“Why do we dread adversity when we know that facing it is the only way to become stronger, smarter, & better?” – John Wooden
We tend to shy away from scary things or have a fear of failure, but when we avoid it, it grows & only gets worse. When we face fear & deal with tough situations; we improve our performances. If you move toward the stressful thing, you can learn to better withstand it & desensitize yourself. Avoidance increases anxiety. Exposure treats anxiety.
To better understand this, here are 3 critical pieces to understand: The Self Image, Conscious Thinking, & Subconscious Memory Storage.
Conscious mind: every time we think about something or what we think we’re capable of – thoughts & mental pictures. Conscious mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time, so you want to be about execution, not the outcome. It’s always trying to overthink & override your subconscious (trusting your talent & skills you have).
Subconscious mind: source of your skills; a holding tank for what you’ve learned how to do through repetition. The subconscious mind is like a computer – it’s automated & can do many things at once. You perform best when you allow your well trained subconscious to do the work it already knows how to do.
Self Image: your habits & attitude; it makes you “act like you”. It’s how you see yourself. Your performance & your self image is always equal, meaning you will perform exactly like you see yourself. Therefore, your self image better be good if you want to do well.
How are you looking at a mistake, a fall, an error? We choose to think about the problem or solution. Problem based: focused on what you’re doing wrong. Solution based: this is what I need to change. Focusing on the problem makes your self image shrink. Focusing on the solution allows you to see it’s possible to improve & it grows.
Ask an athlete how they did after a performance & almost every time, he/she will talk about what went wrong first. We are taught early on to focus on form, strategy, & technique. Unfortunately, young athletes rarely learn what to think about. Instead coaches say: don’t think about it. Great advice – you should allow your subconscious to kick in & do its thing without overthinking, except, most young athletes or musicians don’t understand this yet. When we say “don’t think about it,” but don’t offer what to think about, they’re stuck. Give them instructions on what to think about – the solution!
Every time we think about something or attempt to do something it creates an imprint & stores it the self image. The self image determines how you see yourself based on what you allow to imprint/stick to you. It determines what is like you or not like you to do. Good news: you can change your self image & you control what you hold onto. Comments, errors, conversations, results, or imagined scenarios can all become imprints. We have to teach athletes, students, or musicians to picture what they want to happen & not worry about what they are afraid might happen to avoid imprinting that.
Be careful not to spend time listening to other’s problems either or you will inherit & imprint those problems too. It is possible to grow your self image within a negative environment or with a difficult coach, you just have to be more aware of what you hold onto. You choose how you handle a situation & what you decide to imprint after every comment or correction. Hold onto constructive feedback, let go of interpretation or opinion.
Reinforcement: what you think a few seconds after the shot/race/routine. This is the most critical & determines who the athlete becomes. Every time you think about or talk about something happening to you, you improve the probability of it occurring in the future. If you have a plan to respond, it’s becoming LIKE YOU to reinforce the solution & not the problem, which creates a positive self image & you get stronger as a competitor.
When self image changes, performance changes. Your self image is the current state of you, it’s not the final state of you. A strong athlete pictures more successes than misses.