Mindset Made Simple Tip #108 – Watch or listen HERE.
I had the pleasure of working with a high school volleyball team over the past two weeks. Shout out to Coach Wade and the Fairless Falcons!
This is Coach's first season leading this program and she is working hard to build a winning culture as she had done before. A former college athlete herself, she is well aware of how introducing her new squad to the mental game will help her help them grow into the team she envisions. Keep your eye out for an email later this week for ways we can work together to help ensure your athletes are training their mental game, too!
In one of our sessions, we took some time to work on using our breath to our advantage and learning to refocus as our mind wanders (as it does 47% of the time!). In our short drill, we aimed to breathe 6 breaths per minute for two minutes – 5 counts on the inhale, and 5 counts on the exhale as I counted them through.
I asked them to notice when their mind wandered away from their breath and my count. When it did…as it inevitably would…their job was to simply bring it back to their breath – the movement in their belly, the air coming through their nose, or whatever they chose to focus on as we began.
Some started with their eyes opened and then closed them. Some started with their eyes closed and stayed that way to eliminate environmental distractions. Some were noticeably distracted, which is no surprise. We all turn our attention to the person walking by the door as we sit in a room, it’s like it is a universal reaction!
As I asked where their minds wandered off to as we breathed together, the most consistent response was THE SILENCE!
It wasn’t completely silent. I was counting. But to them, the silence was uncomfortable as it is for many people.
We live in a busy world. For athletes, there is always something going on in a brain that isn’t fully developed until long after most of us are finished competing! It seems as if someone is shouting directions, scoreboards are buzzing, teammates are chattering, fans are cheering…unless you are a golfer or tennis player, of course… and it is nowhere near silent, so silence is the exception rather than the rule!
Aside from these outside goings-on, our minds race as if there is a radio station playing unwanted chatter (usually a bunch of B.S.) in our heads all day long that plays a loop of worries, judges, forecasts, doubts, exaggerations and more without our permission. It just happens!
Remember, we do not control our thoughts. They just happen, and unless we learn to manage them, we are the victim of a ton of non-productive mumbo jumbo that stresses us out, takes away our focus and keeps us from being our best!
We think thinking a lot is a good thing. Heck, who wouldn’t want to be prepared? But too much thinking is counterproductive to our performance.
Overthinking paralyzes us. It keeps us from making decisions and if we keep thinking without making decisions, it is hard to act!
Listening to our thoughts…that just happen to us…isn’t usually productive either! They often take us on a trip through time, either to the future or the past. Either way, they hinder us because we are wandering away from our job, skill execution or the task at hand. According to author/professor Dan Gilbert and his research partner from Harvard, Matthew Killingsworth, “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”
In fact, they found that almost half of our thoughts are not relevant to what we are doing in the moment! Talk about not being present!
Remember the 4 Ps of peak performance? Present is the first one!
Great! Our minds wander. They are full of unhelpful thoughts. We are focused less than half the time. Overthinking is not good. What other good news do we have to share?
The good news is, just like everything else, if we work at quieting our minds, we can do it!
We do not need an empty mind. We need a focused mind. As I have said before if you are not thinking about the shot you are about to take, what are you thinking about??
You cannot trust your training if you are worried about anything other than executing what you are trained to do!
So simple. Not easy.
How do we quiet our racing minds?
Practice focused breathing. Start with 2 or 3 minutes. Breathe in for 5 or 6 seconds and out the same amount of time. See how it feels. Simply come back to your breath when you catch your thoughts taking you away.
This is a great way to build your ability to refocus. Think about it. If you cannot refocus when you are relaxed, you will never do it when you are under pressure.
We don’t train for war in a real combat zone. We train for war in structured environments where we can learn and adjust.
Then we are ready for the real fight!
Next, wrap some breathing into your game prep. Start with the 100-breath technique. Breathe in slowly to 1, out 2, in 3, out 4. Do this for as many minutes as you have in your prep time keeping a 5 or 6 breath per minute pace. (As you can see, it is really 50 total breaths since 1 and 2 equal one full breath!)
If you don’t make it to 100 (which is a good thing in this case), insert the remaining breaths into your practice or performance when you need to refocus…35…36…focusing only on your breath for those moments in time. Then later, 37…38. You get the picture.
This exercise wraps your pre-performance focused breathing into your work and reminds you that YOU are in control of your mind and body…not the environment, not others around you, not the pressure…YOU!
Breathing anchors you to the present and the present is where life happens. It is where we do our best work and where we influence the future that we spend so much time worrying about!
Even if silence makes us uncomfortable, it is in our best interest to learn to quiet our minds.
Remember, quiet does not mean silent. It means peace (at least in my house it does 😊!)
Manage the moments and have a great week!
P.S. Want a set plan for weekly mental work? Remember to keep your eye out for an email later this week with ways we can work together, or if not together, through my programs! Contact me at any time to talk about how we can help your athletes through my 5 Minute Mindset™ program and customized team sessions to keep them on track in their mental game. Email me at email@example.com or call/text 234-206-0946.
Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach
firstname.lastname@example.org • 234-206-0946