How Athletes Can Perform Their Best When it REALLY Counts (Part 2 of 2)

By Dr. Jim Taylor

If you missed the first installment of this article you can read it here.

How to Reverse the Spiral?
Think less, feel more. The first step in getting back on track involves realizing that thinking more about your performing or putting more effort in won’t work. To the contrary, you actually need to do just the opposite, namely, less thinking, less trying, more feeling, and more letting go.

It starts by recognizing that performing well is about feeling, not thinking. Two types of feelings are involved. First, the physical feelings you like to have before competitions. You want feel strong, comfortable, and at your ideal intensity. Second, the emotional feelings you like to have before competitions. Some athletes like to feel happy and relaxed. Others like to feel inspired and excited.
Perform like a kid. One very consistent feeling athletes often lose this time of year is why they perform in their sport in the first place. Remember that feeling of freedom and joy you used to feel before competitions started to REALLY matter. For example, one athlete I work with who is competing at the World Junior Ski Championships in Are, Sweden next week said that he skis his best when he feels the way he felt when he was a kid. He just loved (and still loves) bombing around a mountain, “hucking” big air, and being a little crazy. In recent years, as his goals have risen and competing in his sport has REALLY started to matters, he has lost touch with the incredible love and joy he feels in his sport. My advice to him? Get back to that feeling and do a lot of bombing, hucking, and craziness in the coming week leading up the big event!

Express yourself. You need to get out of “protective mode” in reaction to seeing the upcoming competitions as threats to avoid and get into “expressive mode” in response to seeing the upcoming competitions as challenges and opportunities to pursue your love of your sport. Competing in sports is like creating a painting on a canvas. You don’t think through every stroke of paint you put on the canvas. Rather, you get in front of the canvas, see and feel the image you want to create, and then you simply turn off your mind and trust your creativity to express that internal image on the canvas. The same holds true for sports. Just before you enter the competitive arena, see and feel how you want to perform, and then trust that your body will express itself during the competition the way you’ve trained it to.

Nothing to lose. You have to perform as if you have nothing to lose (because, in the big picture, you have nothing to lose). You will surely perform your worst if you feel as if every competition is life or death. Now that is pressure! You perform your best when you let go of expectations, pressure, and fear of failure. You perform your best when you are totally focused on the process and the present. You perform your best when you turn off your mind and just let your body do what it knows how to do. You perform your best when you take risks and just go for it. And you perform your best when you are having fun and competing because of your deepest feelings for your sport.

“Forget it!”. For you to perform your best, you have to get in the starting gate and just say “Forget it!”. This attitude doesn’t mean not caring about your sport, but rather not caring about the consequences of your sport. It means being able to accept whatever happens as long as you take your shot and perform your best. When you adopt the “Forget it!” attitude, you liberate yourself to perform without doubt, worry, or fear, and with confidence, commitment, and courage.

Three Goals on Game Day
When you are able to clear out the mental and emotional clutter from your mind that’s holding you back, you can then free your mind to focus on three simple goals on game day.
Getting Prepared. Before the competition, you want to be able to say, “I’m as prepared as I can be to perform my very best.” Ultimately, that’s all you can do. Being well prepared doesn’t guarantee success (because you can’t control everything in sport), but not being prepared certainly ensures failure.

Bring it! During a competition, your singular goal is to “bring it,” meaning being fully commit to and completely focused on performing the best you can from start to finish. Bringing it doesn’t guarantee success (because S&%# happens in sport), but not bringing it certainly ensures failure.

No regrets. After the competition, whether you won or lost, you want to look back and have no regrets because you left it all out there. Of course, if things don’t work out the way you had hoped, you’ll be disappointed. But knowing you accomplished these three goals will minimize the regrets and inspire you to pursue these three goals in the next competition. And I truly believe that if you continue down this road, at some point, good things will happen.

Dr. Jim Taylor holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and blogs on politics, education, technology, popular culture, and sports for huffingtonpost.compsychologytoday.comseattlepi.com, and on his own blog at drjimtaylor.com.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: