I’ve never really put much thought into how much the mind affects performance. I have always heard about the importance of positive thinking and being confident but never really spent much time focusing on those traits personally. My coach, Molly Roohi, after some discussion and mentoring, recommended Craig Manning’s book, The Fearless Mind (thanks coach!!). This book discusses five essential steps to higher performance:
- Decision Making
Each step has subcategories and the author goes through each explaining how the steps will help one to achieve a “fearless mind.” Real life examples are given of how Craig’s athletes reached optimal performance by using these steps. As I was reading this book, I became more aware of my mental state as it relates to training and racing. Each step is equally important to achieving a stronger mindset, but two steps in particular stand out to me: motivation and confidence.
Here is a brief overview on my thoughts on these two steps:
Motivation: The author states that “Behavior is rooted in one of two forms: task or ego.” Task-oriented individuals focus on what needs to be done, and ego- oriented individuals focus on how outcomes affect their self-worth. Craig Manning states that successful people are task-oriented, in that they focus on the process of the task rather than the outcome.
A lot of times I will focus only on the outcome of my goals and not the process it takes to get there. Of course we all want the best possible outcomes, but if we are only focused on the end result, we lose sight of what we need to do to grow and improve. We miss important steps in the process that could make our outcomes even better.
Directing our attention to the tasks at hand will allow us to consistently evaluate our efforts and thus produce better results. Craig says, “The perfectionism state of mind is the most common psychological issue that I deal with as a sports psychology consultant.” Perfectionists never feel that they accomplish anything; they always feel like they are falling short and feel inadequate. Motivated by their egos, perfectionists struggle to focus on tasks at hand and are worried about the outcome of objectives. This creates anxiety and fear. Me? A perfectionist? Yes.
Confidence: As long as I can remember, my parents have always emphasized the importance of confidence. It’s something I struggle with. Confidence is defined as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.” Confidence is also defined as “the feeling of being certain that something will happen or that something is true.” Both of these definitions relate to how I feel when racing.
It’s difficult for me to truly ‘believe’ that I will succeed and I never feel certain that what I want to happen will happen. This is a problem. I do the work and put 100% effort into everything I do, but when it’s time to perform, I tend to overthink things and get anxious about the unknown. Remember- this creates fear. Craig says, “When we constantly direct our attention to the future, we open the door to fear.”
There’s a part of me that doesn’t trust in my abilities as an athlete, even though I know that I’ve put in the time and effort and should have no doubts about what I can do. Questions and thoughts come to mind such as, “Have I trained hard enough?” “They are still better than me.”
To combat these thoughts and feelings, I have found four little words that personally help me: I can do it. Simple as that. Confidence can be achieved by mindfully practicing positive self-talk and telling yourself you are capable of accomplishing anything you put your mind to.
The book has taught me many valuable tools to achieve a fearless mind and ultimately to become a stronger, better athlete. I’m learning how to use process goals to achieve my ultimate goal and channel my energy into the aspects that I can control, while ignoring those things that I can’t. I’m looking forward to the upcoming races this year and excited to focus on these new mental principles. Look out world! This triathlete has her head in game– starting now.
Read more thoughts and insights from Jesse on her blog!