they got married. And so being Canadian, that’s just kind of what they do. They found the closest ice rink and we started skating. Around that time too, it was getting bigger out here, at least for the boys. Wayne Gretzky came to play for the Kings and that exploded the sport in this area a little bit. Around 1998 was when the U.S. women won the Olympics in Nagano, and so that started to increase the popularity for girls. But you’re right, in California at the time, it wasn’t like football or baseball. And so growing up, I was the only girl. on every single team I played on, from starting at five all the way up to 18.

When I was about 12, there were two coaches that decided to go and find all the girls that they could find in California who were the same as me, playing on an all-boys team. and bring us together and create a girls team so that we could go to the East Coast and potentially be recruited. We put in front of the scouts, that’s where the scouts were watching the tournaments, and be recruited to go play in college. And so we only had enough to make one team. And we even pulled from like Alaska, and I think there was a girl from Arizona. And so there wasn’t a lot to choose from, but we got together, we made one team, it was a 19U team. So I was 12 on this 19U team. And that’s what we did. We would practice once a month. We would go to a couple of tournaments on the East coast. And I did that alongside playing with the boys team until I was 18 years old and eventually was recruited. I chose Providence college in Rhode Island, which is a division one school. I received a full, full scholarship to go and play hockey there.

Sue: So it worked out wonderful to get that opportunity. Just a question about contrast. What did you notice that was different about playing as the only girl in an all boys team versus an all girls team?

Danielle: Where do I even start? There were so many differences. The first one I guess I could talk about would be just the rules. So in boys hockey, you hit a certain age and there’s full contact, meaning there’s checking. You can hit each other. Whereas in girls hockey, you cannot do that. you can play aggressively and it’s getting, I would say, I mean, I would say better just because I like the full contact aspect. I like the hitting piece. So I would say it’s getting better, but it’s getting more physical. I would say on the women’s side, they’re letting more go, but you still can’t, you don’t have those big open ice checks and that sort of thing. So that was the biggest difference. And honestly, really challenging for me to switch back and forth from when I would play with the boys and then go to play with the girls to turn that piece of my mind off because as a defenseman was a big part of my game as a defensive defenseman. And so that was really challenging.

And then when I went and played in college to turn that off completely was challenging and it was difficult because I like that piece so much. But let’s just say I led most of my girls teams in penalty minutes because I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t, you know, it was hard. It was just natural. So that was one of the biggest things. I would say another one. It was difficult growing up playing on all boys teams. My teammates, were pretty good for the most part. There was maybe one or two teams where I would have a male teammate that would give me a hard time. But for the most part, my teams were great. It was the other teams that we played against that things got really hard. The things that they would say and how they would try to make me feel being out there and that sort of thing, you didn’t have that with the girls. I mean, yes, there was that competition where, you know, you’re talking, you’re saying things to each other to try and get under each other’s skin. But it wasn’t quite the same as when I was playing with the boys and some of the things that they would try to say to me, those things really kind of got to my core. So that would be another big difference, I would say, between the two.

Sue: You’re already touching, Danielle, onto this subject of getting in somebody else’s head, or getting in your own head, for that matter. And I was reading a little bit about your own experience in your book, and about how you almost psyched yourself out at the start in one particular season. Talk me through that.

Mental Challenges and Imposter Syndrome

Danielle: Well, so yeah, I mean, I think in a way, this is why I went down this path of getting into sports psychology without even really knowing the depth of it. I think as I’ve gone through my schooling, got my master’s degree and then have been in my practice with my athletes, it’s more of it is coming up to the surface about what I really did experience growing up and how how many mental challenges there were for me. I knew there were, but it’s not to the extent as I’m discovering as I continue to go down this path. So yes, the mindset, the mental, I always say to my athletes, like your mind can sabotage everything. It doesn’t matter how physically fit or capable you are. If your mind isn’t right, you can talk yourself out of everything, anything, right? And a great example is Simone Biles in her recent Olympic appearance. She’s probably the greatest gymnast of all times, at least one of them. And she had to pull herself from competition because her mindset, her mind wasn’t right. And that’s just a really good example.

