Speaking predominantly from experience, this article is going to cover a few points.
Defining a good mindset.
Why remaining objective is a substantial tool.
How to obtain and brain-train that elusive state of mind.
The implications beyond competition.
Read time: 5 mins.
Defining a good mindset.
I'm sure it would be spiffing to have one of those cartoon Sci-Fi headsets with a built in coloured lens. A colour of your choice too, but you'd have a cough up a sweet little premium for that.
This dandy little headset of yours would be able to systematically and objectively measure your current state of mind, and feed the information directly into your sight line. With lots of little bars and read outs, providing you not only a firm handle on where you're at mentally and how to improve it, but also how far off you are from achieving absolute zen.
A handy little tool, as you prepare to step into the ring.
You can bet your socks that i'll be throwing Dragon Ball references around on articles aimed at martial artists. For those of you not familiar -
#1 - Shame on thee.
#2 - It's not too late to jump onto that train.
#3 - It's the epitome of ultimate martial arts fighting prowess.
#4 - Kamehameha.
#5 - Shame on thee.
Now here's where I urinate on that parade. We can't do that sort of cool Sci-Fi headset stuff, yet... Granted, it feels like we aren't actually too far off in terms of technology. What with Elon Musk waving Artificial Intelligence warnings in our faces, and Mark Zuckerberg sending a robot version of himself to stand before congress.
Must be a hard life.
The good news is, you don't need that sort of fancy gadgetry and snazzery to be able to achieve zen status. I'm never going to promise that you'll be able to have it on tap. Chances are, you won't. But that's not a warrant to throw in the towel and concede that you're somehow not worthy.
With that facetious intro complete, we segue into this. How does one define a sound mindset in preparation for a competition, and during?
You feel prepared.
You feel calm.
You feel confident.
You're resilient to unexpected curveballs.
You're in absolutely no doubt of your place in time. You belong here.
You know deeply, that you can do it.
All of which is really rather handy in lieu of profuse sweating, the shakes, nervousness, self doubt, and even violent defecation. Though the question still remains, how?
Rational and irrational. Logical and Illogical.
You need a filter, a lens. Which organises both thoughts and emotions into two separate categories. It could be either Fear & Love. Or it could be Positive & Negative. Rational & Irrational, Logical & Illogical, Constructive & Corrosive.
Or actually, it can be all of them at once. A bit like the Copenhagen Interpretation. To understand what I mean by that, and if you have 9 minutes lying around. How about nerding out about some incredible properties of our reality. Take a look at this bite size video explaining one of the mind blowing characteristics that underpins our reality.
I'd like to say at this point that "I digress." But hear me out.
For me, the audacious nature of reality inspires & powers my filter. The very stuff that assembles us, our world, the universe, has some crazy properties. On a subatomic level, a particle can be everywhere at once until you measure it. That implies that if nobody looks at the moon then it doesn't exist. It is in-fact a flustered Einstein who pointed this notion out. To which one eminent physicist Niels Bhor jovially countered -
"But if nobody is looking, how do we know?"
Why does all this matter?
Like I said at the beginning. I'll be talking from experience. It is experience which has shown me that it is easy to understand the framework for obtaining a bulletproof mindset. It is easy to learn about the different ways in which people curate this elusive mindset. Though it is hard to stimulate the wheels of inspiration and get these factors to come into play.
For me personally. It is the absolute grandeur of the universe. The underpinnings of how things work.
Because if a particle of light can simultaneously be wave, and simultaneously be everywhere at once until it is measured. Then what on earth is going on inside the human brain? We already know that explaining consciousness is like trying to push water up a hill.
I find this deeply humbling and utterly inspiring. When paired off against the minuscule tribulations of emotional conflict. It renders the 'problem' somewhat obsolete. It consigns emotional turmoil right where it belongs, a pointless toxicity which clouds our judgement.
That is one such framework I have developed, which allows me to remember what matters when sizing up a scenario which for most, causes anxiety and nervousness. A scenario such as international competition where anxiety and nervousness are your enemy.
So, what inspires you? What triggers your ability to disengage with corrosive emotions which degrades your performance when it matters most?
Let's give some examples in competition context.
Fear & Love
"I'm worried I will time my attacks wrong, and run onto a counter" ---> Fear Based ---> Conclusion = Irrelevant therefore dismiss. You're self-creating an imaginary scenario that technically doesn't exist, nor does it serve you. Do not entertain the thought as it can manifest into reality.
"I really gel with my teammates, it's actually incredible to be stood here today in this capacity" ---> Love based ---> Conclusion = Uplifting therefore embrace & amplify.
Positive & Negative
"I have hands and feet just like the reigning world champion. So what good reason do I have against being able to do the same?" ---> Positive ---> Conclusion = Can do will do attitude, amplify and reinforce. It removes perceived barriers and sets a precedent for your approach and determination.
"Ahh I have Russia in the first round." ---> Negative ---> Conclusion = What's different? You have to beat them all, you're here to win, correct? Deconstruct this thought pattern, it doesn't serve you knucklehead. It is indicative of the inner ideas you hold about your own potential. Change these ideas.
Rational & Irrational
"I can shift, kick, dodge, jump & punch just as fast and as hard as the reigning champ, so it boils down to mindset, what I think and feel about it" ---> Rational ---> Conclusion = Reinforce this thought pattern, it simplifies your perceived hurdles. It reduces it down to a singular focal point. i.e. what you think of it.
If you deeply know that the physical side isn't what's letting you down, you'll have mindset-ammo that packs more punch. It's objective and measurable. What you decide to think is fundamentally a choice.
"The judges don't want to score for me! They're favouring the other competitor." ---> Irrational ---> Conclusion = Whatever is happening, this is ultimately an assumption. Assumptions do not mean fact. Do not entertain an idea you can neither control, nor validate. It's pointless and distracts you from what you can control.
The theme is more or less the same. But there's perhaps one single question you can ask yourself.
"Does this particular thought serve me?"
If the answer is no. Then why entertain that thought any longer? That is your choice.
The implications beyond competition.
Our perception (…) is heavily influenced, biased even, by our expectations, experiences, moods, and even cultural norms. And we can be pretty good at fooling ourselves.
— Hank Green, Crash Course Psychology
Can I let you in on a little secret?
I really struggled back at school, socially, emotionally, you name it. All the way through primary and secondary school until I was around 15-16. Then something happened.
I made a decision.
I decided that there's no real good reason why I cannot do better socially. That there's no good reason I can't look inwards at what I was doing to make things harder for myself. As opposed to an outward blame, effectively removing myself of control and responsibility for the outcomes I experienced.
I decided that I was going to work on my ideas and thoughts about life, that I was going to actively work on myself and my mindset.
It was long, hard, fruitless work. With progress proving arduously slow.
However, my changes in thinking have had a lot of time to really manifest since 2005. Now 13-14 years on, I can accredit an enormous array of positives to this change and evolution in mindset.
Throughout all of this, objective thinking is what enabled me to reel myself back in. "Does this thought or idea serve me?"
In the competition space, anxiety and nervousness vanished relatively rapidly, I find it easy to remain cool as a cucumber.
However, when we consider the wider implications of developing that elusive mindset of steel. We come to find that the benefits are not limited to competitive sport environments.
We find ourselves applying this same ideology to all the challenges and curveballs life can and will throw at us. In turn, we find ourselves becoming ever more efficient and productive in dealing with these curveballs.
So you stand to gain enormous value from working on your our mindset. That alone is more than enough reason to get cracking.