While many books out there provide a great deal of information and lessons by some of the world’s best practitioners, researchers, teachers, coaches, and performers, Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Gary Mack and David Casstevens provides performers with a resource guide to jump into action and get to work on their mental game. Mack and Casstevens wanted to create a mental game resource with exercises, lessons, and questions for athletes and performers to work through, much like they work through their conditioning routine in the weight room. Over the next six blogs of this series we will explore what the inner game is while thinking about actually living out your performance dreams, creating a mind-set for success, and then finally getting into your performance zone. Our first blog focuses on getting started with the inner game.
Yogi Berra famously stated, “90 percent of the game is half mental”, meaning that while the physical game is of course important, the mental piece also requires focus. One way to understand just how important the mental game is for you is by comparing and contrasting your best and worst performances. What did you notice when you were at your best? What was different when you were not at your best? And, were those differences physical, mental, or maybe a combination of both?
Another concept discussed by Mack and Casstevens is the idea of “know your numbers." Research in sport psychology has provided evidence for an inverted-U curve which shows that when we are activated to a certain level, or number, our performance increases. But if we are either under or over-activated and move outside of our "number," then we most likely will not perform at our best. This concept gives performers an awareness tool to help them manage their energy and nerves prior to performance.
Performers also are constantly faced with dealing with the self-doubt, fear, and negativity that often gets in their way of being able to perform like they train. Mack and Casstevens call this “getting over yourself” because if we don’t get out of our own way, we likely will never reach our goals. Further, “if you don’t see yourself as successful, then your chances of succeeding are diminished. When good things happen, you tend to discount them.” Even if it doesn’t feel natural or you want to focus on continuing to improve, thinking about what you are doing well and seeing yourself experience success is really important to actually achieving that success! The book is filled with tons of tools and strategies, so check it out for more! Our module on focus and distraction management also includes several exercises and techniques to enhance your imagery and visualization of success.
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