Here are the eight most glaring misconceptions of athletic performance that I've noticed over the past year or so. While, as most of you know, my concentration is on mental performance, I've included some important physical performance myths as well.
1. Winning breeds confidence.
Nothing on the outside can make a person confident on the inside. Human beings feel confident when their heads are clear; unconfident, when their heads are cluttered. The more an athlete understands that winning doesn't drive his or her feelings (including the feeling of confidence), the more he will win.
2. Mental strategies or techniques raise performance levels.
Virtually everyone agrees that athletes perform well when they don't have a lot of thought in their heads. So why don't people recognize that the application of mental strategies or techniques -- deep breathing routines, reciting affirmations, deliberate visualization -- requires the athlete to think? Quite simply, no one can get to a state of mental clarity by adding thought.
3. Correlations are the same thing as cause and effect.
If an athlete puts his left shoe on before his right, and then plays the game of his life, there is a correlation between the order he did this and his great game -- but there is not a cause-and-effect relationship. To find a causal relationship to productivity, look inside: The clearer one's head -- the better one will perform.
4. Outside factors impact an athlete's feelings.
If an athlete feels anxious and looks to circumstance (amount of playing time, a demanding coach, playing in a rowdy arena) to figure out why, he will only feel more anxious and perform worse. Reason being, analyzing one's circumstances requires thought, and human beings don't feel good when they overthink. Remember: Feelings don't come from circumstance. Feelings are directly linked to the amount of noise in one's head at any given moment.
5. Injuries are caused by overuse.
Injuries are caused by a bound-up mind -- which leads to a bound-up body. They may also occur (and here's my foray into the physical side of sports) when an athlete is out of neurological balance. When an athlete is in neurological balance, or there's an uninterrupted and even signal between brain and body, his muscles can absorb force properly. When he is out of balance, force is placed on bones, ligaments and tendons. What's more, resting only holds neurological imbalances in place. That's why re-injuries are common after rest. If a light bulb keeps burning out, you must fix the wiring -- not leave the light off or keep changing the bulb.
6. Teaching proper mechanics prevents injury.
Another backward misconception. When an athlete is in neurological balance, his mechanics (his throwing, kicking or swinging motion) will be natural and flowing, so he won't get injured. An athlete who is out of balance is simply not capable of proper mechanics no matter how much coaching he receives or how hard he tries.
7. Strength training prevents injury.
Do you want to know a reason why so many professional athletes are getting injured today in spite of all the training they do? Their training regiments contain unnatural exercises that disrupt the brain/body connection; preventing their muscles from absorbing force. In other words, what they're doing to prevent injury is causing injury. Here's why in many Eastern cultures elderly people are in such great physical condition: These cultures stress functional (natural) movement. Their training (such as tai chi) is all about function and not about how much they can lift or how far they can run.
8. Performance excellence has nothing to do with love.
Let's conclude by moving back to the psychological side of performance. In fact, most athletes don't associate love with mental performance or productivity on the field. And they usually cringe when I talk about love. Yet, love is the epitome of a clear head or consciousness. Competition, at its root, is cooperation in disguise. So when all else fails, look to love -- even toward your opponents. It's a guaranteed performance enhancer.
There's my list. I hope you find it helpful. As always, feel free to send me your comments and questions.