Well, What Did You Expect?

Posted by A.C. Ping
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“My mind is always full of getting it right”
Nadia Comaneci, Olympic Gold Medallist

The art of visualisation and mental rehearsal is well accepted by elite athletes. It is well accepted that by the time you get to the top in any sport success is 90% mental and only 10% physical. But what is the mental part doing? And how could we take these lessons and apply them to everyday life?

Sports people talk a lot about ‘being in the zone’ where everything seems to flow, you’re totally focussed, in sync and displaying dominance in whatever you’re doing. But is that thinking?

No – it’s the way of ‘no thinking’ – when the body knows exactly what to do and is just getting on with it – perfectly.

I like the analogy of juggling. To learn how to juggle you need to consciously know the mechanics of it – a left brain function. But to be able to actually juggle you need to let go of thinking about it and flow with it – a right brain function.

To learn how to live life in the way you want to – to be successful in whatever you want to pursue you need to think about it. You need to understand the mechanics of it. But to actually be able to do it, to live it, to BE it, you need to let go of thinking about it and go with the flow.

To be happy the key is to be in flow.

So what are you expecting? And what have you been rehearsing?

We know from the research in Neuroscience that neurons that fire together wire together. And that the stronger the emotional trigger attached to the experience, the stronger the neural bond. So the more often you THINK something and the stronger you FEEL about it the stronger will be the neural pathway and hence the behavioural pathway.

So, how do you know what you’re thinking?

Check out your internal stories. Deconstruct the dialogue.

Start with – what are the main themes of my thinking? There’s probably only three or four. Maybe: - relationships, money, self esteem, health.

Then bring it down a level and tease out the individual stories.

Are they good or bad? Do they play out a good outcome or are you protecting yourself from failure? Preparing yourself for the worst? Just in case?

Flip back to the elite athlete. You’re getting into the blocks ready for the start of the 100m sprint at the Olympics. You’ve trained long and hard for many years. You’re stretching your muscles and bouncing up and down on the spot getting ready to burst out of the blocks. You look up and down the line taking in your competitors.

Usain Bolt, the World Record holder, catches your eye. He’s the same height as you, same weight. Has done the same amount of training. He holds your stare. You feel his intent like a razor sharp knife burning its way into you. Your spirits drop, you start THINKING about it. You start remembering all of the times he’s won on the past. You start expecting to lose.

As a coach what would you say to yourself?

Now bring it back to your everyday life. What are you expecting?

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