Playing your best, whether it’s on a sports field or a business conference room, relies on many important factors. Having natural talent always helps, but talent alone won’t allow you to reach your full potential. In order to compete at your highest level you must play with two very important variables: comfort and confidence. The good news is that often these variables are intertwined, and both can be improved upon with surprisingly little effort.
Getting comfortable for success
When we are comfortable with ourselves and our surroundings, everything begins to move in synchrony. Rather than worrying and being fearful of failing, we instead turn our attention to potential positive outcomes, as well as the steps necessary to succeed. Comfort is developed by gaining control of our thinking, behaviors, and surroundings. In fact, psychology studies consistently show that the more control we experience in life the more confident we become, and the less control we experience the more stress we battle in an attempt to regain our control (and increase self-confidence).
Below are a few tips for increasing self-comfort:
- Stress inoculation. A relatively easy way to beat stress is to simply plan for life situations that will likely be stressful. The idea behind stress inoculation is to think through future life events that might cause you stress, and then develop specific plans to counter.
- Pre-game routine. What do you do to get your mood in a positive place, and your body ready to compete? Listening to music, reviewing a self-journal, using imagery, and completing a progressive muscle relaxation routine are just a few examples of things athletes do before games in order to play their best.
- Do the next thing best. Too many times in life we get caught up thinking about the last bad play, or we think too far ahead and miss the action that’s right in front of us. Staying in the moment and performing with excellence is an important life skill to develop, and allows us to channel all our thinking and energy into performing our best.
Confidence is king
Similar to feeling comfortable, we also need to be confident if we want to perform our best. Confidence has been found to be directly associated with our peak performances in life, and the research on self-efficacy cannot be ignored. Simply put, when we believe we can be successful, we often achieve at our highest levels. One reason why confidence helps us play well as it crushes our insecurities and worry, and as our anxiety decreases our mind-body synchrony increases. The result? Better muscle memory, strong mind-body synchrony, and greater self-confidence.
Below are a few ideas for increasing self-confidence:
- Self-talk. What you say to yourself has a direct impact on your attitude and subsequent behaviors, and what we say to ourselves is 100% under our control. Prompt yourself to have a positive attitude, have fun, and play your best and you might be surprised at the immediate, positive results you witness.
- Goal review. Another great way to experience a quick bump in confidence is to review your goals, paying special attention to goals that have been met. As you take note of your success, try and apply that mindset for today’s game.
- Eliminate irrational fear. Often it is not real fear that bogs us down, but instead irrational fear. Examples of irrational fear include worrying about what the coach will think if you fail, or if you miss a play and think others will laugh. These are irrational fears because you are not in harms way, but instead experiencing a threat to your ego. Eliminate perfectionist thinking, accept that on some days you will fail, and commit to getting better with every new day.
Sometimes breaking things down into simple components helps us more quickly improve our situation, or get us out of slumps that seem to be never ending. When it comes to athletes and performance enhancement, comfort and confidence go a long way toward success. Take control of your thinking, behaviors, and routines and you might be surprised at the immediate decrease in stress and anxiety, and increase in athletic performance.