How Does Emotion Impact Performance? | Live Q&A with Coach Rebecca

Today’s Topic:  How Does Emotion Impact Performance?

Hi everyone.  I’m coach Rebecca Smith, founder and director of Complete Performance Coaching and the PerformHappy community.  Each week I do a live video talking to parents, coaches, and athletes to give some nuggets or little tools that can help make your performance better as any of those – as an athlete, a parent, a coach, or a combo.  A lot of you are all three.


Today I’m going to talk about emotion, specifically the way that emotion affects performance.  The emotion I’m going to talk about most is happiness.  Now, most of you know I called my online community the PerformHappy community, and there’s a reason for that.  My whole philosophy as a sports psychology coach is to make happier athletes that perform better.  It’s not enough for me for somebody to have a good performance but be miserable.  It’s not enough for me to help somebody reach a goal but then feel empty.  I’ve been there in my life where I have had everything I thought I wanted, but I was not happy and it didn’t matter.

What I ultimately want for you or your kids is for you to be a well-rounded person who knows how to tap into happiness, who knows how to bounce back from the hard stuff, which then allows you to be a phenomenal athlete.

A lot of people are out there on that hamster wheel chasing happiness, thinking, “When I get this, I’ll be happy.  When I win this, I’ll be happy.  When I land this jump, when I get this skill, then I’ll be happy.”  But here’s the irony – you have to be happy before you’re going to unlock peak performance.

30-Day Happiness Challenge

I’m going to give you a couple of examples of the power of happiness, then I’m going to tell you about something special I’m doing in January called the 30-day Happiness Challenge.  It’s totally free!  It’s going to be on the Complete Performance Instagram page.  You can click here to follow us now!

Every day in January we’re going to do another ingredient of happiness.  I’m going to walk you through it through stories.  That’s something I like.  I always like to challenge myself at the beginning of the year.  This year I thought, “You know what, I’m going to take on Instagram and I’m going to take on happiness at the same time.”  So you can join me there.

Birthday Magic

I’ll give you a couple of examples I’ve had with clients that I worked with one-on-one.  The first one that came to mind when I was thinking about this was a figure skater.  She was working on her double axel, working on it, working on it, working on it.  She was putting in the work, but then there was this thing that happened on her birthday that we called “birthday magic”.  She had birthday magic.  She was in a great mood.  She was happy.  She was excited about what was going to go on after practice and what happened?  She landed her double Axel and she landed it clean.  Then she did it again and again.

She was on fire on her birthday because she was jazzed!  She was having a great day before she got there.  She was in a good mood and she knew she was going to have a great time afterward, so she had this birthday magic pumping through her veins.

Success For Mom

Then I thought of a hockey player that I worked with once.  He had the best game of his life on his mom’s birthday.  He went in saying, “I’m going to score two goals for my mom today,” but he didn’t score two, he scored four.  Once he scored the first two he was so confident that he was thinking, “Hey, why not one more?  One more for my mom.”  Because he loved his mom that was so special to him to be able to give that to her.

Starting In A Good Mood

But here’s the problem.  It’s not always somebody’s birthday.  Although, maybe you can relate to that.  You had a really good day and as a result of that, you thrive in your sport and you had a really great day and practice.  Or maybe you had a really great game or a great competition because you already started out in a good mood.  It wasn’t that your good performance made you feel good (although that does help), but you were already in a good mood before you went and had that big success.

One other little example – when I met my husband, I was happy.  Believe me, this guy was so cute and so funny and absolutely everything I’d ever wanted in a guy.  When we had our first kiss at the end of our second date, I was so happy.  My entire face was a smile for a week after that.  After that first kiss, I skipped into work.  I was waiting tables at the time and I have never made so much in tips in my life as when I had just met my husband.  I was so happy!  I was on my feet, moving quick, and I always had this sense of urgency.  I was really attentive and pleasant and people were saying, “Wow, we love this girl. We want her to serve every meal for the rest of our lives.”

Happiness Boosts Performance

I was so happy and my performance at work went way up.  That’s kind of a silly example, but those of you who are not athletes, if you’re a parent listening, you might be able to relate that.  One day everything’s going your way and then it just keeps going your way because you’re in such a good mood because you’re happy.

