Gaining the Mental Edge

In last week’s blog, I mentioned a five-step process that I work to when training equestrian athletes for competition. The first of these involves developing your “Competition Mindset”, something that is often overlooked when designing and implementing a plan both in the lead up to and on the day of competition.

Creating and optimizing your competitive mindset is so much more than having a “good attitude”. It’s about creating an internal world that fortifies you against outside pressure and distraction and allows you to ride to the best of your ability on any given day. Essentially, it allows you to harness everything that is within your control and leave the rest.

Many studies have shown that if you take a group of athletes with the same level of ability and give only half of them mental skills training, those who received the training will consistently outperform those who haven’t. This proves to us that being able to create the results and outcomes that we want is not just about “working hard”. Time in the saddle is obviously an essential criterion, but making sure you are in the right headspace to really make things happen is crucial.

Creating your competition mindset involves creating an internal space where you can go to mentally prepare yourself and gain the mental edge; it’s about aligning all the components of your inner world- your beliefs systems, your self talk and self-identity- and seeing how they all contribute to creating your external reality.

The foundation stone of your mindset is your belief systems. What a rider believes, what he thinks is possible or impossible to a great extent does actually determine the outcome.

Why is this so? From a biochemical and neurological perspective, when you don’t believe in something, you are sending your nervous system consistent messages that limit or eliminate your ability to produce a result. It’s the glass ceiling effect- you have essentially create a boundary or limitation of what it is the you believe to be possible for yourself, and as a consequence, your mind accepts the limitations and no longer searches for ways break through those boundaries.

When we repeat or reinforce a belief consistently, we give them a sense of permanence that breeds breeds pessimism, procrastination and inaction. Think of yourself when you are in this state. Are you likely to take the necessary action to move you closer towards the situation that you want? When you are feeling pessimistic or like you “don’t have what it takes” are you more likely to look for “ways out” that stop you achieving your goals, or do you create the types of emotional state that will keep you moving forward in times of adversity?

The key to producing the kind of results that you desire is to represent things to yourself in such a way that puts you in such a resourceful state that you are empowered to take the types of quality actions that will create your desired outcomes.

How are your beliefs affecting your outcomes? Do you feel as though your competition mindset could do with a bit of a polish?

xx Jan

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