I watch the Olympics in awe. Every night, I am amazed by feats these athletes accomplish— especially given the amount of pressure and stress they must feel to perform. Not only are the athletes trying to seize the moment they’ve trained for their entire lives, they are also striving to live up to the expectations of their coaches, teammates, family, friends and…oh yeah…their entire country. That’s pretty intense.
While we may never have a stage quite as big as the Olympics, I think we all can relate to feeling pressure to perform. At some point, we’ve all faced a big moment and either rose to the occasion or wilted in defeat. From experience, I know there’s nothing more disappointing than allowing the “enormity” of a moment to get the best of you after having poured your heart and soul into a goal.
Well, here’s the good news: You can train your brain for those big moments. Doing so helps ensure you don’t squander your hard work by letting stress, self-doubt, anxiety or fear get to you when you take your “stage.”
Whether you’re preparing for a race, a physique competition, a speech or a big pitch, get your mind in shape for your big moment. These mental preparation strategies used by elite athletes are just what you need.
Mental Rehearsal: Repeatedly think through your “performance” in detail. This will not only facilitate a calm, relaxed, focused and confident mind when your big moment arrives, but it will also facilitate a more fluid performance.
In addition to visualizing your performance, Richard Suinn, Ph.D., a past team psychologist for U.S. Olympic athletes, suggests that you also mentally rehearse your ideal reaction to potential obstacles that could hinder your success. By doing so, he explains, “Stresses can be anticipated and handled, positive thoughts can be instilled, and actions can be rehearsed repeatedly until they become second nature.”
Positive Self-talk: Self-talk is another common mental preparation method employed by athletes. Self-talk consists of repeating positive affirmations that build confidence and a positive mindset. The phrases utilized in positive self-talk can serve as triggers to help you get into an ideal mental state or snap out of a negative mindset. These statements should be practiced well in advance of performance and should feel powerful. Some examples might include, “I am the winner,” “I am strong” or “I am winning the day.”
Meditation: Many athletes utilize meditation to focus and calm their mind. Leading up to an event and right before you perform, concentrate your mind on a single thought or topic, filtering out all external influences or “noise.” During your meditation, you can focus on just breathing or on a vision of you performing successfully in your big moment. For example, this vision may be of you hoisting a trophy over her head or of a room exploding with applause after hearing your great speech.
Push Toward Your Best
Four-time Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard has said that without the right mindset, none of the physical training matters. And yet, we are all guilty of taking our mental preparation for granted and falling flat in our big moments. Well, no more. By taking just a few minutes to incorporate these proven techniques into your days, you can achieve that calm, focused and confident mindset that helps athletes make history. Go for your goal. Go for your gold.
Keep pushing— your best is waiting.
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