Backing It Up With Research

I dug into the research on this because it was obvious that when people are happier, they’re more confident.  They have more fun, they’re more relaxed, and they’re not tense or acting in a crazy way because they’re stressed out.

I read this article and it was about a study done on sprinters.  They took a group of sprinters and did three different trials with them.

Trial 1

One trial, they would have the group think about a time when they were really happy.  So do that for yourself.  Think of a time that made you unbelievably happy.  Mine was that first kiss, maybe it’s the birth of a child, your birthday, or your best friend just came back from vacation.  Just pick a time when you were so just unbelievably, undeniably happy and nobody could shake it.

Physical Reaction

So think about that time.  I’m tingling thinking about mine.  What happens in your body when you think of that?  A big smile probably happens.  Maybe you get a little warm just thinking about it for one minute. This is what they had these sprinters do.  They thought about it for one minute, imagined it by going there and thinking about any sounds or things that they had said.  Then they’d run a 40-meter sprint.

Trial 2 & Trial 3

Then they had a neutral control.  They had imagined for one minute that they were brushing their teeth. That’s not something very emotionally charged.  Then the third was imagining a time when they were really anxious or really nervous.  If you do that for a minute, your chest might tighten up, your stomach might start doing flips, you might get tense.

Each of these times they would then run their 40-meter sprint and they had adequate downtime in between.  They also checked for any biases and they made sure that it was a really well-done experiment.


What they found was the happiness trial was significantly more successful than either of the other two. Something I found interesting was that the anxiety one was right on par with neutral, which made sense.  I initially assumed it would be worse if someone was nervous, but once I thought about it, I realized that’s not actually true.  Most people, if they care, are nervous, are anxious to compete.

Theory of Happiness Proved

If you’re a seasoned athlete, you’re going to be fine competing in that state of mind.  If you’re nervous, it’s fine.  Your focus zooms in, and if you use it right, it can be your superpower.  But happiness was this crazy statistical difference.  That proves my theory that people perform better when they’re happy.

Now science has covered that and in multiple trials, they can tell that happiness makes for better performances.  So if you take nothing else away from this, spend one minute before you perform thinking about something that makes you really happy and you are scientifically proven to perform better.

The Hedonic Treadmill Theory

There is also this theory called the hedonic treadmill.  You don’t have to worry about the name of it, but the concept is that everyone has a natural level of happiness. Some people are naturally happier, some people are naturally less happy, and that is your natural place that you automatically come back to every time you lead up.  Then they called the treadmill because it’s like you keep walking but you stay in the same place.  Otherwise you’re sliding back.

Positive psychology states that you can actually lift your general amount of happiness.  Imagine if you could lift your general amount of happiness, you would probably lift your general level of performance,. don’t you think?  That has been my personal experience.  Some of the ways that you can do this is by examining your values, your goals, having a different self perspective, seeing yourself in a different light, and being more grateful, practicing gratitude, and being optimistic.

Recipe for Happiness

There are certain ingredients to happiness that have been proven to up a person’s general level of happiness, and this has been my personal experience.  There was a time in my life where nothing could make me happy. Life was just not working out, no.  I went through a divorce and I just had this really rough, rocky phase of my life.  Then I had a big perspective change.  I got grateful and I got present and I made meaningful friendships.  I did a lot of these things that I then can look up and research and say, “Oh, those are actually the things you’re supposed to do if you want to get happy.”

So what I’m going to do is guide you through each of those ingredients – getting present, getting grateful, becoming more optimistic, having a better perspective on yourself in little teeny bite-size pieces that are easy for an athlete to digest.

Join The 30-Day Challenge

That’s going to be in the Instagram 30-day challenge which starts January 1st, 2019.  Of course, anyone who’s a PerformHappy member, you’re going to have access to that at any time.  I’m going to put that together in the online community so you can access it anytime you need a happiness boost.

If anybody is looking for more support in getting through some tough emotions or getting yourself to the happiness side, you can go to and grab a free consultation call with me or any of the amazing coaches.  You can also check out where everything is in virtual form and it’s all do it yourself.  We would love to have you there.

If you have any questions, feel free to send them my way to and I’ll see you again soon.  I will see you in January on Instagram @complete_performance.  See you soon!

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.