The politics of performance

I was asked to comment recently by journalist John Elder from Melbourne’s The Age newspaper on the psychology of Kevin Rudd’s return to Prime Minister. Check out the article here. You might be asking what a sport and exercise psychologist has to offer on politics. But I would say that it doesn’t matter where it is sport or politics; because it is all performance.

I define “performance” as any situation where an individual, team, or group is being (or perceived to be) judged, assessed, or evaluated on their behaviour and when the outcome is meaningful and important to those involved. Thus, performance could equally relate to sport, singing, dancing, as well as politics. So, we have a situation that is meaningful and important to people and they are being judged on how they perform. Little wonder that strange things happen during performances.

Often during performances individuals, teams, and groups engage in a particular style or brand of behaviour that is successful. Yet just when the win is close and the end is in sight, they start to get distracted by the consequences (both positive and negative) of winning and losing. That is they start to worry about what is everyone is going to think. In this example, the worry might be “what if we lose the so-called unlosable election”? When this sort of thinking starts to take place, the team that is doing so well suddenly become distracted and stop focusing on what was allowing them to perform successfully.

Do you do that? When you are in a winning position, do you keep on doing what is working so well or do you start getting distracted by the consequences of winning and losing?