Confidence in Sports (part 2): Maintaining High Confidence
In the first article on Confidence in Sports (part 1: How to develop confidence) I discussed the idea that how, and what a person thinks, has a major impact on how well they perform. More importantly, though, I explained the significance of recognizing that you always get to choose how and what you think. I further suggested that making choices about how and what you think, during competition or in performance situations, was essentially no different than making choices from an extensive menu in a high quality restaurant. In a restaurant, you’ll select an item that promises to provide you with a delicious and satisfying experience. And once you recognize that during competition, you also have a wide variety of options to choose from in terms of how and what you think, you’ll begin to make better selections, resulting in a much more satisfying performance in your sport.
The first article discussed how to develop a healthy level of confidence regardless of your level of experience or skill. The current article will highlight proper “thinking choices” can help you to maintain that healthy level of confidence, even during difficult situations in your sport.
One of the major mistakes golfers and other athletes make is allowing the outcome of recent events to determine their level of confidence. Now, there’s nothing wrong with feeling confident if you’ve recently been scoring well, or if the last several holes or shots have been executed particularly well. Indeed, give yourself a lot of reinforcement and praise, and continue to ride that strong sense of confidence. There is nothing detrimental about making this particular “menu (thinking) choice” from all of the different types of thoughts you could possibly select.
On the other hand, some golfers, when performing very well, tend to make very poor “menu (thinking) choices.” For example, they might ask themselves, “How long can I keep playing like this before the wheels start coming off?” Or they might be thinking, “I hope I don’t mess this up at this point.” Both such “menu (thinking) choices” are unhelpful, unpleasant, and are sure to lead to poor play. Choosing to think like this quickly erodes any confidence you might have had before, and it sets you up for failure. The reality of thoughts such as these is that they just don’t feel very good, and they’re likely to lead to a very unpleasant experience.
When playing better than usual, it really is your choice in terms of what and how you think. To give yourself the best chance of continuing to play well, reinforce yourself, compliment yourself on your excellent play. Remind yourself that your hard work is paying off. Choose to think in a confident manner! You’ve paid your dues, and right now, you are reaping your reward. Trust in your ability to continue playing at this level. Be committed to the idea of making a “menu (thinking) choice” that not only feels good, but will foster continued good play! What a “tasty” way to choose to think!
But suppose you haven’t been scoring well or playing well recently. Under these circumstances, it’s easy to make poor “thinking (menu) choices.” “Man, I suck at this game. I just don’t have it today. These bogeys always come in bunches!” And again, it can seem as though this is the only rational way to think, given how you’ve been playing. But to think like this is a huge mistake! It may not be readily apparent, but thinking along these lines is like selecting a dish from the restaurant, when even the mere thought of that dish makes you want to gag! There is no way you would make such a choice if you knew there were better, much more pleasant options available to you.
As I stated earlier in the article, a common mistake is to not recognize that all of us, virtually all of the time, have the option of choosing how and what we think. Allowing your level of confidence to be determined by a string of bad shots, bad holes, or a series of disappointing rounds is a huge mental error. And although you might find that you habitually get down on yourself in situations like these, it doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to think in a more helpful, pleasant, and confident manner.
If you’ve had a series of recent disappointing performances, and find these results hard to “stomach,” make it your personal responsibility to think in a manner that will be more beneficial, more pleasant, and ultimately more satisfying. Thoughts such as, “I know I’m a skilled golfer. I’m not going to let the recent past affect what I do now or let it affect subsequent shots. I know I’m capable of birdying any given hole. As long as I choose to be confident, I’m going to give myself the best chance I can to perform well.”
These types of thoughts are much more healthy and beneficial to you and your performance. They stop you from dwelling on the disappointment of the past, and they allow you to approach the task at hand with a fresh, optimistic perspective. Your confidence remains high, and because of this, your performance will likely be improved.
The next time you’re in competition, or in a setting where you are striving to perform your best, keep in mind the idea that choosing what and how you think is no different than making a choice from a varied and extensive restaurant menu. You always want to make a choice that is personally appealing, definitely tasty, and very satisfying.
I hope you’ll embrace these concepts, really “eat them up,” and take them out for a really great time!
Kevin J. Roby, Ph.D., MGCP; Las Vegas Sport Psychology (702) 395-2170