Ep.194 | Dr. Adam Wright | Become More Emotionally and Psychologically Flexible

As an athlete, I was made well aware of the benefits of being physically flexible. But no one ever told me that there was something called emotional and mental flexibility…and that it’s a BIG key to unlocking your ultimate best.

On today’s episode of the Coming Up Clutch with J.R.™ show, I sit down with top sports psychologist and performance expert, Dr. Adam Wright. We unpack how he’s been helping world-class athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and high-powered executives become more emotionally and mentally fit.

In this latest episode, Dr. Adam and I talk about… 

  • One of the main reasons why highly talented people underachieve
  • Dr. Adam’s take on pressure and how we can overcome it
  • How to become more emotionally and psychologically flexible

…and so much more.

If you want the emotional and mental flexibility to be your ultimate best, then lock in to today’s episode.

[00:01 – 12:13] Introducing Dr. Adam to the show

  • Adam’s most embarrassing moment
  • Adam’s background, story, and professional journey

[12:14 – 15:09] One of the main reasons why highly talented people underachieve

  • There’s no silver bullet, but Dr. Adam looks at this through three layers:
    • Top down layer: “Thinking about thinking” (i.e. your cognition and psychological flexibility)
    • Bottom up layer: Your body/physiology
    • Outside in layer: our ecosystem (i.e. who we’re surrounding ourselves with). Everything outside of ourselves has an impact on us.
  • Part of the problem: We’re too focused on finding success and optimizing. We’re not focused enough on finding well-being and presence and enjoying your success when you have it
    • Well-being is not a state, it’s a constant process
    • Must stop and ask, “What am I really after here?” 
    • Must also ask, “Are my actions aligned with my values?” If the answer is NO, we need to stop and make some difficult decisions
    • If you feel resistance towards putting well-being as a priority, you have to break that resistance
      • Marshall Goldsmith: what got you here isn’t going to get you there

[15:10 – 18:42] Dr. Adam’s take on pressure and how we can overcome it

  • Pressure is a real thing. It’s a significant phenomenon that can impact our cognitive, emotional, and physiological functioning
  • People who experience high levels of pressure are more likely to make mistakes, experience more negative emotions, and higher levels of anxiety and frustration
  • Instead of lowering our goals to experience LESS pressure, we need to explore how to better embrace pressure through cognitive and psychophysiological training and creating an environment that’s more facilitative.
  • MUST have a great support system around you when training under pressure and in a high-challenge environment, otherwise you’ll put yourself into a “relentless environment” and break down.
  • Well-being has to be the foundation of EVERYTHING we do.

[18:43 – 22:10] How we can overcome the hustle fallacy and start putting our well-being first

  • The best teams and best players focus on well-being FIRST
  • A happy, balanced, harmonious player over time will produce at the highest level
  • We have to be relentlessly solutions-focused (we don’t get stuck in our deficits and challenges) and have more psychological flexibility (we typically worry that if we change something that has gotten us success, we may lose everything all together)
  • There comes a time in your life that you have to lean in and do something different to get to the next level 

[22:11 – 32:52] How to become more emotionally and psychologically flexible

  • Key premise: there are certain human systems that get stronger because of variability, chaos, and stress. 
  • We have to embrace experimentation – it’s about error, discovery, and iteration. And it’s not all about you – who’s on your team?
  • You can get 80% of optimization by taking the bad out (e.g. habits, people, etc.)
  • How to change for the sake of optimizing your life and game without getting overwhelmed
    • Recognize that bridge is different for everyone
    • Starting point: Must ask, is this threat/overwhelm REAL or PERCEIVED? In most cases, the threats aren’t real. Then switch to framing threat/overwhelm as a challenge. The physiological benefits to framing this way: increased cardiac output (i.e. your heart gets more efficient), you see less peripheral resistance (i.e. blood flows more freely), you see more positive emotions, your self-talk changes, your attention to the task at hand gets better, your fear response is dampened (i.e. less holy crap!) vs. when you see things as a threat, you go into “protection mode.”
    • Then ask: do I have the skills to face this challenge?
      • If yes, then get after it – take values-based committed action (because you can feel bad and still perform well – we could still sit with bad stuff and still move forward). 
      • If no, then set goals to figure out how to face the challenge.
    • Must treat yourself with self-compassion. When you give yourself self-compassion, it frees you up from playing so defensively 

[32:53 – 40:11] Dr. Adam’s commandments for parents whose kids are playing competitive sports

  • #1- As parents, we have to work on fostering a healthy ego. Be mindful of falling into the reverse dependency trap (i.e. parent over-identifying on child’s sports experience and measuring their own self-worth based on how their kids are doing on the field). Let your child take ownership of their participation.
  • #2 – Avoid benchmarking. Be very careful about comparing your child’s athletic skills to that of other kids. It lowers your child’s self-esteem, self-worth, self-efficacy, and confidence. Your child is on his/her own developmental clock. Let them evolve naturally.
  • #3 – Be a sport scientist. As parents, we must take ownership of the physiological and psychological demands that are placed on our children and stay on top of things like nutrition, rest, recovery, etc. When in doubt, speak out!

[40:12 – 44:55] Wrapping Up

  • Dr. Adam’s BIG domino
  • How to connect with Dr. Adam


“Lean in to your most vulnerable space. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.” – Dr. Adam Wright

“Well-being has to be the foundation of EVERYTHING we do.” – Dr. Adam Wright

“There comes a time in your life that you have to lean in and do something different to get to the next level.” – Dr. Adam Wright 

“You can feel bad and still perform well.” Dr. Adam Wright 

“When you give yourself self-compassion, it frees you up from playing and living so defensively.” Dr. Adam Wright



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