YOUR MENTAL SKILLS TOOLBOX - AN INTRODUCTION
Ever wondered what kind of skills you might work on with the Minduarance team? Here is a quick look into a handful of mental performance tools commonly taught in sport and performance coaching.
Your Mindurance providers care about your success. We want to do all that we can to help you reach your goals, and to do that, we need to first help you set your goals appropriately. The first step in goal setting is making sure your goals are SMART. This means that each goal must be
S-Specific. It needs to be clear whether you have achieved your goal yet or if it is still in progress.
M-Measurable. Although a number does not need to be attached to your goal, it does need to include a measure of sorts. Yes, it would be great to “be the best football player in the league,” but what exactly does that look like to you? Fastest runner, highest scorer, most sacks?
A-Attainable. We need to set ourselves up for success. While, yes, we want you to shoot for the stars, your goal does need to be something that is physically attainable. Otherwise, this goal sets you up for failure and disappointment.
R-Realistic. Similarly to being attainable, your goal needs to be something that is realistic and possible to achieve. Even though it would be amazing to run a mile in under one minute, it's just not realistic. Let's set our sights on something that is within our grasp.
T-Timely. Setting a deadline for your goal helps you stay motivated and continue exerting effort. If the deadline is set too close, motivation may decrease because it does not allow enough time to train. Conversely, if the goal is set too far out, dedication may decrease because “It's so far away, I have time.” Your Mindurance provider will help you find the sweet spot that keeps you motivated to work towards your goals.
Another useful approach to goal setting is creating process, performance, and outcome goals. Most of us set outcome goals--your overarching objective i.e. to be the fastest runner in the league. However, we often forget to create milestones that will help us achieve this outcome. Performance goals are the main steps that must be reached in order to achieve the outcome goal. If your outcome goal is to be the fastest runner in the league, you also need to be the fastest runner on your team and run a sprint within a certain amount of time. This is achieved through your process goals, the very specific goals that will get you there. This might include running X amount of sprints every day with your athletic trainer, spending 15 minutes every day researching and practicing running form, and taking appropriate vitamin supplements each night. The combination of process, performance, and outcome goals is significantly more effective than outcome goals alone (Weinberg et al., 2000), and your Mindurance provider can help you create ones that best fit your desires.
Imagery is a fantastic mental skill to utilize. While it may seem a bit silly to sit and imagine yourself accomplishing your goals, many athletes and performers utilize this tool to stay motivated. Imaging yourself winning the race or sinking the final putt or beating the world record really highlights the feelings associated with your goal.
Breathing & Relaxation Techniques
Shaky breath, heart beating in your ears, clammy hands? We have all been there. Sometimes the pressure seems insurmountable, but the use of breathing and relaxation techniques can help us manage the physiological responses that always sneak up on us in times of distress. Performance anxiety sometimes overcomes us unexpectedly, even when we have practiced and played in similar situations. Learning breathing and relaxation techniques now will help you prepare for the unexpected events where the pressure is overwhelming. Even if performance anxiety is a rare occurrence for you, breathing and relaxation techniques can help with simply keeping you focused in the present moment, giving you a leg up on your opponent whose mind is racing endlessly.
Positive self-talk is one of my favorite mental performance techniques. It seems so obvious that we would need to think positively and speak to ourselves in a way that encourages constructive feelings. However, many athletes commonly find themselves spewing negative thoughts or bringing themselves down in their mind where others cannot hear. Working on positive self-talk is a significant intrinsic motivator (Ay et al, 2013). You are the only person who will know whether you are being kind and uplifting to yourself. Your Mindurance provider will help you transform negative thoughts into positive ones to help you be your own #1 supporter.
While all of these mental skills are fairly simple and easy to understand, mastering each tool requires education and practice, practice, practice. Ask your Mindurance Provider about how these mental skills can help you take control and improve your performance!
Ay, K. M., Halaweh, R., & Al-Taieb, M. A. (2013). Positive self-talk and its effect on learning the grab start skill in swimming and self-efficacy improvement. Journal of Physical Education & Sport, 13(4), 578-582.
Weinberg, R.S., Burton, D., Yukelson, D., & Weigand, D. (2000). Perceived goal setting practices of Olympic athletes: An exploratory investigation. The Sport Psychologist, 14, 279–295.