I have been thinking about what kind of content I should post as my very first blog post for Get To The Peak. I found myself ‘hemming and hawing’ about what kind of content I want to put out there as representative of the sport and performance psychology field. I found myself having performance anxiety about writing about performance psychology! How ironic, but very real for those of us humans who want to put our best foot forward when it comes to achieving goals or competing in front of others.
How we view the outcome of our performance most definitely affects the success of our performance. Its pretty funny that we need to learn to view our performance outcomes in a certain light, in order actually perform at our very best. The sound of having to do that sort of thinking work about playing a sport, in order to just play a sport may leave a lot of us with the mentality of; ‘I’m just going to play my best’ rather than do a bunch of worrying about ‘playing my best’. ‘Playing our best’ goes along way, which is why we all use that famous saying, ‘practice makes perfect’. This mentality may get you very far in your performance, however how do you know if you are tapping all of the potential that you truly possess? I read a study about this type of mentality while researching mental toughness. The study found that athletes who had the mentality of just ‘playing their best’ actually played significantly worse than athletes who had specific performance goals and who had purposefully planned and attempted mental toughness in their sport[i]. Doing your best gets you a long way, but planning to do your best will get you farther. Planning for mental toughness will get you playing at the peak of your potential and towards your peak performance.
Where do I even begin? Ask yourself some seriously tough questions…
1. Why do I play my sport? Is it because I enjoy it? I’m good at it? Because others say that I’m good at it or because my parents push me to do it? Is it because I get a rush when I win? These are just some examples of how you can answer this question. Do you play your sport for internal or personal reasons and rewards or because of external benefits or rewards? How you view your sport has a lot to do with how successful you play.
2. Do I have a ‘do my best mentality’ and am I satisfied with the performance outcomes that I am getting with this mentality? If not, maybe it’s time to take another look at how and why you are playing your sport.
3. What are my performance goals and outcome expectations, and are they realistic? If I am not satisfied with my performance outcomes, am I expecting more or less from the work and planning that I am putting into my sport? For example, do I expect Olympic level results with a ‘do my best attitude’?
Asking yourself these questions and being realistic about the answers, although tough and sometimes not easy to admit to, are the first step on the climb to your peak. Trust me, or rather trust yourself... by considering these questions you are already beginning the journey to improve your performance. This is first and probably hardest step in your climb to the peak. Think, plan and actively pursue your performance goals and your outcome results will show your efforts.
[i] Lerner, B. S. & Locker, E. A. (1995). The effects of goal setting, self-efficacy, competition and personal traits on the performance of an endurance task. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 17, 138-152.