The Greatest Hindrance to your Performance
In the world of mental conditioning and performance there are many techniques, tools and strategies that exist to help you build your inner game. The game within yourself, or as some will call it the mental game. These tools and techniques are useful, and are things that you can do to help with your inner game. If you are like most athletes you don't just want to have good or a great performance, you are looking to tap into your potential and to find the zone. The state of consciousness where things seemingly flow. For each person this state may be characterized differently and there are many points of access to it, with a few key conditions to help access this altered state. I will go into these things in future posts, today, though, I wanted to look at what the greatest hindrance is for all athletes within their mental game, to help them tap into their potential. The potential that already exists within you.
That hindrance is your ego, the part of you that criticizes you, judges you, tells you how bad you are, or how you have to do things in a certain way. Your ego, loves to judge you. Loves to take something and create a judgement around it, and then this judgement creates a thought process or story, that elaborates on the judgement. This then takes you down a road of often times worst case scenarios or thinking of all things that will happen that haven't happened yet. How your one bad serve will cost you the game, or how you can never compare to the other athletes around you. It tries to control your actions, and how to do things, that the body has been trained to do without much thinking, over hours and hours and hours of practice.
What would happen if you stopped judging yourself, to not let the voice in your head that likes to put you down, have your full attention? What would happen if you stopped judging each mistake or thing you feel you did well as good? What would happen if you just became aware of things without judging it, taking from it what you need for the next moment? To trust your body and brain to do what you have trained it to do?
When you think of the brain, the body and nervous system, it is a complex and sophisticated thing. It is the greatest computer ever made. Once it knows something it can do it with ease, and anything it doesn't already know can be learned with childlike ease. This amazing system is something on a daily basis you criticize, thinking it is not good enough, smart enough, fast enough, or won't learn.
For most athletes they feel that they need their ego to perform well, to change and learn. To gain the motivation to be better in the future. They feel if they don't dislike what is going on, they won't want to change it. The ego loves to be apart of the process, to take responsibility for your successes and criticize you for your "failures". The ego wants to tie your identity to outcomes, to how well you do, and what others think. It likes to create stress, dissatisfaction, and rejection. This is only one part of you, and it interferes with another part of you, that is your potential. One of the amazing things with being in the zone that we know happens is that self consciousness is removed. There is no criticizing, judging or really much thought process on the ego level.
This is a state you want to get into, you know how well you perform there, but you continually let your ego get in the way of just doing. Thinking, and the stories created in your mind, is your greatest hindrance to tapping into your potential. If you are a tennis player for instance, have you ever tried to think your way through a forehand stroke? It is not easy and messes it up. When you perform well, you just swing, you don't think, you let your body and mind do what it needs to do, to make contact and send the ball where you want it to go.
So how do you turn down the dial on all the thoughts? You acknowledge the thought or feeling that is there, you don't try to ignore it, or get rid of it, because by doing so you bring your focus to it. You see it, and then bring yourself to the present moment. You can do this through focusing on your breath, feeling the racket in your hand, grabbing some dirt, looking up and watching a cloud pass by. You simply find something that is happening right now, and bring your focus and attention to it. When you can focus effectively you are efficient in bringing to your awareness and paying attention to what is important and letting the unimportant fade into the background.
A mistake that happened 10 seconds ago, is not important any longer, you have no control over it, and can't do anything with it. What you can do and have control over is only in the present moment.
To unlearn judgement is one of the hardest things you will ever do. The ego takes any opportunity to grab a hold of and take you for a ride. Even good things. You have to understand that it is not only about not judging the bad but also the good. You can not select one side of the equation, and often the good is disguised as something you can turn into something bad.
I was talking with a client the other day, and we were talking about how to remain confident even when he is not shooting well. One thought he had was to think and remind himself that he was there with some of the best performers, but then quickly realized that could lead to pressure and stress, and needing to then live up to being in that environment. If we do something good, and get praised or praise ourselves, then we are constantly looking for that validation again, and always feeling we have to live up to what we just did.
To not judge, is to be aware of things, even errors, and to not label them as good or bad, and just see what you need to do with the information collected from your observation. This is a skill, and requires practice, it requires patience, and compassion, as you try to do this. The ability to focus your mind on the present moment, and not pay attention to the thoughts in your mind that want to pull you away and think about things, is difficult. This is what separates athletes. Those who are willing to put in the work on their inner game and those who dabble in it or quit.
Most tools that are out there, are designed to help you place your focus on the present moment, and not let you thinking get in your way. One example of this is a routine. Routines are powerful, and can also have their issues, but when you have a routine, it gives your mind something to focus on, so that all the potential thoughts and stories that could come, don't get placed in your primary awareness. You have something else that is at the forefront of your attention.
To your success,
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Kate Allgood Masters Sport Psychology (with distinction) Masters General Psychology (with distinction) Sports Hypnosis Certification Mindfulness Certification
TAIS Assessment Certified