By Eli Straw:
This is the second in a two-part series. You may read the first part here.
6.) Utilize Visualization
If you’re seeking to improve your mental game, the skill of visualization cannot be forgotten.
Visualization offers an opportunity to practice your skills, see yourself succeed, and rehearse emotional states and reactions within the safety of your mind.
Think of visualization as developing muscle memory, but in your head. Athletes train over and over to make a certain movement second nature. We can apply this same concept to your mind.
You already visualize every day when you think about a memory, read a book, or think of someone you care about. When you do any of these, a picture is created in your mind, is it not?
That’s visualizing. Only, when wanting to improve your mental game, we use it in a much more deliberate manner.
Before getting started with visualization, you need to get your mind and body in a calm and relaxed state. That makes the imagery work much easier. No matter what you visualize, the beginning steps will look like this:
- Find yourself a quiet location.
- Sit or lay down so that you are comfortable.
- Take ten deep breaths to calm yourself.
- Now bring the scene into your mind.
There are many different ways you can utilize visualization. It’s a tool that can help build confidence, through the practice of seeing and feeling yourself succeed.
You can also use imagery to reframe your emotional states during certain situations. For example, if you find yourself anxious before a game, visualize yourself beginning a game feeling calm and relaxed.
Visualization is a powerful mental training tool and one that will drastically improve your mental game if utilized consistently.
7.) Let Go Of The Outcome
One way to improve your mental game is learning how to reduce one of the main destructive forces which eats at your mind. Outcome-oriented thinking.
Focusing too much on the outcome does nothing but harm you. It leads to what ifs, hope nots, and even hope sos, that generate unneeded fears and worries.
Even if you are thinking of a positive outcome, this is still a distraction and impediment to peak performance. If you truly want a certain outcome, you must let it go and focus on the process that will get you there.
Instead of focusing on a result, shift your attention into the present moment. This goes along with the mindfulness we discussed.
Outcomes are made up of many small steps along the way. If you fail to give each step as much attention and effort as possible, you are lowering your chances of reaching that outcome.
Each time you focus on the end result instead of the process, you are doing more harm than good. That’s why becoming process focused benefits you by not only improving your mental game, but improving the ultimate outcome of your actions as well.
Get into the habit of setting process goals for yourself. Think each day, “What is it I want to accomplish?”
From there, think, “What are the steps I need to take in order to achieve that outcome?” Once you’ve come up with the steps, focus completely on each one.
The practice of doing this on a small scale will help instill in your mind the idea of being process focused. That will then translate into your performances and the larger goals you’ve set.
8.) Understand The Power Of Gratitude
Gratitude is not often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about improving anything. In fact, I find myself immediately looking to all my weaknesses and areas that require work. These aren’t exactly aspects of myself I feel much gratitude for.
However, gratitude is the cornerstone of building a stronger mind and improving your mental game. One of the main reasons being, you cannot grow from a place of discontent.
That’s reason number one. Gratitude places you in a mindset capable of growth, rather than one stuck in all that is wrong.
Gratitude also serves as a powerful tool in the moment. When you’re facing anxiety or fear, grounding yourself in gratitude tremendously reduces the negative emotions you’re experiencing.
A state of gratitude is peaceful. It is a calm, positive feeling that radiates throughout your whole body.
In contrast, anxiety and fear place you in a rigid and timid state. Gratitude serves as the sunshine breaking through the cloud coverage of your mind.
In these moments, however, it’s often difficult to find anything to be grateful for. That’s why you must begin training yourself to use gratitude every day.
I like to start each morning by writing in a journal. I list out all I have to be grateful for. If you are looking to improve your mental game, I suggest you make feeling grateful a daily practice.
"Gratitude places you in a mindset capable of growth, rather than one stuck in all that is wrong."
9.) Use a Pregame Routine
If you want to improve your mental game, you need to have a way to ensure you're placing yourself in the optimal mindset to perform.
Going into every game, no matter if it’s the first game of the season or the championship game, you should strive for a constant mindset. This is going to be the frame of mind you’ve identified as best.
A pregame routine is a carefully crafted set of tools that get your mind ready to perform. It should be centered around cultivating positive traits that you want to begin the game with.
For example, working on being more confident and relaxed is a common goal of a pregame routine. So, you could incorporate some visualization training and breathwork into your routine.
When you’re coming up with your own pregame routine, start by identifying the mindset you want to have and traits you need to develop, then identify the tools and techniques that will accomplish that.
During a pregame routine, you also want to outline your goals for the game. These need to be process focused. Come up with some process goals that you need to focus on in order to perform your best.
This helps to keep your mind in the present moment during the game and eliminate outcome oriented thinking.
10.) Build Success Habits
Consistency is key in whatever you do. When aiming to improve your mental game, it’s no different.
To build a stronger mind, and increase the mental skills that will help you succeed, there need to be habits that help you do so. Without habits, consistency is very difficult. The reason being, each day you’re asking yourself to remember all that you need to do.
Now that’s a hard task for anyone, which is why habits become so important. When you develop habits, you remove the guesswork and required remembering that typically takes place. Instead, there are habitual actions you perform each day without even thinking about it.
The kinds of habits I’m referring to are going to center around the tools and techniques which make up many of the other sections in this article.
For example, the cognitive restructuring we discussed thrives on repetition. That means, you need to be repeating those phrases to yourself each day. Turn this into a habit and you can trust you are putting in consistent effort.
Habits are all about making something routine that you see is important in your life. If you are serious about improving your mental game, working on your mind needs to become habitual.
My favorite way to instill mental training as a habit is crafting it into a morning routine. Every day when you wake up offers a unique opportunity to strengthen your mind. This is a perfect time to perform the tools and techniques I’ve discussed.
By doing so each day, these actions will mold into a habit. It will then become natural for you to get up each day and work on improving your mental game.
Improving your mental game will add to the physical talents you already have and elevate your performance.
When working to improve your mental game, you need to have concrete skills to build and tools to use. The ten topics covered in this article are all going to be of great service in strengthening your mind and elevating your game.
It can seem overwhelming with all the different tools and areas I outlined. However, I encourage you to start small. Pick a few to focus on first.
If you would like additional help and a more custom tailored plan to improving your mental game, mental performance coaching may be right for you.
Through the twelve week program, a custom made mental training plan will be created to help you strengthen your mind and elevate your mental game.
If that’s something you are interested in, you can click here to learn more.
Eli is a mental performance coach focused on helping athletes with the mental side of the game. He brings a proactive and applicable approach to mental training. Eli believes that repetition is key to success and so it is no different when it comes to mental training. You can read more articles written by Eli here, and learn more about the 1-1 mental coaching services he offers by clicking here.