It is no longer surprising to hear athletes make statements such as “I should focus on the process rather than the outcome.” Compared to when I first started coaching, both coaches and athletes today are better informed about the need to focus on the process.
However, there is still a gap between information and application. Despite being better informed, athletes often do not know how to let go of the outcome and refocus on the process.
From what I’ve observed, there are three related reasons that are limiting their ability to do so.
- Not knowing the Difference between Process and Outcome goals.
Unless, you are clear about what good process goals are, i.e., they help you focus on the task at hand and are things that you can do 10 out of 10 times, you are unlikely to be able to focus on the process under the pressures of competition.
- The Lack of Practice
Like all skills, psychological skills only work with practice. Unfortunately, refocusing on the process is seldom integrated with training.
- The Lack of Awareness
It’s counter intuitive to focus on the process when you are constantly under pressure to score and to win. Many athletes are not even AWARE that they are focusing on the outcome, resulting in stress and anxiety.
Awareness is the first step to change…
We will not be discussing about all these three challenges. Instead, we will zoom in on the lack of awareness. You will go through a reflection exercise that will help you recognize your distractions associated with the outcome.
This is a simple but not easy task for many athletes since these demands associated with the outcome has become a natural part of your mental game.
So take your time to describe your thoughts as you reflect on these questions. Write them down. This exercise alone will make a big difference to your mental game!
- What expectations, such as “I should beat __________ today” do you place on your performance? If you do NOT achieve these expectations, do you become frustrated or lose confidence in your ability?
- What absolute demands do you maintain about your performance, such as, “I MUST hit perfect shots today” that results in pressure during competition?
- What expectations do you feel from others, such as coaches, teammates, or parents? Are you worried about what others might think of you if you do NOT perform up to expectations?
- What past situations cause you to make unfounded generalizations about your current game, such as, “I can never perform well at this stadium”
We cannot change what we are unaware of. This simple reflection helps you to recognize the distractions associated with the outcome. These are the same distractions that are often responsible for performance anxiety and the breakdown of your skills during competition.
The ability to let go of the outcome and refocus on the process helps you to focus on what you are doing, at the time you are doing it. This is a fundamental psychological skill that will help you get optimal results in sport. It is also one of the first psychological skill taught in my coaching programs.
If you would like to improve your ability to be process focused and make lasting changes to your mental game, DM me to find out more.