posted on: January 11, 2018
author: Brian Lomax
Recently, I turned 50 years old (ouch) and to commemorate that milestone, I sent an email to my blog subscribers with 50 ideas for performance improvement in 2018. The response to the list was very positive, so I thought I could do a little “xtra” and write a blog post about each of the 50 ideas (50 for 50). Let’s begin with idea #1.
Idea number 1 was about starting a mindfulness practice this year such as meditation. As you have likely realized, mindfulness has become popular in the last few years and for good reason. There are many long-term benefits to this type of practice including improvements in focus, improved ability to be in the present moment, becoming less judgmental, developing more compassion for yourself and others, and being more tranquil on a daily basis. When practicing mindfulness, the point is not to strive to achieve these benefits, but to let them occur naturally as you develop your practice. If you’re a competitor like me, the idea of NOT striving for something probably sounds foreign, but it is that act of non-striving that will allow the benefits to show up sooner rather than later as it removes expectations.
Mindfulness practices can include meditation (with a variety of focal points like the breath or sounds), mindful walking, mindful eating, etc. A Google search on “mindfulness” can give you a lot of information on the various mindfulness practices that you could adopt. For the majority of my students, I recommend beginning with some guided meditations that are anchored on the breath. The mind needs to be trained like a muscle and meditation should be one of the exercises included in your “mind gym.” Developing mental strength and mental discipline is a daily activity even if it is for just 5 to 10 minutes. The consistency of this practice will provide a cumulative effect that will build your mental strength in the same way that physical exercise does when practiced consistently.
When I think of mental strength, mental toughness, and mental discipline, the thoughts that come to mind are the ability to stay in the present moment, the ability to concentrate on what is important (things you can control, aka The Process) for a long period of time, and the ability to respond and move forward after something happens (good or bad) rather than react and look backward. The practice of meditation on a consistent basis can lead to improvements in these abilities which in turn will lead to improvements in your sport performance.
Start treating your brain like a muscle so that it becomes your greatest weapon in competition rather than an unpredictable variable in your performances. Apps like Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace can get you started with your training. I use Insight Timer, but I also do some breathing meditations on my own by setting a timer on my phone and simply counting my breaths. Begin with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation per day to install the practice into your routine, and go from there. I’m confident that you’ll be glad you did.
Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.
Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/