Reaching Your Sporting Potential in 2020
Would you like to perform at your best in your sporting pursuits? Have you ever wondered what the successful ingredients of Olympic athletes are? By applying some of these three tips you can improve your performance.
1. Mental Toughness
Mental toughness is the combination of a variety of mental skills, including unshakeable self-belief, resiliency, motivation, focus and the ability to perform under pressure, as well as to manage physical and emotional pain.
No performance is consistently perfect and in fact ‘failures’ are the building block to success. Developing your self-confidence is the key to mental toughness and it is something we can all work on whether it relates to our sporting pursuits, career or personal lives.
If we focus on our mistakes, we can easily self-sabotage ourselves and start to believe we are not good enough which can lead to giving up or suboptimal performance.
The key areas to work on to develop your mental toughness include:
• Be open to receive feedback both from yourself and others (accept yourself and your last performance and look for the learnings)
• Practice (the more you practice the more natural the skill will become)
• Take risks (trying new things opens up new possibilities)
• Don’t compare yourself to others
• Visualise yourself performing (this has been shown to mentally prepare you and contribute to a positive mental outlook)
• See every performance as your first and last
• Celebrate small success along the way
2. Goal Setting
Olympians will engage in various goal-setting strategies to produce a successful performance. Goal setting is a valuable aspect of everyday life. Goal setting in sports is especially important in order to measure and improve performance.
The goals that you set provide a way of doing an evaluation on your performance and as you accomplish your goals it builds momentum and self-belief. This in turn builds motivation and when you feel motivated, you will strive harder to perform better.
And of course, goals give you a sense of direction.
Here are my top 6 tips to goal settings
• Your goals should be your own and not somebody else’s (if you own your own goals you are more likely to achieve your goal)
• Set realistic goals that are both short-term and long term.
• Be flexible to adjust your goals to support you – they should not be a burden!
• Put timelines around your goals
• Be clear about how you will now if you have achieved your goal(s) by being specific
• Celebrate your all your success’ including the small success’ along the way
3. Quiet Mind
This is one of the Holy Grails of Sports and it can be difficult to achieve a quiet mind. Our minds chatter can easily take us away from the job at hand. We can second guess ourselves or even bring thoughts about our last action into the present. This can easily self-sabotage the present moment leading to greater frustration which then has a cumulative negative effect.
Can you recall a time when you felt like you were in your zone where only the present mattered? Things just seemed to flow! This is a place of being present, where your mind is most optimised to do the ‘job’ at hand. Being present focused can help athletes direct their attention to the current athletic task, while minimising external distractions.
Some tips to practice mindful awareness
• Do a body scan which involves paying attention to specific areas of the body such as the feet, knees, stomach, shoulders, neck, and arms one by one. This helps you bring attention back to the now.
• Notice the sounds, and other sensations around you
• Notice your breath and practice deep rhythmic breathing
• Notice your thoughts without pushing them away or debating them. See them like clouds that drift by.
Remember, mindfulness is a skill, and therefore takes practice to develop.
To take this to the next level, many elite athletes are using NeurOptimal® neurofeedback to gain the edge and perform at their best. Remember improving your performance starts by doing one thing different, and building in new patterns and beliefs. Most importantly, enjoy what you do.
About the Author Steve Phillis (Australia) is counsellor, speaker, educator, NeurOptimal® Rep and Instructor