5 Mental Techniques to Improve Performance
Here are five ideas on how to harness the power of your mind to accomplish what you want and tap into your potential.
Feed the subconscious – The mind is a supercomputer that will run the programming you give it
The subconscious is the key part of the brain to cultivate performance. The conscious, analytical part of the brain is great for all the complex thinking and executive function that makes us human. But that is where self-doubt arises. Save the analysis for training and planning and rely on subconscious, automated action on game day and your performance will be superior.
How do you feed the subconscious?
Visualization. Visualization can take the form of picturing a future self or rehearsing a performance. Either way, mental imagery can help create the reality you desire. To work, it must be as vivid as possible. Picture as many sensory factors as possible. What will you see, touch, smell, hear as you accomplish your goal? If visuals are hard to conjure up, what will you feel about yourself? What are the emotions associated with achieving that success? Whenever you see a runner who just won a race in the Olympics, typically they will walk around the stadium with their country’s flag draped over their shoulders, raising their arms in a gesture of victory. Leading up to my marathon, I pictured the clock with a 2 in the hour position as I crossed the finish line. As a November marathon in the northeast, I knew mylar wraps would be given at the finish. I pictured myself draped in the wrap as if it were a flag, arms raised in a gesture of victory.
Another way to feed the subconscious is with Self talk.
“Of all of the ways we get programmed, it is our self-talk that plays the single most important role in the programming of the brain. If you have the wrong self-talk, your life will be a struggle, and cannot work well. If you use the right self-talk, you will wire your brain in the best possible way—and the results will show in your life.” - Shad Helmstetter
This can also take the form of mantra or affirmation. This is the programming you feed your supercomputer. There is zero room for negativity here. Failure is a good teacher, and we should analyze our losses and mistakes to learn from them and tweak our protocols. But that’s it. Then the loss should be discarded promptly and we should continue to feed ourselves a continuous stream of positive talk. Say it in the shower, in the mirror, silently, out loud, written in a journal, recorded as a voice note. Play around with what works for you.
Consistency over intensity. We are all familiar with procrastination. What is keeping us from what we know we need to do? Most of the time it’s because we talk ourselves out of starting because – insert your favorite excuse here. For me, it’s that I don’t have a large block of time set aside to do focused deep, uninterrupted work on whatever project it is. As a result, the day goes by without me diving into the project. Instead of getting a small amount done, none gets done. James Clear says that to get a new habit to stick, it has to be something we can do in two minutes. Any amount of exercise is better than none. And usually, if you get started, you end up doing more than the two minutes you promised yourself. Building consistency helps ingrain the habits you want and also keeps you moving forward.
Multi-tasking is a myth. Your conscious mind can only focus on one task at a time. You expend energy and time task-switching. The ability to have laser focus on a goal keeps that goal in front sight focus. And where you can focus is where you can take action. Your focus will bring the rest of your life into alignment with your goal. When I’m training for a road race, I have ‘key runs’ that I need to get done in a given week. Focus on the training task at hand helps ensure that I get those key workouts done, even if I have to adapt the schedule to do it. Within a training session, focus will help you get the most out of the session. On game day, focus lets you perform without being carried away by distraction. Remember, the present is the only reality. Try telling yourself, “Be here now!” Or any other focus mantra you like, if you find yourself drifting out of focus onto past or future events.
“The past is no more; the future is not yet. Nothing exists except the here and now.” - Bruce Lee.