This is from a guest author, Todd Gimian.
What do all high-level competitions have in common? The appropriate mental state and preparation are paramount for doing well. If all skill levels and physical variables are the same, the outcome is determined by who has the mental toughness to see their plans through.
There are several exercises utilized by successful athletes and competitors that can condition your mind for the necessary state to win. Though they are not physical in nature, they do require some physicality in practice. These exercises can be taxing, and as such should be done from the start of training for an event so that you can build up your endurance the same as you would in any other aspect. The key here is to think of your mind as another muscle that needs to be worked out, and in doing so, you grow in yet another area of your discipline.
Embrace the Suck
One thing that humans universally exhibit is the natural tendency to avoid discomfort and seek pleasure. You must fight this instinct and learn to live with things that feel awkward or uncomfortable. By focusing on those things you aren’t good at and striving to perfect them, you round out your game and increase your viable options. The sooner you can work this into your training schedule, the more time you give yourself to reach proficiency and more. This is not something that can be done quickly or last minute, so make sure you plan accordingly.
A great example of this is shooting in an unorthodox position or with your off-hand (or both). At first, this is going to feel like trying to eat with your feet, but the more you do it, the more it will feel second nature. The goal is to train this skill until it feels as though you are shooting with your primary hand in a natural stance. Once you feel as though you’ve achieved that level of comfort, you then have to keep it incorporated into your training regimen, so you don’t lose your proficiency.
Visualize the Performance
This is one of the hardest steps for most people. You are either able to comfortably visualize your event, or you must fight through the feeling of it being pointless. If you are the later, go back and re-read the previous section as this falls squarely under that. Visualization is a powerful technique that you need to get comfortable with.
Walk the course before the event begins. Take mental notes on how the course of fire is laid out and what you need to do to succeed. Once you have that in mind, close your eyes and see yourself going through the event (mentally moving through things one movement at a time). Focus on things, like how you need to transition from one position to the next, adjustments you need to make to get a shot off properly, and seeing yourself having your ideal run. Do this as many times as you need to ingrain that perfect run in your mind so that you don’t have to think to achieve it.
Once you have your run queued up like an on-demand movie, walk through it. Yes, I mean get up and move through your run mimicking what it will be like in the competition. By doing this, you allow your body to feel and experience that visualization in real time. Go through every motion you need to in order to live that perfect performance so your body knows what it should feel like. Once you finish, do it again. Then do it again. Do it as many times as you need for it to feel effortless so that when the time comes you don’t have to think about what you’re doing. This will allow you to focus on the micro- adjustments needed to overcome things you cannot control.
Learn from the Big Show
You aren’t going to come out on top every time. No matter how prepared you are, no matter how good you are, there are going to be times when someone else is better on a given day. This isn’t a bad thing. Most of your growth in competition is going to come from falling short. If you win every time, you never have to experience the feeling of not succeeding and needing to change things to get better.
Losing is a positive thing if you allow it to be. Review your performance, watch videos, ask for pictures, find anything you can to see where things went awry for you. Often, your perception of something is going to be slightly off from what occurred and that is where you can find room to improve. Focus on the small details that can be adjusted to achieve a smoother, faster, more precise result. Look for areas where you may not be as strong and then go back and work on the things,
Developing is an ongoing process that never ends. If you aren’t learning from the things you do, you are trying to ignore them. No matter how good you are, or think you are, you can always be better if you truly want to. This is the thing that separates champions from contenders. Never stop being hungry for getting better.