How to prepare your mind for competition and success
When it comes to getting ready for competition, your mental preparation means more than you might realize. I often call this the “game within the game.” If you have been a competitive athlete at all in your life, you can probably recall a time when your mental state caused you to perform better or worse. What you might not realize, however, is that you can achieve peak performance more consistently through mental preparation.
As a sport psychology consultant and mental trainer, I often ask athletes to consider the best and the worst games they ever played. After they’ve done this, I ask them what they think the differences were between the two. Was the other team flat-out better, more fit, or coached by a genius? Almost always, the answer is none of those things. So to win the mental game, training makes a difference.
Instead, people often look internally. Talking about their worst performances, they point to anxiety, fear, or a lack of focus. The words differ, but the meaning is essentially the same: It was a “mental thing.” My next question is this: How much time do you spend practicing the mental game? Whether we’re talking about sports or business or personal affairs, if your answer to this question is “no time at all,” then it’s time to rethink your approach.
The game within the game is the mental contest we play as we prepare for competition, whatever form it may take. It’s about what we tell ourselves before, during and after competition. It involves managing stress, setting goals, and visualizing success. How we play this mental game determines how we perform when it counts.
These are the five tenets:
3. Carefree approach
Although each of these carries its own importance, they are also interrelated. Improving one area can lead to improvement in the other areas. Here’s a closer look at each.
Calmness: If you aren’t relaxed while playing or performing or working, you’ll more easily lose the feel for what you’re doing. Although learning to relax may seem simple, it’s actually a skill that must be practiced. Before you go to work tomorrow, try sitting on your couch for three minutes. Breathe slowly and just relax. The next time your stress level picks up on the job or during competition, take a deep breath and talk yourself down from the ledge. Refuse to get stressed out. It does no good.
Confidence: If you don’t feel confident that you can handle a competitive situation, you’re setting yourself up to fail. When you don’t believe in yourself, how is anyone else supposed to believe in you? Whatever it is you’re trying to do, tell yourself you can and believe it when you say it. Picture the success you are about to achieve.
Carefree approach: This is all about staying loose and knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll come out better for it. When the pressure mounts, refuse to let yourself get tight. It’s also important to make sure you don’t let worries from other parts of your life affect the task at hand. Stay mentally relaxed regardless of what you face. This goes hand in hand with staying calm.
Motivation: If you don’t have motivation, you don’t have much. Think about the things success will bring you. If you win the game, what will that mean? If you nail that presentation, what effect might it have on your career? Find your motivation and think about it often.
Focus: People often remind athletes of the importance of concentration. But what does that mean? Quite simply, it means focusing on the task at hand, avoiding distractions, and remaining fixated on what must be done. When players are off their game, it’s often because they’re thinking about something else. You can’t just go through the motions. By staying in the moment and avoiding mental interference, you can keep your mind where it needs to be.
STRENGTH FROM WITHIN
We all deal with stress. Life isn’t easy for competitive athletes, surgeons, lawyers, investment bankers, writers, or anyone else who’s trying to achieve great things. But it sure is fun. Remember that when you’re faced with long odds and the prospect of
failure. Enjoy the ride and know that you are doing exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
Live for exhilaration and learn to deal with pressure. It makes you special and it sets you above the competition. You didn’t get where you are in life without putting in the work. And you won’t continue moving up by quitting or giving in when things get tough.
Instead, look within for strength, envision your success, and practice your mental preparation. Professional athletes typically spend 20 years perfecting their game on the way to reaching the highest level of their sport. By committing yourself to your own mental game and practicing often, you too can achieve greatness.
Can we learn from the Seahawks?
Teams are preparing for the biggest game of the year, in arguably the biggest venue, the Big Apple- New York City. Most all the focus is on the Denver Broncos Payton Manning
and the historic passing offence vs the Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom and the #1 ranked Defense. The game takes place on a huge stage. The focus is mostly on Offense and Defense, X’s and O’s, but might the real contest be in everyone’s head? Yes and how will the mental game play a role in the outcome?
