John Walsh Human Givens

9 Griffith Ave, Marino,

Dublin 9

Mobile: 087 2596938

Telephone : 01 8530754


Tuesday 03rd, August


                                       Human Nature At Play

John Walsh                                                                          Human Givens Practitioner

                                                                                            B.A. Psych. HG.DIP.P.MHGI



This document is an introduction to the Human Givens organising idea as developed for sport. This idea is derived from the Human Givens approach, and draws on the latest findings from psychology and neurobiology about how people really function.

These ideas can be delivered to individuals, groups and organisations, through discussion and workshops.

This approach is currently used in sport with great success.

For further information please contact:

John Walsh                                Human Givens Practitioner
353 (0) 872596938                      HG.Dip.P., MHGI . BA Psychology.
For information on Human Givens




Welcome to this sports orientated module on how best to work with individuals and groups in an ethical and sustainable manner.

This approach is a template that can be applied in all situations where humans interact by anyone who absorbs the ideas underpinning this method.

This approach is key for those aiming to perform efficiently and to manage groups successfully. Managing  in a sustainable manner must be as a result of always striving to maintain and improve performances as the route to success. Winning is achieved as a consequence of the process of improving performance.

The essence of this approach is that everyone in the group has to get their needs met in a balanced way to achieve progress. When the needs of the individual are aligned with the needs of the group progress for both can happen and can be sustained.

It is fundamental that success is only sustainable when individuals are internally motivated, and have an understanding of what these internal motivators are.

"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool for ever." (Traditional Chinese proverb)




                           Motivation plus Capability ═ Performance ► Results


                                                  Route to Results






                                                       The Game        




                            Want to play, and Able to play, the Game



      So we check the internal motivators to ensure they are being met in balance in individuals. We then look to match these up with the needs of the team to allow everyone to flourish. We aim to improve capability where needed to ensure all have the knowledge, skills and resources required to complete their tasks. This is best achieved within an organisation that has a culture that promotes this.



      We accept that it is a natural part of human nature to seek to have our internal motivators met, and if they are met in balance, we operate at maximum efficiency. We then need to examine if there are any blocks to motivation, such as a sick environment, missing skills and resources, or innate capability to absorb the knowledge and skills to progress.


nInnate Motivators –Essential nutrition to want to play


nSecurity- We need to feel secure in our environment and with those around us to learn and prosper. We cannot do this when we are in fear. As with all motivators this should be balanced. We can see how a lack of competition can also leads individuals to feel too secure and leads to complacency and stagnation. 

nAttention- We need to receive and give attention in balance. This is essential for learning and communication. We also need to ensure that attention needs are met within the group and for the benefit of the group. 

nControl/Autonomy. This validates that we exist. We are more likely to follow a plan that we have agreed and have an input into. 

nCommunity- It is a survival instinct to be part of a group and is very unpleasant to be isolated and you suffer distress. 

nIntimacy, Fun, Friendship- We fare better when we know someone is on our side, we have shared background and intensions, are travelling in the same direction with common goals and are co-operating with each other. 

nPrivacy- For physical improvement the rest periods are vital as no improvement takes place without rest. This also applies to skills and learning in the brain as privacy allows the brain to assimilate new skills and learning. We assimilate new learning’s in privacy ready to build the next block in learning. 

nStatus- also an innate essential nutrient and can be found from various sources. We can’t all be the tallest or fastest but nevertheless status can be found in many areas – skilful, coolest under pressure, determined, resilient, friendly, humorous-list is endless. In groups that work everyone has status and good leaders find this instinctively. 

nCompetence/Self-esteem- We all need to feel good about ourselves at our core, that we are valued for who we are. As we build competence we receive feedback from our environment which strengthens our core. It isn’t thinking highly of ourselves as these people are generally not nice to be around. It needs to be real and worked at. 

nMeaning/Purpose-This is generally found in doing things for others, stretching and learning, religion/philosophical areas. In sport this is found by always looking to progress to new goals, learning new skills and knowledge and being needed for your input.


Tools to Want to and be Able to Play

These are the innate resources nature has provided us with to get our needs met. Like any tool we need to know how best to use them and the damage that is caused by their misuse.

1. Ability to develop long term memory
The ability to learn and remember- We learn by trial and error, in stages and by repeating the new learning/skills to consolidate- we cannot perform what we have not practiced.  Training /practice transfers best to match situations when training is similar to match conditions, is variable, targeted and extensive, and is assimilated mindfully(talk before,during,after about what,why,when we are doing) We assimilate learning at rest ready for the next stage or building block.

2. Ability to build rapport.
This is the first stage in communication and little progress or understanding takes place without it. It is an innate survival instinct we are born with and we develop this skill to various levels in our environment. When we develop the verbal and non verbal components of rapport building at a high level we can then better share a common picture, understanding and goal.

