We’ve all seen it: An athlete makes one mistake, then another, and before long the game is lost. This negative spiral is like a computer stuck in an infinite loop, repeating the same steps over and over again in a never-ending cycle. To fix the computer you have to shut it down and reboot. You can reboot your brain, too, but only if you know what’s happening inside your head.
When an athlete's performance goes south, the mental process often goes like this: First, a mistake is made. Second, the mistake leads the athlete to think negatively, become self-critical and feel nervous or angry. Third, these thoughts and feelings distract the athlete and produce physical tension which interferes with their ability to focus on what's important and move in a fluid and coordinated way. This sets up a situation where it's more likely another mistake will be made, causing the cycle to start all over again.
To break this cycle and reboot your brain, follow these three simple steps:
- Step 1 – Think of a "stop signal" to interrupt the cycle of negative thinking. For example, try saying "Stop!" To yourself, visualize a stop sign or imagine a police officer’s whistle blowing.
- Step 2 – Take a slow, deep breath and exhale to release your excess physical tension.
- Step 3 – Tell yourself to "Reboot" and use this as your cue to let go of the mistake, refocus your attention, and think about what you need to do next.
Rehearse this procedure in your practices and training to make it an automatic response to making a mistake. Before long rebooting your brain will become as automatic as rebooting your computer.
Want more information? Try The Extra Gear’s FREE 4-week training plan, “How to Stay Positive When Things Go Wrong.” Each training plan will give you day-by-day tips and tools on using imagery, thought-control strategies and other mental skills to bounce back when things go wrong.
Wed, March 24, 2010
by Dana Blackmer filed under