And there have been so many times for me growing up that I experienced that too, where it was that internal battle telling myself, you are good enough to be here. You belong here. But then also it’s like the angel on your shoulder and the devil on your shoulder. Then the other side being like, no, you’re not. You’re terrible. No one thinks you’re good. You make one mistake. They’re going to know it. Everyone’s going to see that you’re a fraud. All of those things. And so it was like that the majority of the time that I was competing. And that was when I was playing with boys. That was practices, too. I’d go through that in practices as well, not just games. And so that constant back and forth in your head, it’s not healthy. Without having some tools to be able to get yourself through that, I mean, what do you do? It’s just like that. You just live in this space forever. And that it’s just, it’s really, really difficult. So yeah, there were a number of times that, that I went through that, that constant battle and hoping that the angel on my shoulder would win over the devil.

Sue: In that scenario, when you were in those all boys teams, Did you find that the coach able to support you? Were you imagining that the boys were going through the same as you? I’m just wondering whether it was like, well, just that’s how it is. I’m going to try and get on with it. Or was there some way to then help to support you?

Danielle: That’s a really good question. Were the boys going through it too, or was I aware of that? So in my head, and I say this to athletes all the time too, no, I did not think that they were going through it. I thought I was the only person on the entire face of this earth who was experiencing these things. And that wasn’t just with boys, that was when I was in college, when I played professionally, I felt truly that I was the only person struggling with this. And then I would ask myself, why? What’s wrong with you? Why is this so hard for you? She’s not having a problem. He’s not having a problem. And it’s all athletes. We all go through that because we’re very good at hiding things and we’re very good at putting up that wall. So that wall that goes up like, no, I got it. I can do everything. You want me to practice more? Got it. You want me to do more homework? Got it. Like, oh, you want me to volunteer today? Got it. I can do it. But inside, we’re crumbling, right?

Under that pressure and the self-talk is not great. And it’s really, really challenging. And we also think we’re the only ones who can’t handle it. So the thought, honestly, until you just said that, that thought never crossed my mind that the boys might be experiencing the same things that I’m experiencing until just right now, which is, again, how I keep expanding as I go through this journey. But so no, I did not think that they were. As far as coaches, my dad coached me the majority of my life in some way. He was, if he wasn’t the head coach, he was an assistant. If he wasn’t an assistant, he was a volunteer on the ice, that sort of thing. And so he was always around, so I did have support there. And the majority of the coaches that I played for, to be honest, were great. They were very supportive, did a good job of keeping everybody in line, making sure that the boys knew she’s a part of the team, she’s an equal, that sort of thing. I don’t really, looking back, I cannot think of any coach that I had when I played with the boys that was unsupportive in any way. There may have been a few parents that would make comments, but the coaches for the most part were really, really great, really supportive. Yeah, so I did have that piece.

Sue: That’s great to hear. And then when you moved into doing the sport professionally, now I imagine that’s an additional pressure. You’re getting paid to do what you love. Now the stakes are a little bit higher. So how did that impact on you?

Transitioning to Professional Sports and Pressure

Danielle: So at that point, I would say that the pressure started to rise when I went into college, because I did get a full-ride scholarship to play. And so that self-talk adjusted and changed to, they’re going to think they made a mistake taking you. Playing with the boys, I felt that I had to go out and prove myself every single day. I had to be the best every single day, because in my head, I’m a girl they think I don’t belong. So I have to be the best every single day. That just carried on and got even stronger in college. And it’s funny because I thought that it would change a little bit. Because now it’s different. It was different. So I thought maybe, okay, now I can relax a little bit. But it wasn’t that way. It was just stronger. They’re paying for your school. You have to be perfect every single day. Or they’re gonna wish they didn’t take you. And then the same thing when I moved up to Canada.

When I played in Canada, So NCAA hockey in college was amazing. Such, such good hockey. In Canada, it was even, even better because we were playing against Olympians pretty much every single weekend because all the Olympians, when they weren’t together, getting ready for the Olympics, they played in this league. And in college, they obviously played in those leagues too, but we were all very spread out. We didn’t play each other all the time. In this league, there was like, six teams. So we were always playing against them. And so every time it was, again, that internal dialogue of you have to be perfect today. You have to be perfect because they are the best in the world and you’re competing against them and they’re the best in the world. And the same thing when I went to Switzerland. But Switzerland was a little bit more laid back in that we weren’t practicing all the time and our Olympians weren’t there. But so I would say, yeah, the pressure, it always seemed to rise and but in a different way. So when I would think, OK, I can relax a little bit. No, it wasn’t true. It was this is even more more pressure. The self-talk got even stronger. And so I was sort of in a way turning myself into this major perfectionist and people pleaser that I think I’m probably still trying to work through today.

