Performance Psychology: Managing Mind and Emotions

By Mark Schwab, Opportunities to Succeed

This article is the first of several to follow regarding the mental and emotional aspects of competing. Some call it Sport psychology. I call it Performance psychology or managing mind and emotions. Each article will progress. I feel it’s important to know what one is up against in competition and life.

Performance psych isn’t just picking up a few pointers or patching up vulnerable areas here and there. It’s a decision and commitment, a transformation of feelings towards competition, and competing in a whole new effective way. Pp is about strengthening your approach, effectiveness, and results from top to bottom. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, you can and will gain inches and ounces. Few reach their ultimate potential. This challenge and opportunity is yours to confront or avoid. Unless you challenge yourself, limitations, fears, and doubts, what you’ve achieved up till now, will be as good as it gets.

Everyone talks about how much competing is mental. Yet, from my experience, there’s feeble attention. Developing mentally and emotionally is part of an individual’s education, development, and excellence. One must prioritize and continue to cultivate to reap the benefits. Sadly, most ignore, take their chances, and for many, competition opportunities have elapsed. However, life goes on, and your mental and emotional climate will dictate nearly everything in your future.

My experience screams, offer an open mind and commit to being a great learner in the arenas important or beneficial to you. Most of us live too close to the surface of our abilities. In order to reach beyond, we must go within, regardless of arena in life. In my experience, most can’t get everything they need from physical training alone. This article details why competition/life can be so challenging and why attention to your mental/emotional climate is crucial for reasons you may not be aware of.

Negativity/fear is hardwired in the human psyche. It’s part of the brain’s survival system, which is why it’s so hard to eradicate. I’m certain we agree, doubt, negativity, and fear happen automatically, but belief, confidence, and optimism, are qualities we have to work at and usually don’t appear first, especially when we’re physically, emotionally, and psychologically escalated, such as when competing.

Our human nervous system is the same today as our early ancestors millions of years ago who faced fearful, life-threatening, and basic survival issues daily. This is equivalent to a primitive emergency alarm system that quickly assesses threat demanding reaction. We don’t have to do anything for this to happen; it’s built-in. When the brain is aroused, we’re eventually pressed into freeze, run, fight or pursue. The pressures we experience are tension, uncertainty, fear, unpleasant, and this is the beginning of our connecting to negativity.

Our genetic inheritance is to over-think, worry, and view situations more worrisome and alarming than they really are. Our right hemisphere-negative part of our brain develops before our left-positive. As infants, we don’t have the language and logic to understand or correct these early perceptions. Later, our left-brain matures, and we develop the ability to apply logic and reason to otherwise emotionally driven situations. Nonetheless, the foundation of apprehension, fear, and negativity already has a head start. Because so much of early emotional learning is guided by the right-negative, experiences early in life can have a detrimental, far-reaching, and often unrecognized effects with long-lasting impact on how we view ourselves and how we experience the world. A fearful and negative foundation is established often without our conscious awareness.

We tend to react more intensely to negative stimuli than positive. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than equally intense positive stimuli and perceived more easily and quickly. Our brain is like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive. Negative emotions will override the more positive and logical when we’re threatened or escalated, such as competition arena. We often jump and arrive at negative conclusions not justified by facts; evolutionarily hardwired fear lends us to suffer psychologically, compare, evaluate, criticize ourselves, focus on what we’re lacking, dissatisfied with what we have, and imagine all sorts of negative scenarios that will never happen.

We don’t need or want to get rid of all fear. We need fear for survival; it’s the irrational fear we want to expose, identify, manage, and master. Much of what we say, think, and do is motivated by fear, unease, anxiety, tension, stress, or worry. Fear is often too much future and not enough presence. Most of us don’t even notice because it’s so normal. We rarely think about identifying and linking it to situations we can actually influence, manage, or control. Most ignore, deny, and blame the situation, circumstance, event, or a person as the cause of their turmoil, WRONG! It’s one’s psychological and emotional response that’s responsible. Emotion usually represents an energized or amplified thought pattern in a normal setting; so, what happens when its time to compete? Our nerves, anxiety, doubt, worry, irrational fear our heightened. This is where awareness, observation, and being intensely present become very important.

