The one thing your peak performances and slumps have in common is concentration.
Let me give you a few pointers.
When you’re in a slump or a block you are:
- In your head (thinking too much). You’re over thinking the mechanics of your performance. You’re coaching yourself with internal unsupportive self-talk.
- You have expectations about having to score, beating a specific time, having to win the match. This is a focus on the outcome.
- You have “what if” self-talk, i.e. what if I miss this ball, what if we lose. This in turn leads to trying too hard. When you try too hard you get tense and tense muscles don’t work.
- This self-talk and inner coaching distracts you from the task at hand and prevents you from accessing your performance cues.
- You have a “full” mind, which leads to empty play.
- All the above are OK to do in practice, but not before or during a competition.
Let me tell you a story about trying too hard.
A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master: “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen.” The Master thought about this, and then replied, “Ten years.” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast –
How long then?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”
Replied the Master,” When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
You see when you try too hard during competition you only have one eye on your performance.
On the other hand, when you’re in peak performance mode you are in the experience. It’s the same feeling when you’re watching a great movie or reading a good book. All other thoughts disappear and the only thing you’re focusing on is what’s in front of you.
When you’re in peak performance mode you’re so focused on what you’re doing everything else fades away, this is being in the zone. You’re not thinking, you’re doing, you’re felling. Your muscles are loose and you have no expectations. You’re not “trying”, you’re just doing. You trust yourself
You see when you are struggling you’re in your mind.
When you achieve peak performance, you’re out of mind.
The key to achieving both of these (peak performance and a slump), is what you focus on before and during the competition.
When you think about how bad you have to win, score, impress the scouts, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
When you focus on “not thinking” and trusting yourself, your practices, your coaches and teammates, you’ll set yourself up for peak athletic performance.
Think about and review when you were playing out of your mind or going out of your mind with frustration. In both case you’re focusing on what’s working or working or what’s not working.
You get what you focus on.
Energy floes where attention goes and results show.
In the next post I’ll go over how to shift from being in your head to getting out of your head.
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