Sue: We’ve had a previous guest on the podcast, Adeyanju Olomola, who spoke about imposter syndrome and feeling that she didn’t have the right to be in a senior leadership position in the organisation that she was in and how she helped to manage to overcome that for herself. Would you describe what you’ve been talking about in some way as imposter syndrome?

Danielle: A thousand percent, yes. And it’s just a really good example about how these things transfer across different planes, right? From the sporting environment to the professional environment. So even if you talk about like a surgeon performing open heart surgery, they experience that sometimes too, that imposter syndrome. It’s there, it’s alive. And yes, I would definitely say that that’s what I was experiencing. And it didn’t matter how much I looked back at the hard work that I put in and all the training and all the hours and all the dedication. I couldn’t tell myself. There’s that proof. There’s that proof that I belong there. Right. But I couldn’t I couldn’t see that. It was always like, you don’t belong here. You’re not good enough, even though I was there. So, yes, I can relate to that for sure.

Sue: So how did you move from being then that professional sports player to choosing to be the one that’s helping other people think about their mind and their performance?

From Professional Athlete to Mindset Coach

Danielle: So that’s an interesting story too. When I officially retired from professional and competitive play, I went through a really dark time. It was very, very difficult. I was depressed. My identity was so wrapped up in Danielle as the hockey player that I couldn’t see beyond that. And again, the self-talk comes in, you’re not good at anything else. What are you going to do now? You know, like you don’t have any other skills. good luck with everything you know like that sort of thing not just not positive and but that’s how i felt and i didn’t know what direction i was gonna go and that was really dark dark time luckily i had moved home from europe and i was living back with my dad. and my mom was nearby, and so was my brother, and I had a really strong support system in them to help me through this time. But I know that a lot of other athletes go through this as well. It’s very challenging. Just one day, I decided, okay, I need to make this pivot. I need to figure this out. I cannot live in this state anymore. And so I started to think, what do I want? What do I want to do? What kinds of things make me happy?

And so I thought to myself, well, I really enjoy the sporting world, being an athlete, being surrounded by your teammates and in that environment, in that culture. So what can I do that keeps me in that? And so I literally I googled jobs in sports. I googled it. And of the top, I don’t know, three to five that came up, sports psychology was one of them. And that really caught my eye. And so I started researching it. And as I was researching it, I kept thinking to myself, I experienced all of these things, like all of the things that they’re saying that they help athletes work through. I was that athlete that needed the sports psychologist, that mental performance coach. So I said, I got to do this. I got to at least look into it. So I found a school, went to an info session, and that was it. I was enrolled in a master’s degree program. And the rest is history. I started working with athletes while I was going through that program. Obviously things aren’t easy all the time and there’s things that make things hard, but I really, really love, love what I do because I do see a little bit of me in each of the athletes that I work with.

Sue: The Access to Inspiration podcast is a free to listen to podcast, but it’s not free to make, but we think it’s worth it. So if you’re enjoying this episode, then why not buy me a coffee? Just click on the link you’ll find on the website against this episode and then I can enjoy that coffee when I’m working on future episodes to bring you more inspiration. Now back to our guest. Does it make you wish that you had had someone like you around when you were an athlete?

Danielle: A thousand percent, a million percent, yes. And I say that all the time, and I actually talk about it with my friends, my former teammates. We always say, oh my gosh, how nice would it have been to have this resource, someone to teach you tangible tools, because as athletes, we’re also very coachable. So if you give me something to do, if you say, hey, this tool is going to help you improve in this area, I’m going to do it, especially if I’m struggling. And so it would have been great to have someone like, like this.

Sue: I’m sure our listeners are immediately thinking, tools? What tools? Tell us more, Danielle.

The Importance of Mindset Tools

Danielle: Well, there’s, there are a lot of tools that I teach and depending on the situation and what the athlete is experiencing in that moment, we will adjust. I like to teach a different sequence of things for, I call it a recovery routine for when let’s say they’re in the middle of a game and they make a mistake. And then their brain starts to go down that spiral. Oh my God, I’m not going to, you know, all the things that happen, but it depends. But the first one that I always teach, and you know, you might think that this is funny, but it’s breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is so powerful and so important and can change your state of mind and the way that you’re feeling in your body in as little as three deep breaths. And so that’s always my starting point. I call it my gateway tool because it really is everything. Every sequence that I go through with my athletes, it always starts with breathing with a focal point. It’s fairly easy to implement.

