The Sport Psychology Blog
How do we be where our feet are? How do we connect with The Now?
Connecting with The Now is the first stage of building a sense of presence and choice over your actions.
Have you ever performed in a couple of different competitions? There is the one in the outside world and then there is the one inside your head. The battle with your own thoughts and feelings. It is amazing how our minds can put as much focus on the competition inside our own head as much as we actually focus on playing it in the outside world. We worry, then worry about worrying. We look toward the future and what we are going to need to do, to get the result we want. We worry about what people think of us and how our image is affected by our behaviours. Or we think about the past, in a game of golf, we might think about that putt we missed or that unfair lie we had or other sorts of "if only" thoughts. We dwell on our mistakes.
Now the first thing to remember is that it's somewhat natural to have these thoughts. It's not your fault!
The truth is that we cannot control the past and we cannot control the future.
I know, I know, you've heard that before... But seriously, what we can do, is focus on the control of what we are doing in this moment. This can be a useful thing to remind yourself in any situation. Really!
The competition in our mind is the one where we have our harshest and most fearsome competitor. The competitor that knows our own weaknesses better than anyone else! So what happens when we get caught up in our mind and our own thinking, is that we naturally try and win. This is where we try and forcibly relax ourselves, we try and fight off our negative feelings and control everything that we are thinking and feeling, because we truly believe that will make us play better.
But there's a problem with that. If we are spending all our emotional and mental energy on trying to win this battle in our mind, then we are not really connected to the present moment. We are not really paying attention to what is happening now.
And what is happening right now is what's important. Surely!
Even if what you are doing is just preparing to perform, maybe warming up or just getting changed. That is a great opportunity to engage with the external environment and embrace the things around you. Get present.
You can do this my actually taking time to notice things outside of your own head. You might do this by taking a moment to notice the weather, the feel of the sun or the wind on your face, the stadium seating, the water...whatever! This moment is a moment in your life, like every other.
Or maybe notice something about the environment you haven't looked at before. Have what has been called: the "beginners mind" Treat your environment like you've never seen it before and be curious about it. This will give you a chance to get out of your head and into the world around you, an ideal scenario, because this is where we perform! This will prime your brain for the best sort of focus: external focus.
Anchor yourself to the present moment.
The act of doing this IS mental training and the more you do it, the better you will get. So go ahead and lift the weights, so to speak, and it'll become a habit.