Disruptors. They are the few and the fierce. In our series, Leading between the Lines, we have the opportunity, and the pleasure, of meeting with some of South Florida’s most dynamic female business leaders, ones who are disrupting their industry, approaching things in a new way, solving new problems, and effectively pushing the status quo into a new frontier. We want to learn about their journey, what it really takes, what they’re actually up against, and how it feels each step along the way. Meet Dr. Haley Perlus, sport and performance psychologist, consultant, public speaker, and author.
With a Ph.D. in Sport Psychology and personal experience as an elite athlete, coach, fitness professional, entrepreneur, and overall wellness enthusiast, Dr. Haley Perlus provides her clients with the necessary mental toughness tools to quickly and consistently achieve their highest level of performance.
Dr. Perlus first aspired toward a career in Sport Psychology as a 12-year-old junior world champion athlete. Within one year of earning her Ph.D., she became a professor, public speaker, published author, consultant to national team and division I scholarship athletes, and was appointed an industry leader.
Dr. Perlus understands the difficulty of overcoming mental blocks in order to quickly and consistently achieve results. Dr. Perlus educates, motivates and inspires people to reach their peak potential in sport, wellness, and business.
Read our full interview to learn more about Dr. Perlus’s unique 3-D approach to performance enhancement, how to start dreaming big (again), and the steps you need to make those dreams come true.
Romi: You’ve accomplished a lot through sports. What motivated you to take your experience into the direction of sports psychology?
Dr. Perlus: Standing in the starting gate about to race the run that would determine whether I was a world Alpine ski racing champion for my age group, my coach took out a $100 bill, placed it under my nose, and told me he was betting on me to win. So, I did the only thing I could, win the race and become the champion. After the race, my coach told me, “It’s amazing what your performance can be when you get your head straight”. He knew I would thrive under pressure. Two weeks later, he brought a sport psychologist to speak to my team and I decided that day to be a sport psych gal when I grew up. I didn’t know I would expand into all areas of performance, but I believe I am a person who is open to all possibilities – spread your wings and see where you can fly!☺
Romi: It’s not every day you meet someone who holds the title of “world champion”! Where does that stack in your achievements thus far? What has been your proudest achievement to date and why?
Dr. Perlus: I am most proud of my methods (journey) for growing my career:
Being true to myself. There have been times when I was told to use certain methods and processes to grow my business. When they didn’t feel right, I stopped and have always come back to what feels authentic.
Going where the competition is not. For example, I started public speaking in the fitness industry because sport psychology was not part of the current programing. Also, my career as a professor began when I called the University Of Colorado. They currently did not have a sport psychology course and so I created one for them. Instead of going where there were fellow sport psychologists, I would seek out opportunities where I would be the only one (or at least one of a small group).
Having the courage to ask. Every aspect of my career (i.e. consulting, professing, public speaking, content creating, etc.) started with me cold calling and asking for an opportunity that didn’t exist. From there, my entire business is based on referrals and that, alone, makes me so happy to know what I do really helps people.
Romi: What simple yet valuable insights. Of course it’s not always simple. What have been some of your failures and challenges along the way? And what have you learned from them?
Dr. Perlus: I was almost kicked out of my PhD program – that sucked for a moment! I learned that sometimes you have to play the game BUT I was able to figure out how to still stay true to my interests.
And at one point, I moved away from what I love (i.e. sport and performance) and attempted to go where the money was in the dieting industry (and failed). I learned that it’s not about the money for me. When I focus on having an impact and doing what I love, the money comes. I also cannot be influenced by others and must stay true to what feels right inside.
Romi: What has surprised you most on this journey?
Dr. Perlus: I’m using my father’s words: “You set goals, and then life happens”. I am a teacher of goal setting and, at the same time, I am reminded that life experience, insight, new opportunity, etc. can easily change a person’s direction.
It’s not necessarily a surprise, but a confirmation that there is a lot of good in this world. In this last year, I have asked many highly influential, successful, and busy people for help and they have all come through. People care and it’s important for us all to remember that!
Romi: What influences and inspires you?
Dr. Perlus: A few things.
Although I work with many different people in many different industries, the athletes I work with still inspire me the most. Young people taking risks, making sacrifices, accepting adversity, dreaming big, etc. It’s so much fun to be part of their journey.
Being in nature – mountains or water! No matter life’s challenges and sadness, for me, playing in nature influences me to get grounded, be present, and experience happiness. Nature also inspires me as I often work through problems and come up with new ideas on a walk, SUP, bike ride, ski, etc.
My father is by far my greatest influencer. He is my hero and always brings me back to center. His work ethic, outlook on life, and resilience is the most inspiring. Not to mention I have him at my fingertips whenever I need!☺
Romi: You seem so confident and secure in yourself. Is there anything that still scares you? And if so, how do you overcome the fear?
Dr. Perlus: I am constantly being challenged with today’s business marketing via social media. I am taking a baby-step approach and I accept certain consequences (e.g. slower growth) that comes with that. I am learning the process so that I can create a positive mindset.
Because I work for myself and I am, as they say, a “one woman show”, I am scared about future earnings and overall stability and sustainability. For this, I am letting myself be afraid (no judgment there) and focusing on what I can do today! It’s okay to be afraid. I chose this path for a reason and I’ll figure it out as I go☺.
Also, I recently picked up a new sport – mountain biking. I have not been physically/mentally challenged like this for many years. It is my most feared sport. With the help of my amazing boyfriend/coach, I am given the opportunity to practice all of my mental toughness tools on myself. It’s not always fun, but I’m growing in so many ways!
Romi: What is a common challenge or fear for your clients and how do you help them overcome it?
Dr. Perlus: Anxiety is the most common reason why clients contact me. They could be experiencing fear, anger, worry or frustration. My approach is to not remove stress (not possible and not helpful for personal growth). My approach is in my purpose statement: to highlight our strengths so that we can be the champions of our lives. Clients work with me because they feel my passion, interest, and enthusiasm for their personal success (I truly am invested). They also know that our work is based on their unique needs, industry, strengths and weaknesses. I also work with a small number of one-on-one clients to create space for constant communication. We frequently text, we call – it’s so much more than just session-to-session work. It’s real human connectivity if you’re looking for that.
Romi: What is the biggest mistake(s) clients make when seeking the type of coaching you offer? Are there any misconceptions?
Dr. Perlus: This is a difficult question for me. Because I work with young athletes, it’s often the parents that call me and initiate. Parents need to understand that their kids are the ones that have to buy into these services and want to change some behaviors.
A common misconception is that I can help with just one session. On the other hand, sometimes I can. It depends on the individual and the circumstances.
Romi: What advice would you give to individuals out there considering hiring a performance coach?
Dr. Perlus: To be honest, I have been very lucky in that the clients who contact me know what they want to achieve and are very understanding and open to my services and methods. If I had advice, it would be to remind people that for full benefit of these services, it takes constant practice. Sometimes the tools or exercises will seem simple, but we are changing the way your brain thinks and repetition is best for that (more important than the level of difficulty).
Romi: What steps or advice would you give to other professionals who want to be successful in this industry or are embarking on a similar professional journey?
Dr. Perlus: There is a quote: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” With all of us behind our computers and phones, people are searching for real human connection and authenticity. I believe I have achieved the success I have so far (and will continue to achieve) because I have a real human connection with the people I support. My advice is always to start with that.