How To Develop A Peak Performance Mindset
What is it that makes a peak performance mindset?
The physical talents you have are going to take you to a point, no matter your sport or profession, where the playing field begins to even. When you reach that level, you’ll realize most people are highly skilled physically.
But the leveling off of physical talent does not equate to a leveling of performance.
The separator becomes your mind. It comes from using your mental skills to take your physical talents to another level.
In other words, you need to develop a peak performance mindset, and that is exactly what I’m going to show you how to do by the end of this article.
What Is A Peak Performance Mindset?
When I think of peak performance, it has less to do with the outcome of a game and more about your personal approach.
The outcome happens as a result of focusing on the process. When you focus on the process, and give all you can to each moment, that is where you will find peak performance.
It means you are performing your talents to the highest of their potential.
We get so caught up in outcomes and results, however, searching for peak performance will continue, with no success, forever as long as you believe it to be judged on outcome.
So what does this mean for a peak performance mindset?
Attaining a peak performance mindset means you are utilizing your mental skills to the best of your abilities, and placing your mind in the optimal position to allow your physical talents to shine.
You Need To Let Peak Performance Happen
You cannot force peak performance. On the physical side, as long as you try to force yourself to perform your best, you will always fall short.
Why? Because you will never be completely in the moment, as the mindset of forcing brings along a significant amount of fear.
You are trying to get yourself into this state of peak performance out of fear you will not perform up to a level you desire. Peak performance and fear are not compatible.
Which is why peak performance must just happen. Of course, you want to place yourself in a position where peak performance is most likely to occur. That is where we shift our focus onto mindset.
I said a peak performance mindset is more of an approach, and that’s because it is the way you approach each day.
A peak performance mindset is when you use your mental faculties to alter your confidence, control your thoughts, and instill the emotional state you’ve deemed best for your own performance.
By adopting a peak performance mindset, you are using your mind to increase your performance, and reducing the mental challenges that typically keep you from performing your best.
When you do this, you are able to perform freely, letting peak performance happen as naturally as it will.
How To Build A Peak Performance Mindset
To develop a peak performance mindset there are certain characteristics you need to work towards.
Each one works to give you strength and skills necessary to attain a state where you can perform your best.
When wanting to gain a peak performance mindset, you need focus, self-awareness, trust, and emotional control.
Along with these mental skills you need to cultivate, there is a decision you’ll have to make. You must decide what your optimal emotional state is heading into a performance.
Unlike the other skills, that one will be unique to you.
Building The Skill Of Focus
A key factor of performing your best is focus.
Focus provides you with the power to be fully immersed in what you’re doing. Along with giving you the strength to be centered on your current task, focus keeps external and internal distractions from negatively impacting you.
When you’re performing, distractions are everywhere. Your competitors, the environment, your own teammates and coaches, they all can work to deter your focus.
Not only that, but the internal distractions, such as anxiety and fear, work to pull you out of the moment.
In order to place yourself in a position to perform your best, you must remain present. Oftentimes, performers describe their peak performance state as flowing.
This state of flow comes from feeling as though you and the action you are performing are one. To attain such a harmonious and effortless performance, you cannot have distraction enter your mind.
How To Train Focus
The ability to center your attention in the present moment is known as mindfulness. Mindfulness gives you as a performer the power of focus.
What is focus other than the complete centering of your attention?
So, in order to build the skill of focus, you must train mindfulness.
The process of training mindfulness is simple. You give yourself something to focus on, and then you return your attention to that which you are focusing on as you notice it begin to drift.
One of the most popular forms of mindfulness training is meditation. To begin your own meditation practice follow these steps:
- Decide on how long you want to meditate for (I recommend 5-10 minutes for a beginner).
- Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed.
- Get into a comfortable seated position with your back straight.
- Set your timer for your desired amount of time.
- Close your eyes and begin to breathe rhythmically, focusing your attention on the sensation of your breath.
- As your mind wanders, gently return your focus to your breath.
By taking up this practice, you will train the skill of mindfulness, which provides you the power of focus. A key element to crafting a peak performance mindset.
Becoming More Aware Of Yourself
I used to have a coach who said, “You need to be your best hitting coach.”
What he meant was, I needed to understand my swing and be able to analyze it even better than a coach. Why? Because it was mine. You need to take this same frame of thought when approaching yourself.
You need to understand the inner workings of your mind better than anyone else. This includes your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and how the three play into one another.
Such an understanding is known as self-awareness. By becoming more aware of the processes within your mind, you gain knowledge that proves powerful when wanting to reach peak performance.
One of the major inhibitors to performing your best is faulty thinking and unregulated emotions. The regulation of your emotions is what we will address in a coming section. But before you can control such processes, you must understand their origins.
That is where self-awareness comes into play.
Let’s say you continually find yourself performing poorly due to low confidence, anxiety, or fear of failure.
Not only do you need self-awareness to understand these are contributing factors to your suboptimal performances, but self-awareness needed to figure out why you are experiencing them.
How To Improve Self-Awareness
Building your self-awareness requires looking inward. You need to begin examining yourself as though you were an onlooker.
