Confidence is one of the most important psychological predictors of athletic performance. There are many tools and techniques that we as athletes can use to build our self-confidence, that can have profound impacts on what we choose to accomplish, and our levels of performance.
Terry Orlick, in his book, “Embracing Your Potential,” gives an excellent overview of what confidence is:
“Confidence is knowing in our mind and body and believing in our heart that we have value as individuals and can actually accomplish what we are capable of doing. Having, and projecting, confidence is not a trick to lure us into trying the impossible. Rather, confidence is the key that frees us to do the things that we are fully capable of doing. It is a mind-set (or ‘soul-set’) that permits us to rise to the challenge at hand and live to our potential. ”
The key to living so that our confidence level rises, is to focus on those components of our athletic endeavors that can combine to enable us to live to our potential. Often we are our own worst enemies, highly critical of everything we do, especially when our performance falls short of our expectations. Our confidence is strengthened when we use opportunities to feel positive about ourselves, and only then can we realize our true potential. This means not only what we do, think, and see, it also includes what we imagine. To be the best that we can be, we can commit to becoming stronger, more consistent, more confident, and better at whatever goals we set our sights on.
Confidence is something that we have to learn. It is a state of mind that we can rehearse, play with, experiment, and be curious about, until we learn how to allow ourselves to be more confident. Act confidently until you achieve full confidence in yourself and your focus on the goal at hand. Here are seven tips that will help you grow your confidence, and enable you to work towards realizing your potential:
- Focus on our positives – we all have moments of doubt, we’re human after all. What separates successful individuals from the crowd is that they use those moments of doubt as opportunities, while the crowd stay focused and trapped by those doubts and limitations. Find reasons and examples of the positive qualities and advantages you possess – they are there, we all have them. We can all learn to stay focused on our unique positives, and to continue to look for reasons that we are good enough to achieve our goal.
- Amplify our positives – once we have identified and learned what our unique positive strengths and qualities are, we can use the opportunity to amplify them! This is such an easy technique, that, strangely enough, we use very effectively for our doubts, concerns, and worries. However you imagine your positive quality, you can make that vision larger, more clearly focused, brightly colored, louder volume, etc. We can use this technique for each individual unique positive. Using this also neatly helps us maintain our focus on that positive, and so sets us up for continuing that focus in a very productive way.
- Look for real world examples – even if we have achieved something only once, we know we are capable of doing it. Don’t settle on any doubt or negative impression you may have, instead search for those times that you have performed well, made a difference, overcome challenges, and broke through personal barriers. Focus on a time when you were able to achieve something that you didn’t know you could, and remember how you planned and executed that goal. Remember those positive comments that other people have made about you, and allow their comments into your consciousness.
- Include a regular confidence booster – look for something on a daily basis that highlights a positive quality about you, and can be supportive of your ability to achieve your goals. For training, use a session or part of a run to challenge yourself, set a goal, create a plan to achieve it, and then focus on achieving or exceeding that goal. Create a plan for setting this up on a regular basis, and notice how positive you feel about yourself as a result. Allow your intelligence to set the scale of the booster, and prepare to be surprised!
- Structure for training sessions – whenever your training includes intervals or repetitions, set up the session so that you plan for persistence and consistency. Start a little conservatively, and build speed and pace with each repetition. Aim to at least match your performance in the previous repetition, so that your last rep is the best and fastest of all. This also sets up a confidence learning cycle that we can apply to race day, creating a mental pattern and image that we can use to aim for a negative or even splits.
- Commit to curiosity – as children growing up and making sense of our world, we used curiosity to help us learn and become more confident in our abilities. As adults we have the opportunity to respect that child-like curiosity that is still inside us, and to explore our boundaries without the learned preconceptions that we have internalized and agreed to believe. We were given the emotion of joy for a good reason, and running is one of those places we can allow ourselves to experience the joy of being curious, and alive.
- Come from love – whenever we feel good about ourselves, we have our focus in the right place, have passion, persistence, and planning, everything in our life improves, including our performance. When we allow ourselves to focus on those things that we see as negative about us, we are not connected with our true nature, and our energy doesn’t flow in the natural way that it can. Focus on your strengths, your unique qualities (only one person has lived the life you have), and you allow love to enter your heart & soul, and your energy will flow freely as nature intended it to do. Where we choose to focus is always within our control.
I trust these tips will help you find ways to develop your own confidence levels, and wish you success in your training, racing, and life.
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