I have interviewed hundreds of World and Olympic Champions and asked them what they were thinking about while performing at their best. Interestingly, most say that they were thinking about nothing or very little while winning their event. This makes sense when you consider that when the Conscious mind is quiet the Subconscious can do its best work. We need to perform subconsciously in big competitions. When we think about winning while performing, we become outcome-oriented instead of performance-oriented and normally over-trying is the result. Over-trying has caused more good competitors to lose competitions than any other form of mental error.
It is difficult not to think about winning the competition when you are in position to win it. You cannot hide from the score if you are performing well for if you are near the lead and are "score-sensitive" someone will certainly remind you of your place. Sometimes you want to win so badly that it becomes the most important thing in your life at the moment. Ask any finalist about wanting it so badly you can taste it. But the taste is bittersweet if wanting it too much keeps you from performing well enough to attain it. Friends tell us to just go out and enjoy the competition. Yeah, right! It is easy to say but oh so hard to do. But, that is exactly what some of the people we have a difficult time beating ARE doing. They are working hard in training and working easy in the competition. This is an advantage some of our younger competitors have on us old guys. They still view this as a game. We see it as life or death and it's neither one. What winning means to each of us is a very individual thing. One thing is certain however, your worth as a person is not equal to your score this day. It is more than a game to the serious player but not worth the self-destruction that many competitors do to themselves after a poor performance.
Is there a proper time to think about winning? Well that depends on your definition of winning. First, there are many winners in a big competition. There are class winners, pro and amateur winners, male-female, junior-senior-veteran winners, and team event winners. But, there is only one over-all winner of the competition or should be in my opinion. This is the position that every truly competitive person wishes they held. Secondly, there are many ways to win other than finishing first on the leader board. One could argue that we win whenever we advance down the road to achievement. We win when we learn and we learn more from our struggles up the mountain than by just standing on the summit.
By Lanny Bassham
this article is from our July issue of MENTALCOACH email newsletter.
Read his book "With Winning in Mind" to learn more about Mental Management.