Start to look at your thoughts, emotions, and actions objectively. Instead of becoming attached to each emotion, stating “I am angry,” or “I am anxious,” begin diving deeper, seeking the why’s and what’s.
What has you feeling angry, why are you experiencing anxiety right now? What thoughts are perpetuating your feeling of insecurity?
Those are the types of questions you must ask yourself.
However, it can be extremely difficult to stop and look inward in the midst of such emotions. That’s why a daily practice of self-reflection proves so powerful.
To increase your own self-awareness, take up the habit of spending ten minutes a day writing in a journal. Write out any thoughts and concerns that may be on your mind. Write about an experience you had the day before when you lacked confidence.
This is the time for you to begin questioning yourself. Through a practice such as this, patterns and understanding will be gained. Providing you with greater knowledge as to the inner workings of your own mind.
Trusting In Your Skills
Confidence is what comes to mind when I think of trust. Going into a performance, for you to perform at your peak, you cannot be doubting your abilities.
When you lack trust in yourself and your skills, a tightens overcomes you. Going into a performance you will be stiff and rigid. That is not the optimal way for you to be if your desire is peak performance.
Playing tight slows you down. It keeps you from relaxing into the moment and allowing your talents to shine.
That’s why you must develop a strong trust in your skills. You need to instill high self-confidence if you wish to have a peak performance mindset.
Not only do you need trust in your skills, but you need trust in yourself. Trust that you are capable of success, and that given the opportunity, you will come through for yourself and your team.
I said you need to let go of wanting to reach peak performance in order to reach it, and trust is what allows you to do so.
Building Confidence In Your Skills
Confidence is gained through seeing yourself succeed. Not only that, but from thinking of yourself as successful. For those reasons, there are two techniques which are incredibly effective at elevating your confidence.
The first one is visualization. By mentally rehearsing your skills in your mind, you instill memories of success. You can see, over and over, yourself succeeding in different areas of your performance.
These scenes will be interpreted by your mind in a similar way to a real life event.
A second technique is self-talk. In addition to the memory of success, you must begin speaking to yourself in a way that promotes confidence.
Your internal dialogue is the voice that continually speaks to you. Now, it will either be negative or positive, and for some reason, it seems the negative one is much more common.
That’s why, you need to begin training your mind to speak to you how you wish. This is done by crafting a self-talk routine tailored to building confidence.
Controlling Your Emotions
To reach peak performance physically, you cannot have your emotions go unregulated.
One of the main reasons for developing self-awareness is the power it provides you. Through understanding why you feel a certain way, the knowledge on how to change is also gained.
Let’s say you notice before each game you’re feeling incredibly anxious. This anxiety is leading to you beginning the game tense, worried about not performing well.
Your introspective work has led you to identify some obvious thought patterns which are driving this anxiety. What you can begin doing is altering these patterns and shifting your emotional state as a result.
Not only do you need to control your emotions in this way, but you must also learn how to regulate your emotional response to situations (specifically moments of adversity).
After each mistake, if you allow your emotions to respond immediately, in a negative way, that will only hurt your performances moving forward.
Many times one mistake turned into another and another for me, simply due to my inability at the time to regulate my emotional response.
By remaining composed, and controlling your emotions, you place your body in a position to succeed moving forward. Bouncing back from the mistake in a positive way.
How To Be Non Reactive
In developing control over your emotions, a skill you need to adopt is being non reactive. After each mistake, do not immediately respond in an emotional way.
To gain this skill, try creating a disconnect between you and your actions. This is done by pausing and taking a breath.
After a mistake, force yourself to pause and focus on your breath. Bring all of your attention onto the action of you breathing. Take ten deep breaths, doing your best to focus on each one.
What this does is delay your response, allowing you time to think rationally, rather than immediately responding in an emotional way.
Identifying Your Optimal Emotional State
Going off the last section, emotional control is going to be a huge aspect in developing a peak performance mindset. We just addressed controlling your emotions, especially in terms of how you respond to a mistake.
Now it’s time to discuss how you can leverage your emotions, going into a game, to get yourself in a peak state to perform.
This step of gaining a peak performance mindset is going to be very specific to you. Everyone differs when it comes to identifying their optimal emotional state.
What works for someone else may not work for you. That’s why you must test some things out and find the perfect one for you.
Okay, so what am I talking about when I say your optimal emotional state?
This is going to be the state you get yourself in before a game. Some athletes do their best getting angry. Using their anger as fuel to perform.
Some go into a game with a chip on their shoulder, trying to prove to the other team whose boss.
I myself fell into the category of being relaxed and happy. I tried angry, I tried motivated, and I tried others. But what worked the best for me was relaxing and simply enjoying the game.
Think back to your best performances. What kind of emotional state were you in?
If one stands out, then that will be your optimal emotional state. Work on getting yourself there before each game, and you raise your chances of performing your best.
A peak performance mindset is an approach you take to training and performing. It involves developing mental skills and leveraging your emotions to give your body the freedom to perform optimally.
The mental skills you need to build include learning how to focus, increasing self-awareness, instilling trust, and learning to master your emotions.
Along with these, you must figure out what is the optimal emotional state you need to be in to perform your best.
If you focus on all of this, peak performance will happen naturally.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful in developing your own peak performance mindset.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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