Guest Blog by Ultimate Performance Expert Deborah Dubree

I’m curious – does any of this ever happen to you? You work hard to build your physical strength, flexibility and power. You practice your skills and techniques over and over again to be sure you are fully prepared to play your absolute best.

But then it happens. The closer it gets to game time, the more nervous you become. Suddenly negative thoughts creep in and you begin to worry. Your heart pounds, the palms of your hands begin to sweat and your body feels tight and tense.

Because of all that…you have trouble focusing on what’s most important. You start to second-guess yourself. You lose your competitive EDGE.

So what are you supposed to do? How can you regain your focus, remain calm and stay confident under pressure?

Nerves affect even the pros at game time. Whether I’m training an NFL player, pro golfer, college athlete or high school rising star – they all deal with game time nerves. And they are all looking for The EDGE. They want to up their confidence and their consistency, so they will win more often. Here are some techniques to help you focus.

The Best Kept Secrets to Performing at Your Competitive Best

To develop your competitive edge, it’s important to first understand some simple and powerful ways that your mind works and then use that to your advantage. So let me break it down for you.

This may sound silly, but I guarantee you it’s absolutely true. Your mind behaves like a five-year old. It really does. Just like a five-year old, your mind will throw a tantrum, scream at you for no reason and causes a ruckus that embarrasses you, if you let it. Or, you can learn how to ‘manage your mind’ to build and strengthen your competitive advantage. Here’s how…

Like a 5-Year Old, Your Mind Loves Shiny Objects 

Have you ever noticed how your mind darts around from one thought to the next and then the next? It acts like a little kid in a toy store when they run from one toy to the next one and then the next shiny object that catches their attention.

That’s exactly how thoughts run in and out of your mind. You lose focus on what’s most important and start worrying about all of the, “What if’s…?”

Typically it happens during the most intense part of your game or right before a critical play.  You start to worry, “I hope I don’t mess this up. I don’t want to let my team down. I can’t believe this is happening again! What if I miss? I hope we don’t lose again!” Does your mind ever sound like that?

When the shiny object syndrome hits, you lose focus and increase your chances of messing up. You lose your Competitive EDGE. 

One of the quickest and most effective techniques to regain your focus and snap back into reality is to ask yourself a question. Let me correct that. Ask a question that is focused on results. Here’s some examples you can customize to you and your sport…

Result Based Questions:

Let’s say you’re in the middle of a golf tournament. You’re nervous and worried. Your mind is playing tricks on you as it bounces all over the place. You’re on the 15th hole and about to make a critical shot that could put you in the lead. You’ve got to get focused NOW!

The 3-A’s to Regain Your Focus FAST

1.     Aware: The very first step is to stay aware of what’s happening. Notice that your mind is dancing all around. Don’t judge or criticize yourself. That will only make things worse. Instead, start asking yourself Results Based Questions.

 2.     Ask: A series of questions that are all based around the results you want to achieve. Here are some examples of questions you can ask and the answers you mind will provide:

What do I want to do right now? Answer: Get the ball in the hole.

Where exactly do I want the ball to land? Answer: Just off to the right and slightly above the cup?

How do I need to feel to make that happen? Answer: I need to feel calm and confident. I need to trust my skills and myself.

What can I do to feel calm and confident? Answer: I can breathe long and slow. I notice how my breathing is slowing down, my heart rate is slowing down and my confidence is rising. I feel calm.   

What can I do to trust my skills and myself? Answer: I remember the evidence of all the times I’ve made this shot in the past. I have earned the right to be here!

Use this as a model to create your own set of questions. If you play football you’re answers are going to vary, depending on the position you play. Tennis, volleyball, track and field or whichever sport you play will have its own specific set of questions. Make your questions personal to you and your sport.

3.     Appreciate: Just like a little 5-year old, we all like to be appreciated.

–   Have you ever noticed a little kid when you praise them, tell them they did a good job or that you really appreciate them? What happens next? They get a big smile on their face. They like being praised and will remember how to please you the next time.

–   Your brain does the same thing when you appreciate and praise yourself. It “lights up” and remembers to do that exact same thing again. When you praise yourself, be specific. Say something like, “I did a great job of getting my club all the way back, following through and hitting that sweet spot, while staying in balance!”

Practice these these key steps to stop the shiny object syndrome, regain your focus fast and develop your Competitive EDGE!

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Deborah Dubree, Ultimate Performance Expert, Author of and Speaker: Her insights, 37-plus years of performance expertise have attracted high performing clients that include college and professional golfer, along with NFL players from: Baltimore Ravens; Green Bay Packers; Dallas Cowboys; Houston Texans; San Francisco 49ers; Cleveland Browns and more.

Practical and thought-provoking lessons are pulled from Deborah’s book, Average Is An Addiction . . . From Mediocre to Millions!