When you ask athletes: “How Much of Performance do you think is mental?”, most often they answer between 50% and 90%.
I personally prefer seeing it the following way: to be at our best, ie 100% performant, we need to be at 100% on the physical side and at 100% on the mental side.
Generally, there is an agreement that the mental side has some significant impact on performance.
Now, when you ask them “How much of your time do you spend practicing the mental side?”, the answer is often “not a lot”.
So where does that gap come from? Here are several possibilities:
- Some might think the mental side is something you have or you don’t have (confidence, focus, motivation, etc…)
- Some might think they are already doing mental training just because they read or hear things like: “Common, you can do it, be strong!”, “you have to focus”, “just trust yourself”, “relax.”, “don’t be so nervous”.
- Some might think this is just for top level athletes
- Some might not really know what it is and how to practice
Here is what we can say about mental training
- Our thoughts and emotions are impacting our performance, whether we are aware of it or not. The first step in mental training is to become aware of what we think, how we feel, and recognize how this might affect our performance. Yet this is not easy, in a world where we are supposed to be tough, not show our emotions, concerned about what other think etc…
- Mental training is like taking our brain to the gym, it does for the brain what stretching and strengthening do for the body. When you practice mental training, you actually stretch the way you are looking at your performance and the possibilities offered by any situation, positive or negative; you learn and strengthen the ability to turn nervousness into positive energy, to focus, to relax, to bounce back after setbacks, to feel confident, to play well under pressure (and to like it!), so that you perform at your full potential… These are skills that can be learned.
- A growing body of research shows the benefits of different techniques like mental imagery or other technique directly impacting our emotions, heart rate and overall physiology. This is a global mind/body/spirit approach that also translate into everyday life.
- Now, as everything in life, it requires commitment and practice. As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it about meditation, “it is not a matter of faith, it is a matter of practice”. Knowing or believing is not enough, you have to learn and then practice on a regular basis.
- Mental training is for anyone. Any athlete, whatever the sport, whatever the level, is human and therefore has thoughts and emotions that are compromising their full potential.
In the coming months, I’ll try to give valuable tips and illustration of the value of mental training.