Mental: Achieving Optimal Performance – 2nd in a Series

Belief: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right” – Henry Ford

In the 1950’s the world believed it was humanly impossible to run a mile in less than  four minutes. In 1954 Roger Bannister became the first person to break this barrier with a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. Once this barrier was broken, other people started to believe they could break it as well. Within eighteen months of Roger Bannister breaking the barrier , the sub four- minute mile was  achieved by 45  other runners.

The mind is the most powerful thing we have going for us. We can use the power of our minds to fulfill our dreams or set the power of our minds aside and accept mediocrity. Most people in the world don’t expect much,  so they don’t give much and don’t get much. Even talented athletes settle for less. Why? Different reasons, but mostly because of negative input from others.

In an effort to save us from the pain of failure, well meaning coaches, teachers and even parents often tell us we don’t have what it takes to become the best, make it to a pro level, etc. Players start to doubt their own abilities when they hear these negative messages every day. They stop believing in themselves and develop a poor self-image. Low self-esteem is probably the biggest obstacle in achieving optimal performance.

The only limitations that exist are those we place on ourselves or let other people place upon us. Once the mind believes “I can’t”, you have sabotaged all efforts to reach your goals. To become an optimal performer, you have to renounce your restrictive beliefs about what you can and cannot accomplish as a player. One of the marks of a good coach, parent or teacher is the ability to inspire their players to go beyond preconceived limitations. They challenge their players to move out of their comfort zones by putting them in challenging situations. They build their self-belief by communicating two very important messages: “I believe in you” and “You can”.

Building self-belief requires a commitment to pursue excellence in everything and a refusal to settle for mediocrity. Challenge yourself daily to do the impossible. Surround yourself with friends and family who support your dreams and believe in you. Emulate athletes you admire and look up to. Use visualization and affirmations to build your confidence along the way.

In the Art of Strategy, R. L. Wing says: “Your inner opponent’s greatest advantage is your lack of belief in your ultimate triumph”. Do not doubt yourself or your ability to succeed. What you believe you will achieve. Align yourself with the belief “I can”, and your power as an athlete,  awareness that you have unlimited potential, will start.




One thought on “Mental: Achieving Optimal Performance – 2nd in a Series

  1. Enjoying reading your entries. I’m a recreational “athlete” I suppose. 15 years of skiing, 11 of figure skating, 4.5 of horseback riding, and now just started tennis. I have found “I can” very important in my various recreational pursuits. While every goal may not be achieved every time, “I can” is what has helped get those I have. The rest just is – it’s a journey, a road…whatever. When one is older like me, the road is a reward in itself.


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