So if you’re somebody out there who finds yourself, your cool, calm, and collected equilibrium, and then all of a sudden something happens and boom, you shoot up with emotions or you get those jolts in your body or whatever it is, I would encourage you just pause and take some deep breaths. But while you’re breathing, and here’s the key, while you’re breathing, you want to give yourself something neutral to think about. This is what I call my focal points. So count the breath. Count slowly in one to four on the inhale, one to four on the exhale. Box breathing is really popular right now and helpful because you have to focus. You’re inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four, and then you’re repeating. And so you have to focus on the counting, because our conscious mind can’t focus on too many things at one time. So if you’re focusing on this counting and this breathing, your brain slowly starts to release the scary stuff that it was thinking about before. And so I would say as a starting point, that would be really great just to start with that.

Sue: And I must say, listener, as Danielle’s telling me this, she’s indicating with her hand, she’s drawing a picture of a box on the screen in front of me. So maybe there’s also that visual to think about the visual of it being a box and that process.

Danielle: Absolutely. Whatever your mind can focus on, that’s pulling your focus from that scary story that your brain is creating. And that’s what’s coupled with the breathing. It’s a very powerful, very powerful anecdote for sure.

Sue: And then once the individual, the listener has got their breathing back to a place of coherence and consistency, what would you then recommend?

Visualizing Success and Overcoming Fear of Failure

Danielle: Yes. So this is where again, depends on the situation, but I would say generally, this is where you can shift your thought process a little bit. Because if you try to shift your thought process when your mind is going a million miles a minute on that scary story, nothing happens. It’s just, it’s just going to make you, you might actually get mad at yourself because you’re like, no, I just want to think this. So once you’re back into that equilibrium, then you can shift what you’re thinking about. And the easiest way to kind of get into this is think about what you would say to your best friend, or what your best friend would say to you, or what you might say to a small child. four or five-year-old, you know, experiences whatever it is you’re experiencing, you’re not going to lash out at them. You’re going to say something encouraging. So now that you have that in your mind, now you say that to yourself. And it’s an easier said than done.

Changing our self-talk takes time and practice, but you can start that way. And then from there, I would refocus back on the things that you have control over. Because there’s so many things that we just don’t have control over, yet our minds keep spinning and we keep getting upset. So ask yourself this question, okay, what do I have control over in this moment? Or it might even be simpler than that. Do I have control over this? If the answer is no, you have to let it go. You just do. And sometimes by asking that question, it brings it into light. Before we ask ourselves that question, we might think in our crazy story that we’re creating that we do. But when you stop and you go through this process, the breathing, you change yourself, talk, and then you say, okay, do I have control over this? No. Okay. going to let it go. If you do have control over pieces of it, identify those pieces and then come up with a plan that you have control over to take action. You’re taking your power back with this because now your mind isn’t going crazy focusing on things that you have zero control over. Now you’re going through this step-by-step process and you’re taking your power back and you’re coming up with a plan that you can actually execute on and it can be simple. I encourage it to be simple.

Sue: It’s something very simple and doable from how you’re describing it, Danielle. The words that are sticking in my head as you’re speaking is something about learning to trust ourselves. And maybe that trust comes from that seeing that there is something we have control over. There’s also a sense of overcoming a fear of failure. I don’t know whether you’d identify with those thoughts.

Danielle: I personally identify with those thoughts very much. That fear of failure as an athlete growing up was always there every single day. Sometimes from the moment I woke up, I knew I had a game that day. I fear making mistakes, fear letting the team down, fear making that one mistake that’s going to cost us the game. Very real. Very scary too, if it gets out of control. And so with, you know, the work that I do with my athletes, it’s about reframing that a little bit. If we’re not making mistakes, if we’re not failing, then ultimately we’re not really growing because we learn in making these mistakes. We have to make them so that we can improve and grow in some way. And so when we can kind of adjust that mindset for ourselves, it makes it a lot less scary. It kind of takes a little bit of a weight off of our shoulders.

So there was a soccer player who was quoted as saying one time, I knew that to get to that next level, I think for her, it was talking about the world cup or playing for the world cup. And she said, I knew to get to that next level, I needed to make a boatload of mistakes. So what did I do? I got to work making those mistakes as fast as I possibly could, because she knew in making those mistakes as fast as she possibly could, she was going to grow faster, which means she’s going to hit that next level faster. And so when you kind of think about it that way, it just changes things in your mind a little bit. And so understanding, like, we can’t be perfect. Perfection doesn’t exist. And I need to make mistakes so that I can get closer to being the athlete that I want to be. So I can get closer and learn and move in the right direction. And so I think that adjusting, if I would have even just had that concept when I was younger, it would have been so helpful because now you’re looking at it as an opportunity to grow and you’re a student of the game analyzing, okay, this is what happened. So what should I do for next time? What are my other options that I can, that I can do and try and knowing that, okay, this didn’t work out. So I’m going to try something different. It was very powerful.