One thing we have heard is that the Seattle Seahawks work with a Psychologist from Los Angeles. Many of the players including young quarterback Russell Wilson meet with him weekly. (http://abcnews.go.com/m/story?id=21614481) The idea that at the pinnacle of football (or any other sport) athletes openly meet with someone to help them with their mental game come into play in New York?
How mentally prepared is each team? To what degree will mental toughness effect these two great teams? These are the real questions.
Mental toughness training is telling and the Seahawks have been doing this now for two years. Is their rise to the top in the NFL due to X’s and O’s. Is it based on the draft and free agency? Is it the leadership from Pete Carroll and his Win Forever mentality? Absolutely! But it is this same mentality that brings in someone to help players with their mental training. This is perhaps a much overlooked area where athletes can make huge improvements in performance and it is not often that people can work with celebrity performance psychologist. Meditation is just a small part of the equation in learning to be emotionally intelligent on the field.
Mental Training Inc. provides worldwide mental training to athletes of all levels. In the Pacific Northwest Mike Margolies CMT® of MTI works with individuals, teams and corporations. You can contact me there or via The Mental Game.
“The thing is that today any athlete wanting to learn to be the best that they can be can work with someone and improve their mental toughness”.
So can we learn from the Seahawks? You can be prepared like Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. It is far more available than you would have thought. Turn that thought into real action and become mentally tough, calm and poised in whatever your sport. Performance is more than X’s and O’s. Find out why the best in the world work on their mental game with a qualified Sport Psychology Consultant / Certified Mental Trainer®.
Traveling Mental Trainer
Travel Blog Series
It’s Wednesday the 17th of December, 2013. I am a little more than 24 hours away from flying to the Middle East to do a one day seminar for 70-100 athletes. I thought I would blog about the adventure, about the travel, food and the people I meet of course with pictures. This is exactly the way I have been envisioning my work as the Traveling Mental Trainer. Seminars and workshops around the world. Talking with Athletes, Teams, Coaches and businesses about sport psychology and how it can solve issues and help others perform at the highest levels. Now it’s true that this vision of mine is 25 years after I first planed on working around the world. I’m getting better as some will remember it took me 32 years to finish my book. Ha- so there. I am getting better on my time table. Things get done sometimes in their own time, but it helps to follow through to encourage things along.
What I find so fun is the opportunity to meet with and help people of different cultures in different environments. Sports bring people together and I am really looking forward to being part of that.
So this trip is to the Kingdom of Bahrain. I was engaged back in July by the National Sports Management Group. It was an interesting process as I needed to be approved by the government and that included my book and all of my handouts and my curriculum vita (resume). The seminar will be at the Crown plaza Hotel in Manama. this will be Saturday the 21st. On Sunday I am scheduled to do a two hour workshop with one of their National Teams.
I want these posts to be fun. I’m not going to talk about The Game within the Game. I’m going to talk about the travel, the people I meet and the food. (Yes I am a repressed foodie blogger). I am taking a good camera and will have pictures and video to share. Come join me on the adventure. I leave for London and then onto Manama in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Here’s a picture I lifted from the hotel Website to show what Manama looks like. I’ll make a comparison later.
Until tomorrow. Be Well.
Forgot, here’s the link to the seminar.
The Athlete within You published in Europe
Just wanted to announce that my book “The Athlete within You – a mental approach to sports and business” has been picked up and reformatted by Digilogit Ltd. It is being marketed by them all over Europe and the U.S.A. What is really cool as I have mentioned before is that the book is now illustrated. This is really great. Te illustrations add some humor and are on point. They help set the stage for what I want you to focus on in a chapter. My favorite is captioned “I was told by coach to talk to someone I can trust”. It’s a picture of an athlete on the bench talking to his teddy bear.
To get your digital copy check out the d-book store by clicking on the link.
In Celebration of May book Giveaway
It’s spring in Seattle. That means I’m looking out my office window looking at rain. We have had reasonable weather here, but it’s still wetter than dry. In Celebration of May book giveaway is so on. As the end of the month approaches I’ve joined in with a Kindle Promotion to give away as many copies of “The Athlete within You” as I can. The book “Kindle Version of course) is available directly from Amazon for the next 4 days. Just pass on the message so we can reach more athletes. Amazon.com Follow the amazon link directly to the site. Offer ends May 26, 2013