Actualize co-hosts Rob Pintwala and Kim Foster Yardley introduce themselves and discuss their intentions for the podcast. Kim Foster Yardley is a Clinical Psychologist and mental performance coach and owner of The Mental Game Clinic.

Originally published April 2023

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Kim Foster Yardley (00:00):

Because we tend to share our successes and we hide our failures. And I think that gives a very false perception of what high performance actually is about.

Rob Pintwala (00:19):

Welcome to the Actualize podcast. I'm Rob and I'm the founder of First Session, and this is my co-host, Kim.

Kim Foster Yardley (00:27):

Hi, I'm Kim. I'm a psychologist and a Mental performance coach, and the co-host for Actualize.

Rob Pintwala (00:34):

Actualize is a podcast where we will be interviewing high performers in their respective field, whether that's athletics, business, the arts, and others. And what we hope to do is dive a little bit deeper into what it took from these folks to get to where they're at, dive into how their mindset has shifted, what sort of things have they sacrificed, and also any other sort of tips that they have for helping others achieve the success that they have. So for the last four years or so, I've been working on a company called First Session, which is a company in Canada that connects people with the right therapist for them. So we partner with therapists, psychologists, counselors across the country, and focus on the human connection part of what attracts new clients to them. And we have a website and we allow people to book with therapists. And so, Kim, can you tell me a little bit more about your current career where you're at in your career, and what kind of work do you do and why are you interested in what you do?

Kim Foster Yardley (01:47):

Hmm. Wow. Well, I'm a clinical psychologist. That's my academic training. And I've been, I think next year it will be 19 years thatI've been a clinical psychologist, <laugh>. And I'm, I'm, I feel like I'min the latest stages of my career in that I've re-shifted or reorientated myself to be more of a mentor to others. I am pretty selective around the clients that I see. I've got quite a, a much smaller selective group of clients that I work with, and I really do, I'm at that stage where I really wanna do the work that I'm excited about and interested in. And, and it really is around the high performance realm. And to me, I'm very much, I think, orientated within high performance and wellbeing. So high performance and mental health.And what is, what does that mean exactly? The idea of what kind of leaders are we putting out there in the world? And, and my hope is that if I work with with high performers, if I work with these leaders, I can support them to be healthy whole people that are putting that energy out into the world. And therefore bolding the kind of world that I hope is gonna be there for the future generations,

Rob Pintwala (03:11):

I hope for this podcast is because there's so many business podcasts and even sports podcasts, I'd interview top performers, but most of them talk about like, what's your playbook for success? And mm-hmm.<Affirmative>, you know, what are your strategies? And you know, what did you do for marketing? Or, you know, this and that. How did you raise money if it was business? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And you'd probably be more familiar, Kim, with the one on athletes. But we find there's a little bit of humanity maybe missing in some of those podcasts. So we, we do wanna bring that humanity into these conversations and instead of asking these people, you know, how did they get here in terms of the strategies and the business stuff and the training stuff, more so a ask them about, you know, how are they and how it's been? And what have the struggles been and what are the best parts about your job? But, you know, how are the best of the people in your life? And how are you supported? And how do you support yourself? So that is our goal, to dive a little bit deeper and yeah, look at the human side of performance in that sense.

Kim Foster Yardley (04:19):

I think I'd, I'd add this idea of thinking about what failure has been like for them and, and what they've learned from their failures and how they've learned to live with failing. You know, beyond that idea of, like you said, you know, what are your strategies? How did, what's your playbook? How did you get what you've gotten? I think underneath that story is the story of how did I tolerate uncertainty? How did I tolerate risk?How did I step up after failure to become this person and to show the success of the world? Cuz we tend to show our successes and we hide our failures. And I think that gives a very false perception of what high performance actually is about.

Rob Pintwala (05:02):

I love that. And when you, like, when you are working with a high performer, is that a self-definition from your clients when they seek, you know, when they connect with you? Or do people just know if they're high performer or it's a mindset or it's just a way of life? Or like, how do you think about that?

