How To Prepare Yourself Mentally To Give The Performance Of Your Life
In part one of our How Athletes Perform Better Under Pressure, we shared the reasons why some people thrive under pressure, while others seem to crumble. Also how using the ‘IM BLESSED’ acronym reminder to deal with pressure. In this post we’re going deeper into tips about how to improve performance when you’re faced with a challenge.
Why A Challenge State Will Help You
Whether you’re about to attempt the first round of the CrossFit Open, or starting an event in the CrossFit Games, your performance depends greatly on how you’re feeling when you enter into the situation. We won’t perform at our best unless we get into Challenge State mindset. A Challenge State enhances our performance while a threat state hinders our abilities.
Mental preparation is one of the most important aspects of peak performance under pressure. In both sports and business, high pressure situations place many demands on us. When we’re in a Challenge State, we’re able to meet those demands. To get into a Challenge State, the key is to increase levels of self-confidence, perceptions of control, and focus on success.
How to Achieve A Challenge State
The only way to meet the demands of a high pressure situation is to have the right preparation, products and resources. The resources include a variety of skills that can greatly enhance performance under pressure. Here are just a few resources people use to get themselves mentally prepared:
Sometimes, before a big event, we imagine ourselves failing miserably. We picture the worst-case scenarios and visualize embarrassing ourselves beyond recovery. Of course, focusing on a terrible outcome during the days, hours and minutes leading up to your ‘big moment’ isn’t helpful. In fact, doing so can be very detrimental to your performance.
So instead of imaging negative outcomes, we recommend using imagery (or visualization) in a positive manner. Recreating past performances or practising future performances in your head. The imagery should be made as realistic as possibly by including sights, sounds, feelings, and even smells. Visualize yourself performing well in an upcoming event or competition. Visualizing a successful performance instils confidence in your ability to perform at your best.
The conversations you have with yourself leading up to and during your performance will influence how you behave. If an athlete spends the five minutes before he or she goes to the event thinking, “I’m going to fail” or “people are going to see how nervous I am,” the athlete’s anxiety will increase and his or her body will respond accordingly. A racing heart and uncontrolled breathing certainly won’t make their performance any better. And if athletes are still repeating those things to themselves during the speech, they’ll have less brain power available to focus on their performance.
To enhance your performance, try structuring your self-talk in a way that will help you enter the situation feeling more positive. For example, an athlete may use three key phrases - “be strong,” “focus on success,” and “common you can do it,” prior to a competition – so you can get mentally prepared for the challenge. These phrases can help athletes stay focused on success while also staving off negative thoughts of potential failure.
3. Pre-Performance Routines
The way you spend your time right before a big event or competition will influence your chance of success. If you choose to spend your time pacing around the room nervously you may increase your anxiety level to the point that it threatens your ability to perform optimally. Creating a routine that will get your head in the event helps you to be better prepared.
Pre-performance routines condition the mind to react well to pressure. Many Olympic gold medallists and sporting champions listen to music, have plenty of sleep, takes the necessary supplements and then gets themselves psyched up for the competition prior to their performances. This routine helps them to stay in control of their mental state.
For your next event or competition, tip the balance in your favour by visualizing past and future success (to increase self-confidence), develop consistent pre-performance routines (to increase perceived control), and make sure your goals are set towards success, and not about avoiding failure. These are all learnable techniques embraced by many of the finest athletes on the planet. Use them and become the best athlete you can become!
How do you prepare yourself mentally for an upcoming event? Share your thoughts in the comments below!