I just uploaded the second of a two-part podcast on how to find your peak performance state. If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet (and you’re undoubtedly experiencing a cavernous void in your soul if you haven’t) you can listen to the podcasts here. They're Episodes 9 and 10.
Everyone has a different peak mental state for their sport. You can see this by watching athletes before they compete. Some athletes will keep to themselves, trying to relax and stay focused. Others will be jumping around and getting fired up with teammates. Every one of these athletes are trying to find their optimal levels of focus, energy, intensity and other mental characteristics that comprise their peak mental state, but the characteristics of this state are different for everyone. The challenge is to know what your peak mental state is, and then to learn what to do to get closer to it. I describe this process in more detail in the podcasts, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version here. You can discover some of the most important factors of your peak mental state by contrasting one of your best performances and one of your worst performances. Here’s how to do it:
First, think of one of your best performances ever. Choose a time when you really felt in the zone, like everything came easily, like you could do no wrong. Take about three minutes to imagine the details of this performance as vividly as you can. Really focus on all the sights and sounds around you. Try to re-experience what your body felt like as it moved and what your thoughts and feelings were at the time.
Next, recall one of your worst performances ever. A performance when it felt like everything was tough, like you just didn’t have it, like you just couldn’t do anything right. Just like you did before, take about three minutes to imagine this performance as vividly as you can. Use all your senses to see the sights, hear the sounds, feel the muscle movements, and experience the thoughts and feelings you had at the time.
The next step is to rate these two performances. I’ve adapted an instrument called the Checklist of Performance States created by sport psychology consultants Robert Weinberg and Daniel Gould for this purpose. I've included a link to this rating form here. Print out the form and follow the instructions.
Compare the ratings you made for your best and worst performances. Some of the ratings might be quite similar. For instance, you may have rated your level of effort a 6 for your best performance and a 7 for your worst performance. Ratings that are similar suggest that this mental skill may not be a very important characteristic of your peak performance state. The more important ratings will be the ones that are very different between your best and worst performances. These are the mental skills that may be the most important components of your peak mental state. For instance, if you rated your self-talk a 2 for your best performance and a 6 for your worst performance, this may mean that what you say to yourself is an especially important part of your peak performance state.
Feel free to print additional copies of these rating scales. If you fill one out after several practices and competitions, you’ll get even more information about the mental state that will help you perform at your peak.
Sun, October 3, 2010
by Dana Blackmer, Ph.D., CC-AASP filed under