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 last blog of this series focuses on using the tools you have developed to get into and stay in the zone.
We have spent a lot of time over the last six weeks discussing ways to let go of our mistakes and failures and refocus our attention on what we need to do in order to be successful. Doubts and fears might always enter our minds, but we don’t have to continue to dwell on the negative. Instead, we can trust in our preparation and continue confidently through our performance. When we trust ourselves, we are willing to commit fully to the plan. For example, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers said, “it is better to throw a poor pitch wholeheartedly than to throw the so-called right pitch with a feeling of doubt.” When we commit fully and trust that the preparation we have put in is enough, we free ourselves from the doubt and fear to potentially play our best.
There is a magical state that most athletes have experienced at some point in their careers called “the zone.” Experiencing the zone is rare, but once we have tasted it, the zone keeps many athletes coming back for the possibility of experiencing it again. According to Mack, “when you are in the zone, you have switched from a training mode to a trusting mode. You’re not fighting yourself. You’re not afraid of anything. You’re living in the moment, in a special place and time.” Yuri Vlasov, a Russian world champion weight lifter said, “while the blood is pounding in your head, all suddenly becomes quiet within you. Everything seems clearer and whiter than before, as if great spotlights had been turned on. At that moment you have the conviction that you contain all the power in the world, that you are capable of everything, that you have wings. There is no more precious moment in life than this, the white moment, and you will work very hard for years just to taste it again.” The key to finding the zone or the white moment is to not try so hard to find the zone. Instead, free yourself up, trust in your preparation, and just play!
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