3. Conscious rational mind.
This ability separates us from animals and allows us to question, analyse, plan, and respond to changing situations more rationally and reasonably. We need to understand that high emotional arousal blocks this ability and we are operating from our animal instincts only. Therefore states like anger, fear, love, hate or any highly charged state lock us into our emotional brain and we are in effect without the use of our conscious rational mind and are stupid. There are situations where this is appropriate to differing levels but if your role needs access to your rational mind you must ensure you do not block this, for example as a coach or teacher.

4. Observing self.
This part of us allows us to step back and see the bigger picture and is accessed when we are relaxed.
To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe

5. Ability to know through pattern matching.

This is the ability to carry out skills unconsciously and is how we understand the world. In sport we set down our patterns and skills in practice as files which will be called up in similar situations. This explains why we aim for perfect practice to ensure we have the best responses available to call upon.

6. Imagination

This is another developed ability that humans have that animals do not. It gives us the advantage of imagining a future that we then seek to complete in reality and accelerates new learning. We can set up beneficial patterns of activities or targets that we are then driven to actualise. We can problem solve and by focussing on positive patterns can create and strengthen them for use when needed. This ability to imagine and create patterns can also be used negatively by worrying, ruminating and negative self talk where equally we store files which can be called up to our cost.


Principles to adopt.

There are some principles of psychological influence which are important to remember. These are age old common sense principles which should underpin our route to success.

Utilising unique abilities and skills. (Utilisation Principle).

We are all unique with strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledge and use strengths while at the same time working on weak areas. We can also use perceived weaknesses to bring about positive changes such as; a player with a negative, argumentative manner can be seen as independent with alternative views which could be useful to the team.

Imagineering - this sets up expectations in our imagination which seeks completion in reality. (Imagination stronger than Will Principle).

As we understand that what we imagine will seek completion in life, it follows that these expectations should be positive and equally negatives can become self fulfilling prophesies. These imaginations or expectations are quickly set down in our conscious and unconscious mind in a relaxed, trance like and focussed state. Imagination can work with or against our willpower as in the example of a player who can easily perform a skill but fails to do so in a match situation. Although determined he undermines his ability by imagining dire consequences of failure.

The Law of reversed effect.

The harder we try sometimes the more difficult it becomes. This is because our aim is to activate an unconscious pattern and worrying about it interferes with our focus

We learn by concentrated attention.

This is a focussed trance like state used to lock in learning. Whatever we focus on tends to happen if it is realistic. If it is not realistic it is a fantasy.

We learn from a variety of sources.

We all learn using differing combinations of our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Learning is strengthened by using a variety of senses, sources of learning and repetition. Thus we can present desired outcomes directly through instruction, in picture, through story or by suggestion.


We learn by steps-domino effect

Learning and skills are developed in stages or building blocks and are sequential. We often need to just tip the first domino for learning to begin. We then activate momentum for progress.

We learn if we expect to. (Positive expectancy)

We tend to complete our expectancies and those of the people in the group. These should be focussed, realistic and stretching with an expectation or confidence that we will complete.

We learn when we have positive congratulation.

This is a feedback from our environment and strengthens learning.

We learn with rewards( Carrot)

Motivation is aided by goals to move towards rather than pushing from behind. Rewards are also a feedback that what we are doing is valuable.

Principle of embedding suggestions.

We communicate verbally and nonverbally and these should match for the suggested learning to take place. However by placing emphasis subtly on desired activity, we can go directly into the unconscious mind and by pass resistance; for example, it is always useful to feel confident.


Law of reframing( alleviates frustration for difficult skill)

There are many turns, bumps and setbacks to progress and a mindset that sees obstacles as temporary, effecting a small part of the route to progress, and for which you are only partly responsible is beneficial. We can reframe (Not blame) while at the same time taking responsibility.

Dominant emotions win out.

This states that strong emotions win out over weak emotions. So for example if we create a strong emotion of joy with a future goal, our energy will be directed towards that goal. We can also use joyful emotional memories of previous success to sustain us in difficult patches.


Bringing it all together

This approach is how best to work with others as we are designed by nature by using the tools nature has given us correctly for the benefit of everyone.

You can also see the principles of influence to adopt.

We can really only know this approach is effective when we experience it. We have all experienced many of our needs or innate motivators being met to differing degrees and have used the tools nature have given us correctly and incorrectly. We also have seen how the principles to adopt have affected our own progress.

Starting point.

“Want To” Part

Are the needs being met in balance to ensure all are internally motivated? Note that this is a journey and we only have to be moving in the right direction for progress to happen. Rapport is the vehicle we travel in.
Are we using the tools nature has given us correctly and adopting the principles of influence.

“Able to” Part

Are we able to do what we want to-what knowledge, skills and resources does the group have and how do we best fill in the gaps?
Does the culture in which we work allow all this to happen?