Kim Foster Yardley (05:22):

I think what you said right now, it's a way of life. It's a way of approaching life. It's not just ambition. I, I actually think of it as a hunger. Like my clients are hungry. They, they are often optimists that have been damaged by life or, you know, if they've been hit by life. But they still maintain some of that idealism and optimism for a different kind of world. And they're doing what they can to build that world whether it is in their sport or or in business.

Rob Pintwala (06:02):

So we're looking for hungry guests.

Kim Foster Yardley (06:04):

Yes, we're looking for very hungry guests, <laugh>,and most of my clients are perfectionists as well. I should add like a lot of them in some way. Some of them don't think they are, but they often have very high standards for themselves and for the people around them, they're not necessarily easy to work with.

Rob Pintwala (06:24):

And in speaking with, with, you know, high performers and highly ambitious people and founders, executives, athletes, artists, and having these types of conversations with them on this podcast, what do you think that people might be able to get from these conversations just by listening in? Or what are your hopes for that?

Kim Foster Yardley (06:48):

I think one of my greatest hopes for that is that they will recognize themselves in some of these high performers. So they'll be able to say, Hey, this person has succeeded at such a high level, but I can connect with him as a human being and, and actually they can do it then maybe I can too. And, and maybe like the hardship I've been through and like the difficulties I've had with my own life are not a reflection of my worth. Or theydon't say that I, they're not a reflection of what I'm capable of rather thanjust part of being human. And here's this person that I'm listening to rightnow who's actually taken those things and has succeeded in their lives and has,has been able to really make a difference in their lives and others. And so canI be like that too? So I guess in a way, like I'd like them to have hope. I'dlike them to walk away with some hope and to feel encouraged and inspired and,and yes, have one or two very practical strategies that they can take forthemselves. But more than that have some kind of peace and hope around whatthey could do.

Rob Pintwala (08:05):

That's excellent. Earlier when we were chatting, we talked about high performance athletes and in, in the context of mental performance versus therapy. And you, you mentioned to me how those two things might be different in some sense, but also related what is the difference between like mental performance coaching and therapy and, and how might they be related but also different?

Kim Foster Yardley (08:35):

Hmm. I think that therapy is around looking to your history and to your patterns. It's, it's very much focused on your emotional life, your psychological life. The kind of therapy that I tend do is very connected to your primary attachments and how, how your ways of seeing the world have developed over time through your primary relationships and how that impacts how you are in the world, in your current state and, and how, how those ways seeing might be causing you h harm or, or causing you emotional pain. And also ways of how those ways of seeing the world can actually help you to grow and heal and, and become at ease with yourself. So that, that's therapy and it's the road is traveled, it's got its ups and downs, but it's very much centered around emotion and, and, and psychological healing.


Mental performance coaching is really around thinking about, okay, so for this person that I'm working with, what is the optimal state of performance? What does their environment require them to? What kind of mental skills are they're required to have to be able to perform in that particular environment that they're performing in with the challenges and strengths that they have? And then helping them to become very deliberate about implementing those mental skills in their performance area. It's a lot more didactic. In other words, there's a lot of teaching around what are those skills, why do I need them, when should I be using them? And then applying them in that performance arena. And so interestingly, your mental health with where the two kind of connectors that your mental health can impact your mental skills and think of the therapy in the mental health as your foundation that kind of keeps you grounded your anchor through every phase of your life.Whereas your mental performance coaching is gonna help you to navigate and learn some skills for, for particular areas of your life where you want to perform in a high, in a high level.

Rob Pintwala (10:54):

And how might the athletics and business world and the world of arts and performing arts, how might those be related when it comes to high performers? Is there a lot of similarities across those domains, or would it be totally different?

