“My Thoughts Before A Big Race Are Pretty Simple…”

So how do athletes and other performers get in the zone? Here are a few tips.

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1. Accept failure. First of all, they recognise that slumps, even failure are part of the game. For example, a good batter in baseball fails to get a hit 70% of the time. A relief pitcher may fail one day and be back pitching well in the same situation the next day. This acceptance of “failure” is crucial because it allows the player to put the past behind him and focus only on what he must do to succeed in the present.

2. Practice. Second, they practice. To continue with the baseball example, even the most successful hitters practice their craft on a daily basis. They continually hone their abilities so they feel confident of their skills in the actual game. According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become great at something. Many elite athletes train six hours a day, six days a week. But the physical practice isn’t everything.

3. Mentally Prepare. Athletes also practice mentally. When watching the Olympics, for example, you’ve likely seen someone prior to their performance, off by them self, eyes closed, mentally preparing for what comes next. They’re likely visualising their every move in their mind.

Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls, used meditation techniques to help the team improve their performance on the court. He so strongly believed in it that he often had a meditation expert spend days at a time training the players on proper form and technique.

According to Jackson, most of the members of the team found practicing meditation to be extremely valuable. But even the few who were less enthusiastic found some good in it. For example, then team member Bill Cartwright often bantered about how he liked the meditation sessions because he was able to take a nap. Although the goal of meditation isn’t to fall asleep, many people do feel refreshed and better able to concentrate afterward.

Whether you’re an athlete trying to perform your best or a presenter focusing on giving a speech – these three tips will help you remain relaxed, focused, and able to put forth your best effort to the task.

Record-setting Olympic athlete Carl Lewis put it this way:

“My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I tell myself: get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed. If you run your race, you’ll win… Channel your energy. Focus.”