How do we find out if we want to or are able to?

Rapport Building.

No sustainable progress happens without rapport or real communication. The journey to results moves through the stages of plan, prepare, practice and perform. The vehicle is rapport.

We need to plan which involves sharing, discussing, coming to consensus where everyone has an input. We have then come to a plan where the group picture is an agreed consensus of individual pictures. We all talk, explain and ask, and then they talk, explain and ask, until a balance is met- Rapport.

We then prepare by experiencing the plan. The plan is drawn forth so all have ownership. Plans are concrete with detailed steps to get there, and can change if not working- Rapport.

We can only perform what we practice. We talk it out in detailed steps, see it in our imagination and seek to complete in practice and games- Rapport.

We then look to perform what we have planned, prepared and practiced. Discussion is then around how close we are to plan and what we have practiced- Rapport.

What is rapport and how do we develop it.

At its basic level it is putting ourselves in the other person’s position to understand them. It is done by moving attention from ourselves to others and matching their movement, posture, tone of voice, acknowledging beliefs and opinions (not agreeing) and emotions.
We need to ask/tell, listen/summarise. It best happens when the attention needs of all parties are met in balance. When you are talking you are not listening.
This needs to be experienced and some simple role-plays of when rapport is there or not easily demonstrates this and is an invaluable exercise.

Use Of language.

We understand the world and what we communicate to each other through our existing patterns in our mind. When the exact pattern is not stored in our mind we look to a close match-“it’s a bit like when”.

Our patterns are built from our experiences in the world so one persons great experience can be another’s nightmare.

We should pay close attention to the language we use and be aware of the patterns it can draw from those who listen. If we are not sure, silence is far better.

Look at these calls from sidelines and think of the patterns and emotions they might call up.

Don’t drive the ball wide.   (Hit the ball over)

You have all stopped working
.  (Work harder)

You have lost
your man (mark your man)

We can’t lose this game-have to win this game. (Perform what we practice)

You are not winning
the breaking ball (win the breaking ball)

We can continue this list by standing on any sideline-notice how the positive statements are shorter than the negative ones.

Goal Setting

This is started at the planning stage and should have a realistic time span.

 Why do we set goals?

To provide focus for group
To agree criteria for progress
They set clearly problems for brain to solve.

What is the focus of goals?

The focus of our goals should be on improving capability and setting conditions for innate motivation to flourish. Avoid having winning or not losing as these emotional goals interfere with performance.

    Goals must be positive
Needs orientated to get innate motivators balanced.

Rehearsing Success

The main aims here is that we establish targets which then tend to be achieved and that we gain a store of positive files which will be called on in relevant situations. We can also recondition negative files by ignoring and replacing them.

We need to understand that in high arousal states we mainly have access only to our instinctive brain where these files are stored and act according to them before our logical brain can intercept.

We can rehearse success for individuals, individual skills, and next game or for full season. These rehearsals should be realistic and relate to performance only as winning or losing is not completely in our control and can undermines our focus on performing our practice and plan.

We use the aids of imagination, concentrated attention, see the steps involved, have a positive expectancy and link memories of previous successful rehearsals to future events. Rehearsal is most powerful in any focussed state such as relaxation, during practice when focussed on or carrying out plan and can be done with the group and reinforced individually. The main thing to remember is the rehearsal should encompass the team and individual picture.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
Chinese Proverb


Emotional intensity for competition.

Emotional arousal is necessary for competition as it readies the body for action and, at the correct level, can more accurately recall the desired instinctive patterns we have practiced. However when aroused below or above our optimum level our performance tails off. Emotional arousal is also exhausting if generated before action is needed therefore winding up players days before action leads to exhaustion at game time. Also players have different optimum arousal levels and the skill of the coach is to understand his players and help them manage their correct level.

High emotional arousal cuts off access to our logical, planning and managing part of our brain and activates our instincts more or less depending on level. Therefore it is not helpful for a team if coaches are highly charged if that is not the purpose of their role.

Final Thoughts.

People continue to be involved in sport when they enjoy what they are doing and who they are with.
Managers always scan the room to check that they are not the most motivated person in the room. Be enthusiastic, use common sense and have clear intention.
Blaming others, referee etc, is a block to progress and improvement and feeds indiscipline.
Everyone, coaches and players, should be able to describe in detail what they are doing when they are performing the practiced plan.
When you tell them, you understand and when they tell you, they understand.

Human Givens Practitioner
Tel 087 2596938


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John has over 25 years experience working with individuals and groups to acieve a productive, fulfilled and sustainable lifestyle. He is a parent of 5 children, has established and managed successful businesses in education, engineering and property sectors and is an experienced business and sports coach....


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John Walsh Human Given

9 Griffith Ave,


Dublin 9

Mobile : 087 259 6938
Telephone : 01 853 0754


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