The age old question: What does it take to win? Part 2
Part 2: Breaking down what it takes to win, the athlete’s strategy.
This week we will be diving deeper into the age old question of what does it take to win. The focus will be on what athletes can do to improve their sport and life performance. We will break down what it takes to win, and outline the strategy. These are all methods and techniques that should not be contained within the athletic arena, but carried throughout the various aspects of an athletes’ life.
The first strategy is gaining control of your mind. The mind is the most important and strongest “muscle” in an athlete’s body. That means this muscle requires exercise and control, just like any other muscle. However, exercising, controlling and flexing mind muscle is much more difficult than biceps. Once you strengthen and gain control of your mind muscle, it will produce effects better than the strongest of any physical muscle group. To gain control of your mind you must control what the mind does the vast majority of the time, which is think. Your thoughts control both your inner and outer worlds. Positive thoughts create positive actions and circumstances. If your inner dialogue is negative in nature, you probably also think negative about your opponents, which will create a negative game. Change your thoughts, change your game. The next step in this strategy is getting into to a winning state of mind. Think about the last time you felt exalted from winning something in your sport, maybe it was shooting the game winning basket at the buzzer, or swimming your fastest race. Really feel the moment and how your body feels, and what you are saying to yourself at that moment. Now, think about something else, anything else. Feel how your body feels differently? What you want to do is install this winning state so that for every game, every practice, or every meet you are able to recall this moment and reignite your body chemistry, thoughts, and emotions during that time. This part is simple. Think back to the time you felt the best from winning, just like before, now slowly, even slower, even more slowly, tap either of your hands from side to side. You should be tapping each hand about every 3 seconds or so. Continue to think about this time and tap side to side until you are finished recalling this moment. This method of bilateral stimulation helps your brain remember this feeling and install it into your brain. Now next time you go onto the field, or meet etc. recall that time you used in this example. Other ways to help your mind be set for winning is using affirmations, such as “I can jump this hurdle” or “ I will nail this dive” and repeat them over and over, this will help your subconscious mind believe these things are true, and through the law of attraction help them become true also.
Using the law of attraction and visualization will also help in having winning sport outcomes. Visualization is a technique that has been used by sports psychologists for a long time, and research has shown to be very effective. Visualizing how you are going to execute movements for your sport helps your brain, and muscles already know how to react when the moment comes. This also sends vibrations into the universe to aid in these situations happening the way you visualized them. To further ingrain these visualized moments into your brain, you can do the 3 second hand tapping as described above.
Another strategy to solidify a win is to practice present moment awareness. I am a huge advocate for meditation, and we will discuss that more in depth later and its usefulness for athletes. But today, I just want to emphasize how present moment awareness will increase athletic performance. By having a clear mind, and focusing solely on your game, will aid in making better athletic decisions. In team sports, and even individual sports, you constantly have to make decisions on what the next move will be. Present moment awareness will allow your mind to make the best decision, every time. The mind can see more than our brain can process, thereby practicing present moment awareness allows for variables usually excluded to be rapidly taken into account. Present moment awareness is best achieved through meditation.
Reducing anxiety and increasing confidence are other tools to maximize winning potential. Both of these can be achieved easily through the steps we have mentioned above. Meditation and visualization will aid in reduction of these symptoms. If you are still experiencing difficulty, a good therapist can help you gain control over these symptoms.
Finally, an oldy but goody, goal setting. Goal setting has been used for eons by coaches, athletes, and many the like to help people reach their goals, and is also research endorsed. Goal setting helps the athlete see that they are making strides towards a tangible goal, and gives them something to work towards. These are attributes of athletes that need encouraging, which is why it is such a useful tool. However, this tool can be dangerous, especially for athletes. Athletes are competitive, and driven to win, therefor can sometimes go to unhealthy feats in order to reach their goal. This is not recommended. When working towards a goal, do not push yourself past your limit. If you are working too hard and it doesn’t feel right, or good, stop and take a step back. There is no shame in slowing down the process, because inevitably you will reach your goal in the same amount of time rather you hurt yourself trying to reach it or not. And personally, I would rather not get injured or risk burnout to reach my goals. The steps to reach your goal should be right for you and the right size. Just like tall people take big steps to get from point A to point B, short people get there just the same, and in their own way, and many times at the same time. So use goal setting, but use it wisely, and your results will be greater and more rewarding (plus you will put less strain on your mind and body).
Remember, winning is not the end all be all. Sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war. Plus, even the team that loses the superbowl still gets fame, money, and a chance to play in the superbowl. It is all in your perspective.
Happy football season, and good luck to you all!