STATE – a description of one’s disastrous inebriation or dramatic mood, or an area of land in a country making mostly negative headlines (currently). Used in a sentence: “sure, did you see the state of yer one?” or “I’m not sure in which state it’s legal, but I’m sure it’s legal in one.” State.
Working as a performance enhancement coach, I see a lot of dedicated athletes on a regular basis. High intensity individuals, driven by a desire to better themselves. They pit ambitions against the very limits of their physical and emotional capabilities. They are elite, not just in physical conditioning, but also in terms of discipline and determination to succeed. A tenacious bunch – some can be difficult to work with.
You don’t get to be the best in your field without exerting at least a minimum of control over the information and advice you absorb. And so it can be difficult, or at least delicate, when advising ideas and techniques that come from (at least to the some of GAA world) left field. But that’s what I do, and with just cause. The growing body of scientific evidence shows that the psychological state you are in is vital if you want to be a top performer.
Let’s say you are able to design and maintain the perfect physical growth plan, what next? You would hope that great performances would ensue – but they might not. You might show up for the big game fit in body, but what about mind? Your psychological state – being in the ZONE – is crucial as to whether or not you can transfer training into perfect execution, on demand.
We’ve all experienced being in the zone at least once in our performance careers; those completely effortless moments, where conditioning and technique, mind and body meet to form automatic, almost perfect performance. We are in flow. For most of us, these psychological states are rare. For elite performers, they are regular.
Inhabiting a beneficial psychological state isn’t luck, it can be induced or created – we just have to know how. Just as we physically prime our body for activity, through warm-up, so we can do the same for our mind. It is a combination of specific, personal components and constant repetition. You can make sure you always show up and elicit your personal best by creating your own mind-priming routine.
So how do we do it?
Well, there is no universal answer. Every performer is different. It’s up to you to decide how you want to be, and what activities and repeated actions/mantras are going to get you there.
One thing is for certain, your mood is inherently linked to how you perform. Positive moods are associated with problem solving and decision making (vital components for peak performance), while negative moods inhibit these beneficial skills. If you wish to improve your performance, introduce activities or thoughts that promote a positive mood. Another way to put it is, before big performances avoid anything that creates negativity, like places, things … even people.
A huge body of scientific evidence shows this to be the case. In one experiment, researchers used MRI scans to watch the brain activity of subjects who were asked to solve a number of cognitive problems. Those who had primed themselves into positive moods showed increased activity in the area of the brain that is associated with decision making and emotional control. I’m sure there are certain players you know could be doing with a little emotional control.
On the other hand, subjects who had been induced into a negative mood showed little to no activity in the same region of the brain. In other words, our ability to access the problem solving area of our brains is mood dependant. Isn’t that advice enough to focus on your mood before not only a big game, but for every area of your life? It is hard to do our best thinking when our mind is not at peace.
Learning is obstructed – we have only to recall our own examples of sitting down to work or read, having just had an argument. We were far from focused or productive. Latest science shows that it is nigh on impossible to achieve our best performances if other elements of our life are not in harmony.
So what am I suggesting? Begin at the beginning. Ask yourself what makes you feel good, and find a way of incorporating it into your pre-game routine. Perhaps it’s listening to certain types of music. Perhaps talking to certain people – whatever it is, do it. Inducing positive states of mind will benefit your performance 10-fold. And if you can make it your routine, then peak performance no longer becomes a thing of luck, but a thing of habit. And isn’t that what you want?
For more information contact@gareth -fox.com