The sobering reality is that nine out of ten athletes will under-perform in a challenging race situation. They will not race up to their true potential. Only one out of ten will meet or exceed their potential.
The key to being that one athlete that meets or exceeds his/her potential is to develop and practice mental skills as often as you practice your swim, bike, run, etc.
Critical mental skills include:
- The ability to shake off failures and disappointments. Relish failures as a chance to learn and improve.
- The ability to train and race with a "quiet mind" (do not over think or judge yourself while training or racing)
- The ability to stay "inside the box." In other words, do not think of your entire race all at once, break it down into manageable segments (like the next mile or the next buoy) and focus on what you want to be doing during just that segment.
- The ability to be appreciative of your good fortune to have the ability, health and time to train and race.
- The ability to embrace periods of feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable.
- The ability to feel deep satisfaction with your best efforts regardless of the place or finish time.
Developing these skills requires focused, repeated effort. If you put in the time, you will earn the improved results in your athletic pursuits.
You will also be better equipped to tackle non-athletic challenges. This past week, a family member endured a dangerous and damaging house fire. In the confusing hours and days that followed, these same mental skills helped both her and me to get through the difficult moments when our heads were spinning. Shake off disappointments. Quiet mind. Stay inside the box. Be appreciative of our good fortune. Embrace feelings of being vulnerable or uncomfortable. Enjoy a deep satisfaction in our best efforts. These all apply to dealing with frightening house fires, insurance companies, rehab construction contractors and house fire cleaning companies.
Mental skills...not just for racing!