The Mindset to Perform at a Higher Level

Performing at a Higher Level

 Improve Progress in Sports

What is the “just happy to be here” mindset? This mindset is where you work hard all season long to achieve a goal. Then, when you achieve that goal, you become content or complacent.

Contentment hurts further progress. When you are satisfied with your accomplishment, you stop moving in the direction of greater achievements. You come to a standstill.

One reason for this mental standstill is the stress of performing at a higher level. At a higher level, competition is even more challenging. The pressure is greater.

Some higher-level competitions, such as championships, nationals, Junior Olympics, conference meets, can be stressful for some athletes. Instead of focusing on performing, the athlete wants the competition to be over.

Imagine a swimmer setting a goal for their first National cut. She practiced 5-6 days a week for two-plus hours per day. She put in more effort than previous years with private stroke instruction, dryland training, swim camps, and training trips. Her focus and efforts were geared to this one singular goal, making a national cut.

After tapering and swimming a personal best, she achieved her goal. She was content with her accomplishment. Suddenly, the ante has been upped. At Nationals, every swimmer was talented and fast.

This swimmer was seeded somewhere in the middle of the pack in her only event. She was so anxious to be in a meet of this caliber, and she just wanted to complete her race, climb out of the pool, and be done.

“The just happy to be here mindset” builds stress, anxiety, and pressure. Even with this mindset, you still practice and attempt to be your best. However, that mindset holds you back from performing at your peak and achieving more.

Take, for example, two-time gold medalist Jamie Anderson. In the 2022 Winter Olympics, Anderson was the only female slopestyle competitor who won an Olympic gold medal.

Anderson finished ninth in the event, falling short of her goal of a podium finish. No doubt Anderson was prepared and absolutely went for it. However, despite being a veteran, you can hear how stress affected her performance from her post-event comments.

ANDERSON: “I feel so sad to not be able to put down a run, but I feel relieved that it’s over because it’s a really high-stress week here.”

Many athletes can identify with this experience, but what is the solution?

Countering the “Just Happy to Be Here” Mentality:

1. Set simple goals – Reset your goal after your significant accomplishment, but make them manageable. Setting a new goal provides you with a new target. Setting reachable goals keep stress at a manageable level.

2. Focus on the Process – Anxiety builds when you are focused on the outcome of a competition. Keep your focus on what you are doing moment by moment.

3. Learn stress reduction strategies – Competition anxiety will not go away on its own. You need to counteract or manage anxiety through proven methods that work for you, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, thought stopping, visualization, etc.

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