Even if you're not an elite athlete, performance routines can be applied to many endeavors. Sports psychologists draw on the high performance literature which includes research not only about athletes, but also musicians, dancers, and chess players, among others. You might want to develop routines for writing, giving talks or your exercise program using the key points that follow.
PRE-PERFORMANCE ROUTINES. I'm not talking about superstitions (if I wear this necklace, I'm going to play better). I'll call them routines instead of rituals for that reason. Routines are deliberate actions designed to enhance focus. Effective pre-performance routines target physiology and psychology. Many are also good performance routines.
PHYSIOLOGY. When performing at the highest levels, being somewhat keyed-up, or physiologically aroused, is good. It enhances the performance of well-learned behaviors. Being too keyed-up is not good and can interfere with even very well-learned behaviors. Pre-performance routines regulate arousal and ensure that the body is ready to perform. Plan how much you'll sleep and what you'll eat and drink for peak performance. Stand (or sit, depending on your game) up straight, looking and feeling like a winner. Breathe evenly to induce calm and focus.
PSYCHOLOGY. Psychological readiness includes positive self-talk (I can do this) and confidence (remember your successes, not your failures). Motivation to achieve your personal best is more effective than an exclusive focus on winning. After all, you can't control everyone on the team or your opponents, but you can control your own performance. For motivation, use words (I'm cold as ice and at my best), objects (touching a necklace reminds you to be calm) and/or visualization (see yourself walking out onto the pitch, pumped and in control). Your mind must be clear. Tennis great Ivan Lendl told family and friends not to burden him with problems before tournaments. Coach Judy recommends a moratorium on texting and facebooking well before showtime.
PERFORMANCE ROUTINES . There are actions that we see repeated again and again among the greats. There are helpful thoughts that people talk and write about. These combine to form performance routines that enhance focus and regulate arousal.
ACTIONS. Golfers and tennis players display consistent between point behaviors, soccer fans know what Ronaldo does before each and every free kick, baseball fans know what their favorite pitcher's actions will be every time. These routines may include things like controlling breathing, using particular words to cue a mental state (focus!; calm; icy), and gestures (pumping the fist). The same actions can also serve to refocus attention and get you back on track when distractions loom.
THOUGHTS. During performance be in the moment; the past is history; the future will arrive no matter what. Make a quick analysis of your moves and notice what's going on, but don't judge. Save the real critiquing for after the game. Don't be concerned with who's watching and what they'll think, or who will hear about your performance and what they'll say. Don't be sidetracked by a bad call from the ref, a heckler in the crowd, or an opponent who dogs you. Be ready with a plan to ignore these potential distractions using one of your performance routines. Know that you will use positive self-talk (I am the iceman) that will allow you to move on. Remind yourself that you know what to do; trust yourself to do it. Tell yourself (or visualize) what you want to do (the positive), not what you don't want to do (the negative). See yourself make your upper 90, not the last time you shanked it.
The story goes that Greg Louganis didn't want to see a video of his head crashing into the diving board at the Olympics; he didn't want to consider that Greg Louganis could hit his head on a diving board. It's a good example of realistic optimism, which means maintaining a positive focus while seeing the world as it is. Let's just call it an icy-hard focus on the goal.
What is required ... is a clear knowledge that the value of a human being cannot be measured by performance-or by any other arbitrary measurement...In fact, we are what we are; we are not how well we happen to perform at a given moment. The grade on a report card may measure an ability in arithmetic, but it doesn't measure the person's value. The Inner Game of Tennis.
Coaching uses tools to help you perform at the highest levels. Get in touch with me for a complimentary coaching session. We coach by telephone--you can be anywhere.