Do you ever feel stressed out, agonizing about an upcoming talk, presentation or other event that requires being your best? Maybe you’re an athlete or student and stress out before the game or exam. You might find yourself reliving previous similar situations where you weren’t your best and inwardly cringe. Your heart pounds, the tension ramps up, a knot in your gut and you’re filled with self-doubt. You can have all the best skills and talent but when you focus on or relive past mistakes – negative anticipation – you tend to make them again. You are lighting up your neuro-muscular pathways to redo that negative experience. This significantly limits your ability to be at peak performance. Get out of your head and into the present moment. Let go of perfection, focus on excellence and peak performance.
High-level professionals, elite athletes and successful performers all use mind/body practices like guided imagery (visualization) and hypnosis to strengthen their focus, to be in the zone and perform with excellence. Here’s how.
- They practice rehearsal imagery, focusing on the event and imagine performing the skills or giving the presentation with excellence, feeling what it feels like physically when they perform correctly and with confidence and flow. They practice rehearsal imagery before the event and before they go to sleep at night. They let all other thoughts fade away.
- They don’t relive negative experiences.
You can do the same thing.
- Every time you imagine and relive performing a skill or performance “just right”, you are lighting up and strengthening the neuro-muscular pathways for excellence. Research shows this practice improves skills and outcomes up to 20%. The more you practice this way, the stronger the neuro-muscular pathway.
- Focus on the skill.
- Feel what it feels like when you do it just right (with excellence). This feeling lights up the neuro-muscular pathway.
- Now perform the skill.
When you watch elite athletes, notice how they come into the sports facility, focused, getting into the zone on their headphones. Notice that they focus before the free throw, before the ball is snapped, on the starting block, before coming to bat or pitching, before the dive, before teeing off or taking the shot. Everything else falls away and they are focused in the moment with peak performance.
For students, studying is obviously important. Practice rehearsal imagery after a good study session and before a nap or bedtime, and imagine that all you have read, practiced, heard and seen on the subject is there in your memory. Research shows that being calm, breathing slowly and deeply will increase your ability to remember the information quickly, easily and accurately. Generally, the first answer that then comes to mind is correct.
Consider working with a mind/body specialist to address specific issues, such as: How to change your behavior with positive self-talk and affirmations, shift pre-event nervousness into focused power and clarity, clear mistakes during the event, and live from peak performance.