Kim Foster Yardley (11:14):

I think there is many differences within each of, those domains as they are between them. What I mean by that is like the skills that a, a soccer player needs as opposed to a tennis player or an archer, those are qualitatively very different skills that they might need to be able to perform at their best. And then, but then if you think of is that much different from what a business person, a co-founder needs running a business and having those leadership skills compared to the captain of a team, right, of a rowing team? Like what, what their skills would need to be. So I think there are, there are similarities, there are differences. And then to add to that, I'd like to say there are some foundational skills as well. Those are what I think of as like the underpinning, if you think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the idea that as human beings we have these basic needs, I think performance also has some kind of hierarchy and pyramid and that those foundational skills, the ones I would include would be confidence. I think that would probably be something that I've probably worked with very much across the, the arena. And then the other one would be motivation. Our internal drivers. Why we do what we do, what we value how, how what we value and how we orientate ourselves towards our goals drives us in certain areas and make how influences what decisions we make around performance.

Rob Pintwala (12:48):

So confidence and motivation would be at the foundation of the kind of hierarchy performance? Yes. And what would be on top of that?

Kim Foster Yardley(12:58):

The, like the top of the triangle?

Rob Pintwala (13:00):

What would, what would be, yeah, what would be, what if you have kind of worked on your own confidence and you have your motivations you know, as consistent as you require them to be. Mm-Hmm. What's next for, fora lot of people,

Kim Foster Yardley (13:17):

Both, both psychological and physiological regulation. So in other words, how to hype yourself up for performance, but also how to dial down and recover from it. And also what emotions might hype you up in a way that will affect your performance in a, in a way that is not healthy for you.So managing some of those other emotions and learning how to either learn to relax some of those emotions or quite deliberately use some of them to, to egg yourself on and to get to that level of energy that you need, or what we call in sports psychology, the physiological arousal, you need to be able to perform, you know, like the, for an active, for example, getting into a role, they're gonna have to tap into their own emotions and tap into their character's emotions. But there are other ones that aren't actually gonna get in the way that they need to kind of put to the side.


In the same way a hockey player when they're like out there on the ice needing to actually be quite aggressive and powerful, might wanna tap into some anger really. But we don't wanna tap into their anxiety or be too peaceful and calm actually in that, in that scenario. So that's what I mean by emotion regulation. I think the other area is focus and attention, like what the person chooses to focus on and what the environment requires them to focus on, what they need to be able to attend to in the environment to be a success. So an example for that would be for a leader, for a founder, could it be like you are the eagle, you, in other words, you need to be above the maze and making strategic decisions in terms of the entire organization.


Whereas are you getting stuck in the minutia and being too much of a mouse in the maze? Right? Like,those are different kinds of attention that they need to shift between whereasyou'd say the same for a rugby player, like a rugby player that is on a, on afield trying to focus the attention. They need to have some kind of broadattention of what's happening with all the other players, but they also need tohave narrow attention of kicking the goal or passing the ball to a particularperson. So that's what I mean by attention and focus.

Rob Pintwala (15:34):

Yeah. I've never heard it compared in sport like that attention, but that's really neat.

Kim Foster Yardley (15:39):

Yeah. There's like a whole theory around it, around the different kinds of attention and, and where each are needed and how to understand that for your sport or your performance. Serena,

Rob Pintwala (15:48):

I've heard it compared to I think a term like altitude sickness or something like that, or where Okay. Or it's, it's difficult to, you know, if you're flying 30,000 feet above, you know, the company and, and then you have someone that tries to bring you down to the ground level and like getting back and switching between those, you know, two perspectives. Some people are more adept as at others doing, doing that. And some people will have a lot of challenges with that. That's amazing. Well thanks for that. That's super interesting. I'm sure we'll dive into those concepts of performance on the podcast with individuals. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I wanted to talk to you about, you mentioned recovery in there and how do you feel about recovery in performance? And I know we, we've, we've been chatting about burnout a little bit before hitting record. What have you learned about burnout?

