How the Mind Determines Athletic Success, Part 2

06/06/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"The emotional downfall for most players is mistakes," according to Loehr, in Mental Toughness Training For Sports.

Mistakes can trigger strong emotional responses (disappointment, embarrassment, anger, temper, low intensity) that can cause inconsistent or poor play.

For some players, nearly every mistake represents an emotional crisis. But it's interesting to note that everyone manages mistakes the same way when they're playing well. They simply turn and walk away confidently, as if nothing happened.

Ideally, the best emotional response to mistakes is to get challenged. A mistake is simply feedback to the mental computer that the shot wasn't perfect, that some adjustment is necessary. And the simple fact is that without mistakes, the learning process would be permanently blocked. No mistakes, no progress. But negative emotion also blocks the progress and is a natural response to mistakes. So what's the answer? The answer is that players must train emotionally so that mistakes produce the right emotional response. (Italics added.)

It might be possible to "train emotionally," but ultimately emotions are the result of beliefs and conditionings. Eliminate the beliefs and conditionings and the emotions change automatically. Imagine the following: You have the belief that a ball being hit into the net (or into the water, etc., depending on your sport) is a mistake, and mistakes mean there is something wrong with you. Now imagine that the ball hits the net or goes into the water. What would you have to feel? ... Angry at yourself, annoyed, frustrated, hopeless, etc.

Now imagine this scenario: You have the belief that there is no such thing as a mistake, that every result that isn't what you intended is an opportunity to learn how to improve your game. Moreover, you believe that not achieving your intended result means nothing about you. Now imagine that the ball hits the net or goes into the water. What would you feel in this situation? ... You might find it difficult to imagine right now that there are only outcomes and no mistakes, but just do your best to imagine the scenario I've just described. Okay? ... What would you feel? ... Challenged, calm, curious, or possibly nothing at all.

What happens physiologically when you think you've made a mistake? Too much negative energy, which gets translated into being too excited, too angry, too anxious. Some typical signs of over arousal include:

• Legs feel weak and rubbery.

• Difficulty in concentrating and focusing.

• Everything seems to be going faster than it really is.

• Inability to think clearly and accurately.

• Attention gets focused on one thing and refocusing is difficult.

• Become fatigued very quickly.

Changing your belief about mistakes would minimize these conditions.

Stress Is an Interpretation

"The greatness of a Gretsky, a Connors, a Palmer, or an Evert is not that they perform well under pressure," Loehr contends. "No one performs well under pressure. Their greatness is in their learned ability to take the pressure off. ... In the face of great external pressure, these [top] performers felt almost no anxiety. To the contrary, they felt calm and peaceful inside but also highly energized, positive, and enthusiastic...

"It is this skill that separates the superstars from the troops--they have the ability to take pressure off, transforming crisis into opportunity and threat into challenge. All that stands between you and that ability is your own head! ... Pressure is something you put on yourself." (Italics added.)

Nothing is inherently stressful. In other words, stress doesn't exist "out there" and nothing "out there" causes stress. Stress originates in the mind and exists only in the mind; it's the result of an interpretation. Change the interpretation by changing beliefs and the stress will disappear.

For example, assume you had a project to complete and had a number of limiting beliefs, including I'm not capable and Nothing I do is good enough. What would you feel as you began the project? ... Some level of stress. And it would feel as if the project was causing the stress, wouldn't it?

Now let's assume you had the same project but had the opposite beliefs, including I am capable and Whatever I do is good enough. If your beliefs made you feel confident that you would do a good job, do you still think the project would make you feel stress? ... Unlikely. Same project, but different beliefs would result in different levels of stress.

By changing your beliefs, something that had been experienced as stressful can be experienced as fun or challenging.

Control your mind, improve your game. It really is possible.

If you haven't yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

Copyright 2010 Morty Lefkoe

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