Sue: Given that you’re now, you’ve got a great awareness of these mindset techniques yourself and you’re helping others with them, I’m wondering if there’s been any unexpected ways that you’ve used these mental skills recently?

Using Mental Skills in Personal Life

Danielle: Yes, a lot of ways. Actually, you know, I have two children now. My son is five and my daughter is three. my five-year-old, he’s in kindergarten and I’m homeschooling. And so that is an entirely different world for me and one that I find the self-talk coming back in. Am I making the right decision? Am I going to ruin my son? All of these things. And so then I have to tap into my tools and kind of work through that process. So also health-wise over the, you know, this past summer, got some information with genetic testing and things like that, where it was and family history recommended that I get a hysterectomy. So I just turned 41 in March and I am in menopause. And so that that has also been something that I’ve had to navigate. It’s unfamiliar territory. And me being the person who likes to plan and train and be prepared and know all the things, all of this is unknown. This is a brand new thing with the homeschooling. It’s all unknown. And so now I’m having to navigate and make these mental pivots multiple times a day in both of these scenarios.

And it is just really helpful having these tools to fall back on. And not just one tool. I think that’s important too. Having multiple tools in my toolbox, just in case the one that I normally typically go to doesn’t work for whatever reason, which I just experienced last week. I went through, I think, at least three tools before I finally hit the one where I was like, OK, I’m good now. So I think there’s a couple of things. Having the tools to begin with is hugely important. And one of those tools is self-awareness, understanding when you’re headed down this path that could potentially wreak some havoc, understanding that as soon as possible so that you can tap into the things that will help get you out of it or through it. And then having multiple just in case one isn’t available to you in that moment.

I had to go and get a breast MRI recently because that’s another part of my medical plan now. And with that, for those of you who have had them, they’re very uncomfortable, aren’t they? I mean, it’s the worst. I don’t like being in a confined space and you have to lay on your stomach. And I remember her saying to me, so don’t take deep breaths because if you do, you’ll move too much and then you’ll have to come back and do this again. Well, Deep breaths is my go to, right? That’s like my number one tool. So I had to figure out what else can I do to help me through this next half hour that I have to lay here on my stomach in this tube that’s enclosed and I’m claustrophobic and all the things, right? And so, yeah, it’s just a great example of you need to have other things that you can turn to just in case you can’t use the ones that you typically use.

Sue: And now I’m curious as to what tool did you use that worked for you?

Danielle: So I just adjusted my breathing a little bit. I also work with a breathwork coach myself personally, and she’s taught me a whole bunch of different types of breathing. And so It was just shorter breaths, a little bit shallower. And mostly for that too, I really focused on the self-talk. I really focused on the things that I was saying to myself so that I wouldn’t get to that panic mode where I would then need to take that deep breath in. And so there, it was a combination of those two things and visualization too. I used a little visualization. I put myself on a beach in Bora Bora and calming, relaxing situation.

Sue: Sounds like very sensible strategies for the situation, the reality. Yeah. So if our listener was in sport, maybe they’re in business, in a professional capacity, what would be your sort of top tips for them? Knowing now what you know about how important mindset is, what would you recommend them to perhaps be aware of and to be considering? if they get into moments of stress and uncertainty or even putting their pressure on themselves to be a perfectionist.

Top Tips for Mindset Management in Sports and Business

Danielle: Yeah, I would say the first thing is developing that self-awareness because if we don’t know what we don’t know or if we’re not aware that we’re headed down that path because a lot of times we can go from zero to 100 super fast and without even realizing that we were just even we took that first step right and so I think that developing that self-awareness is really important and that’s just tuning in that’s just paying attention a little bit of mindfulness. There’s an exercise that I that I teach where you just actually use a piece of candy, so your favorite piece of candy, and you just tune in with all of your senses. What am I seeing? So the color of the wrapper. What am I hearing? Is it crinkly? And then you work your way, you eventually open it. It’s nice and slow, but you’ll find that when you’re going through that exercise, you’re not thinking about anything else except this piece of candy and what it’s doing to your body. Your mouth might start to salivate, that sort of thing. So I think if you can tune in and do what I call mindful moments throughout the day, start with the piece of candy just to kind of get familiar with it, but then Set an alarm on your phone and it just takes like 30 to 60 seconds.