Kim Foster Yardley (16:45):

Wow, what have I not learned? Burnout, <laugh>. I mean, like, I could write a book on burnout at this point. Let me see. What are my big takeaways? I think one is to understand what rest means. That there are actually different kinds of rest, physiological spiritual, emotional rest from people rest in nature sensory rest like that they, that I could think that I'm resting when I'm not actually resting <laugh>. So that, that has been quite important. I think the other big takeaway is that I'm only an individual, and it doesn't matter how much change you make as an individual, if the system is toxic, if the system is under stress, you're gonna feel it because you're human. And that's not a failing on your part. It's not even sometimes the failing of the system because sometimes bad stuff happens like a pandemic and you just have to deal with it. And we all try in our own way to manage these.And I really hope that we are all doing our best, but we make mistakes. So I think the third, the third piece would be to how to kind of really learn to have grace for yourself. To have compassion for yourself and give yourself that grace to make mistakes and recover and learn what's humbling. Definitely dealing with burnout.

Rob Pintwala (18:11):

I know burnout was a huge topic during covid and still ismm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And I think it's still misunderstood and maybe undervalued in a lot of respects. As far as, you know, what is self-care and why it, why is it not just having a bubble bath and why is it different for everyone? And like there's a self-care industry out there, but there's self-care that you need to learn about yourself. I think if you wanna, whichI'm still working on.

Kim Foster Yardley (18:42):

I think you're right, Rob, because just to add to that, it's not just about symptom alleviation, like a lot of that things like taking the bubble bath or, you know, I can go off on a tangent, so stop me, but like taking the bubble bath or, or having someone come and talk to your organization about burnout. Those are symptom alleviation strategies, but they don't necessarily address underlying patterns. And until you address underlying patterns you're, the symptoms will come back. Right. To me that that's an important thing to think about as a, as a leader or as a high performer.

Rob Pintwala (19:15):

And, okay. Maybe last question that I can think of off my mind for you, but you're also an artist. What role does that play in your life and how long have you been an artist for? Or is it forever <laugh>?

Kim Foster Yardley (19:29):

I've been an artist forever. <Laugh>. Yeah. I started taking my art career more serious, seriously about, in about, I think 2015, 2016. It was, it was around the death of my grandmother actually, and she was a very important person in my life. And when she died, I, I had been so focused on my career, I'd been, I had, I was running my own practice quite successfully in South Africa, in Cape Town and always on the go, always busy.And there was just this moment where, because of my grief and, and dealing with her death, I had a bit of a meltdown psychologically. Like, I started feeling really anxious and I needed to, I got my butt back into therapy immediately and started like reflecting. But one of the things that kind of hit me with her death was my own mortality. And that my time on this planet is precious and howI choose to, to spend my time every day is my life.


It's not having these massive goals for the future, but actually the things I spend time on every day that shows what I prioritize and that shows what I value. And I asked myself, how can I, in every day, in every weekend every month, be more real and be more aligned with what I value? And one of the pieces that was missing was my aunt. And so I just made time for art. I just started scheduling time, going to classes again, and actually putting my work out there too. So when you ask me what the role of my art practice is from, I would say it's the space where I process my emotions. It's the space where I can take some of my, the things that I can't put into language and, and use symbols and my creativity to express them and to process them.

Rob Pintwala (21:40):

Very cool. That's amazing.

Kim Foster Yardley (21:42):

What are you most curious about when it comes to perform to high performance?

Rob Pintwala (21:47):

I've been on my own journey for the last three, four years doing this startup, I guess you could say. And I've had my own struggles with that. And, you know, to name a few. I think just being a solo founder, not having a business partner that I can kind of you know, really kind of jive with or run ideas by, has been sort of isolating. And, you know, imposter syndrome and just failure and, and feeling like you're not good at certain things. And so I think the last few years it's, it's come into importance in my life in particular, I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur and it took me getting fired to actually become an entrepreneur <laugh> because, you know, it was a scary thing to, to start. So I'm most curious about, yeah, understanding that, you know, maybe people aren't perfect, even though media portrays these founders and athletes to be these perfect humans and you know, give people a place to share some more open stories and, you know, be vulnerable if, if they want to be. And to kind of, yeah, just come back to the hope for myself and for everyone to know that, you know, even the top performers struggle with this or here's what they've had to sacrifice. And that's just part of the, the journey.So that's, that's sort of, yeah. What I'm, what I'm curious about uncovering here.

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