5 ways to bust through your own mental barriers
I was hoping to break the school record of 60 seconds in track and field.
I was wrong. It was too tough.
By the time my senior year rolled around I was all in and motivated bust through this mental barrier. I was finally willing to do the hard stuff that I originally did NOT want to do.
At my first track meet that season I ran a time close to my lifetime personal best. I could feel that I was getting stronger and faster. But, this was a mental barrier, not a physical one.
I continued to focus on the process and tell myself that I could develop the speed and endurance needed to meet my goal.
My fastest time that season was a 57.76.
I dropped a significant amount of time and broke the school record. I busted through my mental barriers!
Since performance requires losses, setbacks, and feedback it is important to understand how to push through barriers that may get in the way of improving our abilities.
5 ways to bust through your own mental barriers
1. Focus on effort NOT outcome.
If we can change our focus to effort instead of the outcome we can fuel ourselves from our IMPROVEMENTS. Trust that if you give your best effort consistently the end results will come. In practice and at races I shifted my focus from the times of my races to running hard at practice, paying attention to form, and being committed to my lifting regimen. Being able to focus on the process assisted me in being able to put in my full effort, which led to the outcome of meeting my goal.
2. Become process-focused not product focused.
Focus on the process over the product. One way to do this is by creating goals that are process-focused rather than outcome-focused. In my track story, my outcome goal was to break the school record and run under 60 seconds. This is an OUTCOME goal. How am I supposed to achieve that if I am not focusing on the process to know how to get there?
Once I identified the outcome goal I had to create process goals that directed me to my end goal. I created other goals such as lifting twice a week, being able to deadlift twice my weight, running relaxed on the backstretch, keep my knees up on the final stretch, and explode from the blocks. Once I met these process goals, the peoduct came naturally. It’s similar to going on a road trip; we might know WHERE we want to go but we have to figure out and focus on the turns we need to make to GET there. Keep your focus on the process over the outcome/destination.
3. View setbacks as comebacks.
Keep persisting and overcoming challenges. Understand and accept that the world of performance is going to bring obstacles and setbacks. It might be an injury, a losing record, a slow start to the season, or being out of shape. Instead of focusing on the negatives and giving up, buckle down and keep working at it. When I was lifting during my final track season I struggled with proper form on a deadlift and injured my back. Instead of quitting, I found other lifts I could substitute in the meantime and allowed myself to recover and came back to deadlifting once I was ready with full force. Continue to give the best effort you can and remind yourself that whatever setback you are experiencing is a chance to make a major comeback. Use the setbacks as motivation and become more determined to keep moving forward.
4. Fail forward.
Learn from your mistakes and failures. Understand that the only way we can achieve success and meet our goals is to experience failure and learn from our mistakes. Each time you fail, you are one step closer to achieving your goal. That year in track I made it to state and was a headcase. I was nervous, compared myself to the other runners, and did not focus on the process at all. I ignored my race plan and let the pressure get to me. I ended up racing terribly and ran my slowest time that whole season. I even fell across the finish line. I didn’t let this get me down though. I reflected on what was different about that race and used what I learned about myself and my mental game in future races in college. In every game or performance, there will always be a winner and a loser. We need to understand that we can’t win all the time. We have to learn how to lose, how to learn from it, and how to keep pushing.
5. Be open to feedback.
The reason we have coaches and teammates is to become better. Make sure that you are asking for feedback. Understand that whatever feedback they give you is for your BENEFIT and it is not to upset you or make you feel less than. I went out of my way to ask the coach what I needed to do in order to break the school record. I was open to the coach assisting and providing me with feedback on my block starts, running form, and lifting to increase my speed and strength. Strive to constantly get better and understand that there is no such thing as perfection. Seek out ways to increase your skills by asking others their opinions, advice, and feedback. Trust the people around you and take the time to listen and apply what they are telling you.
About the Author:
Jenna is a Mental Performance Consultant and owner of The Mental Clutch, LLC, which is a sport and performance consulting company.
The Mental Clutch focuses on teaching mental skills, team cohesion, and leadership development. Jenna has worked with a variety of athletes in several different sports. Jenna is passionate about making not only better athletes and teams but better people by implementing the performance skills into life skills to be used daily.