The Mental Side of Competition

“ninety percent of the game is half mental.” – Yogi Berra

Confession Time, I’m a recovering perfectionist with a tendency towards negative self-talk. I’ve known this about myself for some time but have made minimal effort to change my well patterned behavior. But when I started reading Mind Gym by Gary Mack, I realized that shutting down my current internal dialog needed to be a top priority. Mind Gym is all about strengthening the mental aspect of an athletes training. Though, I have been doing a great job of strengthening my muscles, strengthening my mind has not been written into my weekly training plan.

Gary states that “actions follow thoughts and images…  so, by changing your thinking, you can change your performance.” What he meant by this is if you can imagine yourself running a 28-minute mile you are more likely to obtain that goal in your next race. He then goes on to explain that you are more apt to perform well if you focus on a “do” versus a “don’t”. We all tend to say “don’t do this” versus “do this” when preparing for high pressure situations.  The book provides multiple exercises that help strengthen an athlete’s mental muscles, but these two are my favorites:

  1. Create a Mind Gym – This is a place where you can mentally go to prepare for competition. It is filled with sticky notes listing positive affirmations and reals of film from when you flawlessly executed movements. A mental space where you go to promote positive self-talk and maintain focus on the task at hand. Building this gym requires development of this vivid imagery on a regular basis.
  2. Designate a Trigger Word – Everyone feels pressure in life, but when you have fun doing what you love it changes all the pressure into pleasure. Creating a word associated with a vivid image of when you were at your best and saying it to yourself, will help block out negative thoughts and the focus will be on the task at hand.

Consistently doing mental exercises like the ones listed above might just make you an MVP (most valuable person) in anything you do. So, get to it and let the work show from the inside out.

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