Just tune into each of your senses. What am I seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting, all of the things. And that’s just going to kind of get you to start to pay attention to you in whatever moment that is. Whether that’s you watching your favorite show on Netflix or running late for work. Tune in. What’s happening? What’s the difference in my heart rate? What’s the difference in my breathing? Because that’s going to start to train you to recognize Oh, my heart rate’s increasing. I’m headed down that path. And then you can tap into the tools that I talked about before with the breathing, the focal points, adjusting the self-talk, and focusing on what I have control over. So with being late for work, I mean, ultimately, you don’t have control over that right now. Like if the light’s red, the light’s red, right? You have control over, OK, what am I going to do when I get there? you know, maybe I’ll run. I don’t know. Right. But think about the things that you have control over and shift your focus there. I think that’s a good starting point, definitely with the self-awareness and then practicing those tools, the breathing, because I know that sounds funny, but we do need to practice that to get better at it, make it become a habit.

Sue: I think what you’re saying is about bringing it into the conscious mind as opposed to doing it unconsciously. Yes.

Danielle: Exactly, yes.

Sue: So finally Danielle, it’s fascinating all the very useful and practical tips you’ve been sharing and the situations showing kind of in all different situations in life how these tools can be helpful to us. If you were knowing now what you know, going back to that say 12 year old, 14 year old Danielle, what advice would you have given her?

Danielle: Oh, there’s so many things I would say to her and it’s Because literally every athlete I work with, I see a piece of her in them. And when I see those athletes go through their aha moments, I’m like, I feel that too. It’s almost like I morph back into that little 12-year-old self. I would say, just relax. Everything’s going to work out the way that it’s supposed to work out. Focus on what you have control over. Take some deep breaths and, and let it go. You’re doing great. I think I would just encourage her to keep going. You’re doing great. That sort of thing. I know that’s not really profound, but I think it is just that simple. Like, you know, take some deep breaths, focus on what you have control over and know that you’re doing great. And I’m proud of you. I would say that to her too. Not that I didn’t hear that. every day for my parents. I did. My parents are fantastic individuals. But I would say that to her because I think that’s important for you to say those things to yourself.

Sue: Well, I think what you demonstrated there is things don’t need to be profound to be effective and they don’t need to be complicated to be effective. Yes. It’s been lovely to speak to you today, Danielle, and I know that a lot of the things I’m sure that you’re sharing with us are also in the book that you’ve written. Just finally tell us about that and how people can find out more about you and your book.

Danielle: Yeah, so I wrote the book. I feel like it had always been in me, but I decided to write it when my daughter was six months old and my son was two. Which, little crazy town. But it’s out there! And I think that it’s really helpful for, and this is the feedback that I’ve gotten too, not just for athletes. I wrote it for athletes because I was an athlete and I work with athletes, but I also work with parents and coaches and human beings. And so while it is definitely helpful for athletes, it’s helpful for anyone because these tools, as we’ve discussed this throughout this whole podcast, be applied to anything in life.

And so while I might use sport language in the book, I do find that as you read it, if you read it with your lens on, whatever you’re experiencing, I feel like it will be helpful for you. It’s really a step-by-step, self-paced guide to excellence in whatever it is you’re looking to do. There’s spots for you to write in it so you can keep track of things. It can be found on Amazon. It’s called The Empowered Athlete. And you can, Email me anytime. I love getting emails from people. My email address is danielleocppt.com and my website is www.ocppt.com. I’m also on Instagram. I like to hang out there too. So please stop by, say hello.

Sue: We’ll put links to all those things on our show notes. Again, Danielle, thank you today. I’m now thinking about my mindset as I’m speaking to you and what my breathing is doing as well. I’m sure I’ll be taking away some of those tips and putting them into practice immediately. So I wish you well with the book and your business, and it’s been lovely to speak to you.

Danielle: Thank you so much, Sue. This has been fantastic. I appreciate you having me on.

Sue: Thanks to our guest today, Danielle McDonough. And do let us know if you try out any of the techniques she mentioned. We do love to get your feedback. You may also enjoy listening to episode 29 of the podcast, where former head of endurance at British Athletics Barry Fudge talked about what it takes to win and keep on winning. Well, next week, I will be speaking to Neil Wightwick about inspiring young people to enjoy the outdoors. So I hope you can join us then, and I look forward to connecting with you.