For people that achieve their best in life it’s safe bet to say they’ve mastered their inner game. The voices inside their head that cast doubt, fear and an over- riding sense of you can’t do this. As human beings we’re all subject to this on differing levels.
We’re emotional beings and that means we’re subject to all number of feelings. These feelings can and do hold us back from achieving our potential especially in a sporting sense. How we think, what we think and how we react to those thoughts will be a large determinant in how successful you will be in your next race.
If you think otherwise then my advice is stop reading this article now. You can revel in your mediocrity!
Good we’ve got your attention and you have made the decision to master your inner game. What does that mean? How do I do that? What difference will it make to my result but also my life overall?
In recent times we’ve seen an explosion in terms like mindfulness. It’s a bit of a buzz word and I suspect many who think they’re practicing mindfulness are not actually doing it properly. It’s not easy to switch off from our thoughts, stresses and worries of life. And like any skill the ability to empty our mind, focus on the breath, be present in the moment and master our inner game takes time and practice.
The best techniques that we can use to master our inner game I believe are:
I’ve long been a visualiser. In my own sporting career, coaching career and life I have used visualisation to help me create the reality I want to achieve. And without fail when I have done it on a regular basis it has worked. I’ve also helped many athletes from raw beginner to World Class that I’ve coached do the same thing and see them achieve things they never dreamed would be possible through visualisation.
The World’s greatest ever swimmer Michael Phelps was a master visualiser. His coach Bob Bowman stated that one of the reasons Phelps was so successful was the daily visualisation he would do. Our brains don’t know fact from fiction and we’re able to give it a new reality by visualising what we want to achieve. And Phelps was a master at this, planting the reality he wanted in his brain.
For me and people I would coach visualisation would involve 5-10 minutes daily of quiet time with music that invokes a positive emotional response. Eyes closed, in a relaxed position and somewhere quiet. In that time your picturing or visualising yourself performing to your absolute best. You see and feel yourself feeling strong, fit and fast and that no matter what happens you’ll be operating to your potential. Come race day your brain knows the new reality you have given it.
I tend to stay away from visualising a result in terms of time and place. The reality is no matter how well you perform there may be some one better and conditions can have such an impact on times. Therefore, focusing on how you want to feel, being at the venue and what you’ll do on race day will lead to the outcome you desire. Done on a daily basis for 2-3 month period before race day will have remarkable results.
I’m on a 2 week, streak of meditation and have to say I am loving it. Every morning for 10 minutes I meditate, and it is something I look forward to. In the past I have tried it for a few days in a row and then sporadically but never given it long enough to feel the benefits. Foolish me but it’s never too late.
I’ve noticed I’m sleeping better, am reacting to stressful situations better and enjoying learning the skill of focusing on the breath and emptying my mind. Our minds are so cluttered with life and white noise that it takes away our ability to just be in the moment and grateful for this amazing thing called life.
There are some great apps you can download such as Calm that teach you how to meditate. This is the one I use. It’s very good in helping you understand the benefits of meditating, guides you through it and wants you going back for more.
As a raw beginner in mediation I’ve spoke to others who go on multi day meditation retreats. They claim that once you complete something like that the World is a different place. I’m not sure I want to go that far but I’m already a convert and know this will be part of my life every day in the future.
Knowing this why would you not choose to do it? Interestingly enough I have had some athletes look at me like I have 2 heads when I suggest the benefits of visualisation for example as a powerful tool to improve performance. They dismiss it as nonsense, and they don’t need it as they’re mentally strong enough already.
Mastering your inner game is not about how strong you are mentally. It’s about getting to that place where you’re operating at your absolute best. Some people call it being in the zone or being in flow. And many people will never experience it mainly out of ego and fear. Dismissing it through ignorance.
Or not wanting to try it for fear that it won’t work. Fear that they’ll put effort into it but not produce the gains they were hoping for. Either way it’s just a matter of getting out of own way. This isn’t just great for improving your sporting performance but improving the quality of your life.
We live in a very competitive World. A market driven World that demands our attention. Information is available at our finger tips through the internet. No matter what skill, profession or pursuit in life we can see how to do it or get better by reading on line about it.
There are no secrets any more when it comes to the information. In a triathlon sense the principle of getting fit and fast are there for people to follow. With the information no longer holding power that it used to the edge comes in my belief, comes from mastering the inner game. Therefore if you want to improve start to master your inner game.