Whether you hope to capture Wimbledon, quarterback your team to
the Super-Bowl, or defeat Fred in ping-pong, there is
no substitute for self-awareness.
Competition is as demanding as it is exciting. Athletes and coaches
make huge investments understanding and exploiting
opponent weaknesses. Indeed, knowledge of the adversary is a key to
success. However, many do not realize that knowledge of oneself, or
self-awareness, is equally vital. Subtle variations in our
attitudes and actions, prior to and during competition,
profoundly affect performance.
Our actions influence how we think and feel, just as our thoughts
and feelings influence our behavior. Everyone has a unique way of
performing best. Some thrive on high levels of arousal,
while others prosper at lower levels of activation (See the September, 1995
Mental Equipment article). Similarly, confidence levels associated with maximum
performance vary across individuals (See the January, 1996 article).
Although specific mental states are associated with optimal
performance for each individual, these states are often difficult to
replicate because the athlete has not invested in self-knowledge.
Unfortunately, self-ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of competitive law!
How can self-awareness be increased? Here are some suggestions that
will help you learn more about yourself and the factors most frequently accompanying with your best and worst performances.
Following a competition:
- Rate how well you performed on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being your
worst performance ever, and 7 your best.
- Estimate your levels of arousal, confidence, concentration, and
fear on scales of 1-7, with 1 being lowest and 7 highest. Include ratings both before and after competition.
After some time, familiar patterns will emerge. By continuing
this self-monitoring, you will increase your self-awareness and learn to discriminate thoughts, feelings,
and actions associated with excellence from those associated
with chaos. This knowledge will help you replicate the
more desirable states in the future.
Maybe what Socrates really meant was that the unexamined match is not
worth playing! Until next month...