The act of recognizing and questioning and replacing patterns within is the beginning of freedom, growth, and excellence. What’s going on within has to be as important as what’s going on without. If we get right within, outside tends to reflect this. Primary reality is within, and secondary reality is without. We miss this concept in competing; hell, we miss it in life.

Disappointment, frustration, and mediocrity will continue until awareness, challenge, and change is made a priority. One of our greatest powers is that of choice. If we don’t exercise this, we’re no better off than people who have no choice. We’re habitual creatures conditioned by our past and subconscious mind. We continue to write the story we’re used to reading even though much of it is harmful, fearful, past/future, negative in nature, defeating and will likely be repeated again tomorrow. The voice in our head has a mind of its own, and most are at its mercy but don’t have to be.

One’s mental/emotional climate will not improve on its own; in fact, one will regress in and out of competing. Ideally, competing feels like enthusiasm. Think about how feeling enthused when competing would improve and render effective experience, potential, and results. If one can simply learn to manage, their experience and results are completely influenced and upgraded.

Time will pass regardless, but with awareness, direction, plan, and commitment, you’re entire inner, competition, and life experience will be enhanced and provide your best opportunity to develop and succeed. This goes way beyond competing. I’m talking about a quality of life conversion, opportunity, and advancement.

There’s no season for growth, development, and excellence. The candle of opportunity is burning right now. Your mental/emotional climate is the CEO of what you do, say, and accomplish — waiting until opportunity has passed or hopelessness sets in is like waiting until you’re sick before you tend to your health.

If you don’t confront this now, when will you? Most just cross their fingers, hope for the best, or only take action during the extremes of inspiration or pain. Are you going to wait for inspiration to hit or until you have enough agony/loss before you act? This is not an effective method. Most avoid situations/opportunities they might fail. They don’t look at it as an opportunity. This is unfortunate because it cuts off meaningful opportunities to grow and abandons potential promise. What’s the price tag of opportunity? True competitors take charge, invest in development and success, and look for opportunities to change, grow, and master; they are open to learning something, making them better tomorrow.

This isn’t just about winning a wrestling match. That’s just a by-product of what you’ll encounter. With my experience, education, effective content, direction, and tools, you’ll have the opportunity to grow, develop, reach potential, and ideally, excellence. You’ll improve all aspects of your preparation, performance, and inner quality of life. You will cultivate a new level of awareness and learn to use your “given” tools that lie mostly dormant. You’ll grasp mindfulness and how to govern your mind, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. You’ll command, confront, and meet fears head-on; this is how you build confidence, self-sufficiency, and excellence. No need to act, avoid, stuff, or pretend you’re a tough guy; these just drives fear deeper. You’re much better off communicating directly simple and open.

No one has more influence over your results and improvement than you. No one can do for you what you must do for yourself. You’ll get out what you put in. If you want benefits, growth, and dreams realized, you have to go where you’ve never gone before. This isn’t an aimless participant experience or return you’re signing up for. You’re striving for Mastery of mind/emotions and the ability to remain balanced regardless of what life, people, circumstances, or situations present while harnessing powerful energy in your favor vs. it working against you. This allows you the opportunity to reach potential and, ideally, greatness.

You cannot simply be “involved.” You have to be committed and dogged in your pursuit. You have to pick up your end of the rope and pull. There is a big difference between what’s normal and what’s necessary. You must apply a daily application to benefit and make real changes. Make a decision, burn your ship, kick down the ladder, one way, one direction, one destination, and one outcome with your flag planted in firm conviction.

You have to be completely honest. My program is about putting down the genie-lamp and picking up a mirror, pen, and paper. Growth and success are unavoidable if you commit, but like anything else worthwhile, you have to work diligently at this. If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will make an excuse and delay further.

Invest in wise precaution and sensible action up-front vs. regret after the fact. Precaution isn’t nearly the cost or pain that looking back and missed opportunity now gone forever, will bring. First and foremost – address the wobbly wheel and go within.

Mark Schwab –

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