If you’re an athlete or someone looking to hit high levels of performance in any given field, you’ll know that the mental side of your pursuit is at least as important as the physical training you perform. Marathon runners and concert pianists alike require a steely psychological disposition in order to hit the peaks of their ability through dogged training and self-determination. It’s all the more important if you are without a coach or a tutor, or a team to help you push to succeed. Here are some mental tricks that are proven to boost performance in sport and other areas of life, too.
You may have heard of this technique, which involves directing your mental energies towards a preparatory visualization of success. Not only does this gear you towards the eventual goal in terms of putting you in the position of achieving what you have set out to achieve, it is also vital preparation whether you are visualizing the entirety of a triathlon course which you are soon to race on, or visualizing your success in a business presentation in the office.
Mentally rehearsing stressful situations that you are hoping to perform at your optimum level can drag your brain into believing a little that you are in those situations, and this is where the effectiveness of mental mapping comes into play. Whether it’s anticipating mistakes or bumps in the road, or simply giving you the self-belief to go out there and make the most of the skills you’ve been training, visualization will ensure your performance tops out thanks to the mental preparation it involves.
Goal setting is understood to be the primary source of motivation for athletes and high-performing people in society. Sports scientists have, for instance, identified the need for micro and macro goals leading to an ultimate training goal. For instance, this would mean a daily goal, a weekly goal, a monthly goal and a completion goal along the lines of training for a match, race or event in which your final goal is to place high or record a certain time, score, or position.
The importance of goal setting is largely associated with motivation. When you achieve your smallest goal, for instance, setting out on a run in the evening, you can give yourself a small mental reward in the form of pride and self-actualization. It complements the adrenaline and endorphins naturally released in the brain after exercise and creates a positive habit in that you associate training and small goal reaching with satisfaction and success. Scale this up, and you will have all the self-determination you need to succeed.
There are myriad ways in which performers can stray from rational thought, sometimes without even realizing it. One of the most common ways in which this error is made is with superstition, which is prevalent amongst athletes and other high performing individuals. Whether you like to hit off on your training ride after a specific breakfast or you won’t go on stage without your lucky charm, these are unhelpful mindsets to rely on, especially if you happen to be without those lucky charms.
Instead, focus on a variation of superstition that rationally determines a routine that you are familiar with and that you’re aware is your best bet for success in whatever field you are competing in. A fixed diet, a good routine, some useful equipment, or your ‘game day’ music are all important things for elite performers to have set. They are the mental cues that can help you anticipate your own success. Just don’t let these rational routine ideas spread into irrational actions, some of which may come to hinder your performances without you being aware of it.
Break Up Challenges
There are setbacks in training for your elite performance that are quite inevitable, even if you are taking extremely good care to ensure you will not be unseated from success by carelessness or injury. When you experience a setback, planning your return to peak performance should not so much be about getting to the place you were at as quickly as possible, but of logically breaking down that requirement through patient planning and the dismantling of the challenges you’re likely to face.
For instance, an injury that puts you out of training for a month can be responded to in a variety of ways, from despair to overtraining that sets you back further after you complicate your injury. You should, in this example, come to terms with your injury and plan your method of liberating yourself from it. Aqua aerobics, stretching, non-weight bearing exercise, dietary control, vitamin supplements, you can do a great deal to recover effectively from injuries or other setbacks, but it must involve a cool head that can break up the challenges involved.
More and more athletes are finding some real value in the practice of both meditation and yoga. The first in pursuit of a relaxed mind and the second in the actualization of relaxed bodily muscles and a state of flow. Various studies recommend these practices for athletes, and there are further studies that delve still deeper into the hypnotic or trance-like state in which you can be led that may help you achieve better performance.
Take the Raikov effect, which has yielded fascinating results from scientific studies in terms of heightened performance through influencing the brain when it is in a state of childlike vulnerability. Or else, the centering and stress-busting effects of daily meditation, which may seem at odds with the lifestyle of a hard-training athlete but in fact complements their need for equal measures of exercise and rest; mental agility and mental relaxation. If you’re looking for practices that will help with your downtime, then looking at meditative techniques could well provide a welcome boost to your performance.
It’s something of an old and worn cliché that says that high-performers have the edge in the mental department and not the physical one. Whether it’s Tour de France winners, Formula One champions, track stars or even high-performing business CEOs, these individuals have a stringent set of psychological training techniques that allow them to achieve their dreams; follow these tips to improve your own performance.